Apparently the Bush Administration disconnected all the laws on truth-in-advertising because the insurance industry is lying its bloody ass off in its anti-govt-healthcare commercials. I was at the laudromat yesterday and saw a commercial - replayed several times over the next hour on CNN - in which some Canadian woman says she couldn't get her brain tumor taken care of in Canada and had to come to the US. The opening line was (paraphrase:) "If I had to depend on Canada's gocernment-run health care, I'd be dead right now." The tagline was something like "Don't let government interference in medicine kill you".
Case in point: Shona Holmes is the current poster girl for the liars slandering Canadian health care in an attempt to discredit reform. Ms. Holmes alleges she was horribly endangered by Canada's healthcare system:
Both CNN and McConnell made a big deal out of Shona Holmes, an Ontario woman who claims she was forced by Ontario's health system to go to the United States for life-saving surgery for a brain tumour. She claims that in 2005 delays in access to treatment at home made it necessary to go to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and pay $97,000 for her care.
Her story sounds bad, doesn't it? Except, of course, it's a lie:
On the Mayo Clinic's website, Shona Holmes is a success story. But it's somewhat different story than all the headlines might have implied. Holmes' "brain tumour" was actually a Rathke's Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. To quote an American source, the John Wayne Cancer Center, "Rathke's Cleft Cysts are not true tumors or neoplasms; instead they are benign cysts."
There's no doubt Holmes had a problem that needed treatment, and she was given appointments with the appropriate specialists in Ontario. She chose not to wait the few months to see them. But it's a far cry from the life-or-death picture portrayed by Holmes on the TV ads or by McConnell in his attacks.
In other words, her condition was not immediately life threatening, and it was prioritized accordingly. But Holmes didn't want to wait behind people who needed care more than she did, so she went the U.S. where she could pay out of pocket to jump to the head of the line.
Welsh goes on to point out that, unpacked, the Shona Holmes story simply re-inforces what everyone below Bill Gates' income level understands: healthcare in America since Reagan is all about the $$$.
Health Care Triage: U.S. Vs. Canada
Here's the deal: both the U.S. and Canada prioritize patients, and both engage in health care rationing. In Canada health care is prioritized by how urgently a patient requires treatment. In America, to a much greater extent, access to medical care is prioritized by how much money the patient has. Someone in the U.S. who was sicker than Ms. Holmes was forced to wait longer for treatment because Holmes was rich enough to pay $97,000.
Billions of dollars are at stake in the battle for American health care reform. That's the sort of money executives, and their lobbyists, and their bought-and-paid-for politicians are willing to kill for: to let you, or your friends, or your family suffer and die. Think of your dead friends and relatives as collateral damage in the fight for health industry profits; that's how the insurance executives see them.
There was a time when an outragiously false ad like the Shona Holmes cesspool would open its sponsors to TIA sanctions, big fines, and/or jailtime. Today it's taken as, well, normal. After 8 years of Bush/Cheney, doesn't everybody lie? Aren't all ads lies? What's the biggie?
The biggie is that we've crossed the line from shaded to this side of fraud to territory where outright fraud is practiced openly without fear of consequences from anyone, including govt watchdogs, regulators, the DOJ or the FCC. If you represent corporate or right-wing interests rolling in ill-gotten loot, you can tell any lie you want. If you can transform Holmes' cyst into a brain tumor, then you can transform a hangnail into cancer and a dysfunctional health system targeted to fill the pockets of insurance executives into a paradigm of comprehensive health care that is the envy of the world.
But the only people you'll be fooling are conservative politicians worried about "how much it would cost" to do it right. Like in Canada, for instance.
Fiscally conservative House Democrats forced leaders of their party on Tuesday to slow the pace of work on major health care legislation so Congress and President Obama could address their concerns about the cost of the bill, its impact on small businesses and the shape of a proposed new government health insurance plan.
The rest of us know better.