Patients’ Rights Suddenly “Sacred” to Scared GOP


Meet the newest defender of
reproductive rights: GOP strategist Dr. Frank I. Luntz. 

Yes, that’s the fellow who’s
advising the Republicans in Congress on how to defeat health reform
this year by scaring voters about a "Washington takeover of health
care." His leaked strategy memo has Democrats scrambling to devise
a response to what they fear could be this year’s version of the "Harry
and Louise" attack ad that sunk the Clinton health plan.  

What Luntz is trying to do
is get Republicans pounding away at the idea of a "public plan"
in national health reform, that would compete with private insurance
companies. The idea of a government-sponsored health plan has sent the
GOP off a cliff. (It seems they have forgotten about Medicare.) 

But a close reading of Luntz’s
memo reveals some surprising language – and potential opportunities
to turn his messages back on the Republicans. After all, he is trying
to reinvent a group of politicians who have spent the last eight years
standing for maximum government interference in Americans’ personal
health care decisions.  

Whether it was low-income women
seeking to end unintended pregnancies for which they were not prepared,
or Terri Schiavo’s husband trying to let her have the peaceful death
she wanted, Republicans were all for sticking their noses into agonizing
family health care decisions that should remain private. These interfering
politicians haven’t minded overruling doctors and scientists either.
Remember the outrageous intrusion of ultraconservative ideology into
the FDA’s decision-making on emergency contraception? 

Here are two of my favorite
tidbits from his memo: 

    What Americans are looking
    for in health care is "more access to treatments and more doctors
    … with
    less interference from insurance companies and Washington
    politicians and special interests."
     

    As our first priority,
    we need to preserve what works in America
    , protect the sacred
    doctor-patient relationship and allow people to choose the personal
    care that suits their individual needs.
     

Hmm. Where have we heard that
before? Was it something a reproductive health advocate once said about
letting women and their doctors decide? In Luntz’s world, that doctor-patient
relationship has become not just important, but sacred. Notice
how he craftily worked religion into the message, the way Karl Rove
used to?

Luntz goes on to cite some
interesting, although unattributed, public opinion research to support
his advice that the words "deny" and "denial" should "enter
the conservative lexicon immediately." Apparently, Republican researchers
asked people: "What would you be most concerned about if the government
were to further regulate healthcare? The most popular answer was "being
denied a procedure or medication because a Washington bureaucrat says
no."   

The "single most important
language finding" in his work to date, Luntz says, is this phrase:
"Delayed care is denied care." Of course, he means for Republicans
to say this in order to disparage Canadian-style national health plans
that allegedly would lead to long lines at the doctor’s office. But,
pardon us if we point out that women are already experiencing this problem
of "delayed care/denied care" while trying to get reproductive health
services when there are no providers in rural areas, or when the services
aren’t covered by Medicaid. 

With all that polling research
at his fingertips, Luntz’s offers some recommendations for "words
that work" on health reform: 

    Now is not the time
    to play politics with healthcare. Now is the time for everyone to work
    together to achieve what matters most: more affordable, more accessible,
    more individualized and personalized healthcare.
     

    We should ask him (President
    Obama) to commit to the principle that doctors and patients should be
    making healthcare decisions, not some Washington bureaucracy.

Don’t be fooled when Republican
politicians in Washington try to use these messages to eliminate any
competition for private health insurers in national health reform or
to sell the discredited idea that Americans can buy our own health insurance
if we just get tax credits.  

But, women’s health advocates
would be well advised to remember Luntz’s messages when the inevitable
battle comes up this year over whether to re-enact the Hyde Amendment,
which denies Medicaid funding for low-income women needing abortions.
We should have these messages handy today, May 15, when the National
Right to Life Organization holds a press conference to demand that abortion
services be excluded from national health reform.  

Repeat after me: Patient-centered
health care. More access to treatments. Protect the sacred
doctor-patient relationship. Let people choose the health care they
need. Less interference from Washington bureaucrats.  

That’s what the Republicans
will be saying, and we should hold them to it. 

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To schedule an interview with Lois Uttley please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • progo35

    Lois-

    First of all, you’ve ignored a very serious problem by assigning it a “conservative” label. I support universal health care, but I think that we all need to be concerned about the possibility of health care rationing, as it is already going on in Texas and Oregon, most notably, and other states as well. In my opinion, this piece distracts from a mutual concern of pro choice and pro life people by tacking it to conservative politics.

    Also, regarding the Terri Schiavo incident: every disability rights group in the country filed an amicus curie brief in support of maintaining her food and hydration. Please research what a truly peaceful death is compared to starvation and dehydraton, as well as the fact that she had no living will, along with other important facts related to that case, before you go throwing it around to show how ridiculous conservatives are. Conservatives are always being accused of using this case to their political advantage, but people like you are just as guilty in using it to further your own agenda.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    I support universal health care, but I think that we all need to be concerned about the possibility of health care rationing, as it is already going on in Texas and Oregon, most notably, and other states as well.

    Health care rationing… is that anything like when private insurance companies deny your claim for some silly reason, and because of your job or budget limitations or other circumstances, you can’t switch to another provider?

  • progo35

    Health care rationing… is that anything like when private insurance companies deny your claim for some silly reason, and because of your job or budget limitations or other circumstances, you can’t switch to another provider?

    Yes! And I feel like there are people in the health care and political communities acting in ways that say, “And if you liked it when your health insurance provider rationed your care, you’ll love it when the government does it!”

    I am upset by this post because instead of seriously considering the problem of how to prevent health care rationing in a universal health care system, it bashes Republicans/conservatives instead, which is a waste of time.If this doesn’t get addressed properly by people on both sides of the political aisle, vulnerable people will undoubtedly be hurt.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Rationed health care isn’t a denied payment on a claim, it’s when the hospital turns you away at the door, and you don’t get help at all.

    If you can’t tell the difference between going into debt to pay off an expensive medical treatment and being told, “no, you can’t have dialysis today,” then you’re obviously seriously unclear on the concept.

    Rationed health care is just that: rationed CARE. Payment is more complicated sometimes. But the care is rarely denied because of lack of ability to pay. That’s why my insurance premium is something like 5 times my total claims every year.

    Oh yeah, and the Peoples’ Socialist Republik of Massachusetts requires that I pay that, whether I need it or not (just to support the people who do show up at hospitals without insurance).

  • progo35

    Rationed care is when the doctor, hospital ethics committee, Medicaid program, insurance company, et all, deny certain treatments on the basis of cost. Oregon actually has a list of various treatments listed by cost that it will not cover, including, originally, late term AIDS treatment, something which was prevented by AIDS awareness and LGBT rights groups. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a private insurance company or a public one, the impact on the patient is the same: no treatment, often = death.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Rationing is a fact of life with national health care systems.

    Those apply a strict cost-benefit analysis to any treatment or medication.

    One brand-name drug currently being heavily advertised on U.S. television was considered so ineffective the National Health wanted to drop it completely from their formulary.

    I think protests saved it, but there is still no hard evidence Aricept is worth its price.

  • amanda-marcotte

    "Women" is a different group than "people" or "Americans" or "patients" who have health care needs.  Women are just baby machines who are getting uppity.

  • progo35

     that Aricept is targeted as being ineffective? Could that determination have anything to do with the fact that the patients impacted are elderly people with dementia, who are least able to protect themselves from being denied the treatment they need?

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    • invalid-0

      because there’s NO ineffective and downright worthless drugs out on the market that are really only made to give the terminally ill and their families somewhere else to dump their money before their loved one dies anyway.

      *yawn*
      You’re so medically informed Progo…
      /snark

  • progo35

    "

    "Women"
    is a different group than "people" or "Americans" or "patients" who
    have health care needs.  Women are just baby machines who are getting
    uppity."

     

     

    Could you please clarify which statement this comment refers to? 

     

     

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Health care “rationing” goes on all the time under private insurance plans one participates in through their employers.

    The insurance companies decide what medicines and treatments they will cover and which doctors they will allow you to see.

    The insurance companies decide some cryptic “usual and customary” amount that they will pay which is never what the health care providers actually bill you for. Then in addition to co-pays and deductibles you are also responsible for the amount above the “usual and customary” amount that the insurance companies pay.

    Private insurance does not provide any type of competitive market place. The great majority of us have no consumer power when it comes to insurance coverage. We don’t go shopping for insurance. We take what we can get, if anything, through our employers. Or we go without coverage.

    The United States spends more on health care than other industrialized nations yet has a higher infant mortality rate than other developed countries.

    The Commonwealth Fund report for 2008 found that the United States ranked LAST across a range of measures of health care in a comparison of 19 industrialized countries, despite spending more than twice as much per person on health as any other of the countries

    It would seem more than apparent to me that the private insurer method is a grand failure for most of us.

    • invalid-0

      Private insurance does not provide any type of competitive market place. The great majority of us have no consumer power when it comes to insurance coverage. We don’t go shopping for insurance. We take what we can get, if anything, through our employers. Or we go without coverage.

      I always love hearing the rethugs bloviate about how if *gasp* there’s no employer provided health insurance that it will take away the “patient’s right” to decide what healthcare they want. Meaning – they’re concerned about your employer not being able to shop around for the cheapest plan they can get away with or for them to have the right to drop it altogether.
      I have never, ever been given a choice via healthcare from an employer – I’ve just been glad that something, no matter how meagre and how many inane co-pays I have is there even if I haven’t had to use it.