Tomorrow's Bizarre Smears Today
Andy writes in:
An arch-conservative friend of mine is convinced that something in the "Establishing of National Priorities for Performance Improvement" section of the Medicare piece of HR 3200 is going to establish "healthcare racism" because it contains the words "addressing health disparities across groups and areas." I have no idea what this provision is really about. Do you have any idea? I assume he got this from some right-wing website...is this some new angle of hysteria that we can expect? If so, sigh, how should I prepare myself to respond to it when all my other conservative friends pick up on it?
When talking to Republicans, I so often find myself utterly blindsided by the nature and focus of their objections. I consider it my civic responsibility to be able to make the broad case for my (liberal) position on the major points of major issues. But I usually find myself confronted not with the broad conservative case but with obscure and sideways points about things that I wasn't even aware could be construed as issues.
This was the point of my earlier post on the public option: There is an endless wealth of issues for opponents of reform to distort and lie about. Taking one off the table simply ensures they'll move on to the next.
Take this nonsense of health-care racism. Reducing the disparities in outcomes of different ethnic groups is a longtime goal in health-care policy. A good example is infant mortality: African-American infants die at much higher rates than white infants. This persists even when you adjust for class. The infant mortality rate for college-educated black women is 11.5 per 1,000 births, which is more than double the 4.2 per 1,000 for white women with similar education. Opposition to addressing this is literally support for more dead infants. There's not really a nice way to put it.
H.R. 3200 has a lot of sections dealing with infant mortality, but the main piece for Medicare is Section 1221, which mainly deals with demonstration programs in which hospitals would have on-site interpreters to help bridge the language barrier between a sick patient and an uncomprehending doctor.
As far as I can tell, Andy's friend hasn't found section 1221, and is in fact concerned with section 1191, which isn't primarily concerned with disparities, but suggests that improving "health disparities across groups and areas" should be one area in which we strive for improvement, alongside "prevalent, high-cost chronic diseases," efforts that "have the greatest potential to decrease morbidity and mortality in this country" and interventions that exhibit "the potential for rapid improvement due to existing evidence, standards of care or other reasons."
Section 1191 is, in other words, boilerplate, but it won't sound that way when you hear about it in talk radio. In any case, if you're really concerned about health-care racism, H.R. 3200 is a lot less dangerous than Sonia Sotomayor, who is expected to rule that treating non-Latinos violates the 14th Amendment, and is punishable by abortion.
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