Transcript: Thom riffs on the health care lottery and Medicare Part E for Everybody, 21 October 2009

Are you ready for the lottery? The health care lottery? Yeah, it’s the “Wheel of Fortune.”

This is what’s happening here in my state of Oregon, and you know, I have to believe that things like this are happening all over the United States. The headline “Odds Steeper in Health Lottery”, big front page headline in today’s “Oregonian”, and this is how one state is dealing with it. Uninsured Oregonians 614,000. Uninsured adults amongst those 504,000. Uninsured adults living in poverty 141,000. The number who are going to be admitted to the Oregon Plan, which is sort of a public option here in Oregon, it goes one step beyond Medicare and Medicaid, 35,000. Now, we have 141,000 people who arguably qualify for this, only 35,000 are going to be let in to it, so how are they going to handle this?

Let me just share with you what Bill Graves wrote in today’s “Oregonian”.

Oregon is gearing up to open the state health insurance plan next month to cover an additional 35,000 uninsured adults who have low incomes and good luck.” Good luck? Yep.

Health officials estimate that about four times that many adults qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, so they will take names and hold periodic lotteries to add winners to the plan over the next 20 months”.

We’re holding lotteries here in Oregon. Literally. A lottery. “You too could win the right to buy health care.”

How bizarre is this? This is just absolutely over the top nuts. That’s how bizarre it is. Back in the 2004 election campaign, Dennis Kucinich argued that there should be a Medicare Part E that everybody should be allowed, that Medicare should simply be extended to everybody. Now, at that time, it was basically single-payer health insurance.

And, you know, it’s been kicked around. The Hudson Institute apparently, or Hoover, one of the think tanks, used that phrase again to describe a single-payer health plan some months ago, or perhaps a year ago. And a couple of months ago, I wrote an op-ed for “Common Dreams”, in which I said, you know, we’re not going to get the single-payer health care. We’re not going to get single-payer health insurance. We need it, we should have it, it should be what we’re working for, but it ain’t going to happen because, you know, the influence of money is so great, so pervasive right now, in our political arena, that we’re not going to get it.

So, why don’t we simply stop using the phrase public option, and start using the phrase Medicare Part E? See, here’s the problem. Most people don’t know what public option means. I mean, there were people showing up at teabag rallies who dropped the l in the word on their signs, “We don’t want no pubic option”. I mean, they’re clueless. Public option, what does that mean? Does it have something to do with executions in the public square? I don’t know, it sounds ominous.

Why try to sell something? Why, not only why try to sell something, why create something from scratch? Why have a thousand page piece of legislation that creates a whole brand new government health insurance programme, when we already have one?

It’s there. It works. It’s called Medicare. There’s nobody who doesn’t know what it is. Even the low information voters, those people that are referred to by the news media, charitably, as moderates, middle of the road voters, really what they are is low information voters. They’re people who don’t have a clue. They’re not paying attention. You know, they watch the network news, thirty minutes, you know, twenty minutes after commercials, every night, you know, with the obligatory ten minutes devoted to things like balloon boy, or balloon girl, you know, California, Miss America wants her boobs back or something, those kinds of stories. These low information voters, they’re clueless about what’s going on.

And so, the Democratic Party has been spectacularly incompetent over the years at reaching out to these low information voters, and giving them information. And saying to them, you know, here’s an option. Here’s how it could or should be done. I mean, they’ve just been spectacularly incompetent at this, the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has just totally failed in that, I mean, consider SCHIP. This is the State Children’s Health Insurance Programme, right, it’s a programme where the Federal government is helping states provide health insurance to children in low income families. One is six kids in America lives in poverty. And so, the SCHIP programme is like reach out and SCHIP? It sounds like something where you’re out walking through the cow pasture, you want to avoid stepping in.

There’s a marvellous Federal programme to make sure that low income, particularly seniors, people living on a fixed income, people who are on Social Security, that if they’re hit with a really cold winter, particularly in the North East, or across the Northern Tier of states, they’re hit with a particularly cold winter, and their heating bill goes from, you know, two hundred dollars a month to three hundred dollars, it goes up, and they’re not going to see a commensurate increase in Social Security, and they don’t have savings, and they’re already having to make choices between, you know, food or vitamins, excuse me, food or medicine, or maybe food and vitamins, for that matter.

There’s this great programme to provide heating assistance to them. So what did the Democrats name it? They named it LIHEAP. Yes, that’s something I can get behind. I rally want to vote for that, yep. Let’s promote LIHEAP. Come on, Democrats, you can do better than this, LIHEAP. Like you’re going to lie in heap? A heap of what? Well, it’s an acronym. It stands for Low Income Heating Assistance Programme. Come on.

The Republicans have known for years how to make this stuff work, and how to do it right. They have the 'Healthy Forest Initiative', that cuts down forests. They got the 'Clear Skies Initiative', that increases the amount of pollution. They’ve got the 'No Child Left Behind', that leaves behind huge swathes of our educational infrastructure and so many of our kids. I mean, the Republicans have figured out how to message this stuff.

Back, two years ago, when it was obvious to me that the Democrats had completely lost track of how to message politically, I, on the air, wrote a book, I think it was the first book that was ever written on the air, called “Cracking the Code”, and we went through framing, we went though subliminal suggestion, we went through hypnotic trance, learning trances, we went through all the techniques that you can use to capture a person’s attention, and convey a message to them quickly. We talked about memes, thought viruses, all these various things that would cause people to go ”Oh, that’s what you’re talking about”. I wrote this for the Democrats, and some of them actually paid attention, but they still weren’t paying attention, they're going, “we need a public option”.

So, a couple of months ago, I wrote an op-ed for “Common Dreams”, saying “quit calling it a public option, you guys, call it Medicare Part E, E for Everyone”. Rebrand the public option. I know, like I said, Congressman Kucinich back five years ago said, “Why don’t we simply extend Medicare to everyone, we’ll have a single-payer health care system, we can call it Medicare Part E”. Well, that’s not what I’m talking about. This is not a single-payer health care system. This is just let’s allow anybody, well, it is a single-payer health care system, but let’s allow anybody to buy in to it. Therefore, it becomes an option. And anybody is us. We’re the public. But as I said, you’ve go the low information voters who are clueless about it. And now, a couple of members of Congress have come out and said “You know, this is a good idea”. And I think it’s great that, you know, three members of Congress have now come out and said “Maybe we should call this Medicare Part E. E for Everyone”. And a couple of news sources have picked up this story, and it’s starting to spread, and there’s an article today in “Think Progress”. My original blog story is re-circulating, it was over at Huffington Post, as well as Great, Medicare Part E.

Transcribed by Gerard Aukstiejus.

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