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Unhealthy hyperbole

Chris Fitzsimon

In case you had any doubt that North Carolina will play a key role in the fate of national health care reform, President Obama’s scheduled appearance at Broughton High School in Raleigh this week ought to convince you.

Still more evidence comes from the breathless hyperbole about health care lately from North Carolina politicians and the absurd claims of the think tanks and advocacy groups on the right.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has emerged as a leading spokesperson for the anti-reform right in the state. The mayor-turned-anti-health-care-reform-crusader was the featured speaker recently at a rally against Obama’s health care plan held by Americans for Prosperity, these days more accurately called “Americans for Prosperity of Insurance Companies and the Pharmaceutical Industry.”

The most-often quoted sound bite from McCrory’s remarks was his question, “Have you ever gone to a DMV office lately,” the newest twist on misleading people into thinking the proposed public option means a government takeover of health care.

Putting aside that most people with Medicare, a government health care program, are happy with it, wonder how McCrory would compare the DMV with a private insurance company whose objective is to make a profit? It’s in the company’s best interest to deny care to people with a chronic illness or other pre-existing condition.

You may have to wait awhile at the DMV, but you will get your driver’s license eventually, even if you have had a speeding ticket or two.

McCrory’s too-clever rhetoric was topped by Dallas Woodhouse, the head of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity, who proclaimed that “politicians want to control who lives and dies.” Woodhouse moved the debate from misleading to offensive, questioning not only the reform proposal but the motivation of the people behind it.

Having a public option for people to choose doesn’t mean politicians will be in charge of anything. Woodhouse apparently would rather have an insurance company whose first allegiance is to profit making decisions about what drug or procedure to cover.

But McCrory’s rhetoric and Woodhouse’s fear mongering are what the opponents of meaningful health care reform have been reduced to, and not just in North Carolina. In Washington, it’s worse, where the goals of many anti-reformers are not just to oppose Obama’s plan but to do nothing.

GOP Sen. James Inofe said recently that it will be a huge victory if his party can block health care reform, while Sen. Jim DeMint said if Republicans could defeat reform it would be Obama’s Waterloo. The latest edition of The New Yorker quotes conservative pundit William Kristol telling Republicans their strategy on health care reform should be to “go for the kill.”

Not much in there about what to do about the 46 million Americans who have no health insurance, 1.5 million of them in North Carolina. The point now is politics, and there don’t appear to be any limits to the lengths the anti-reform advocates will go.

Too many people don’t have health insurance and too many people who do still can’t afford their medical bills. People are suffering because our system is broken. Obama and congressional leaders have proposals to fix it. This week, try to ignore the hyperbolic rhetoric and listen to the president that the majority of North Carolina voters sent to the White House to address the nation’s problems.

People voted for change, after all, not Waterloo or going for the kill or to keep a health care system that doesn’t work.

Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

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