Mission Impossible? Educating the American Public about Health Reform

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to help educate the American public about health reform, person by person, from the ground up.
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Remember Mission Impossible? Each segment began with instructions to the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) team, "Your mission, should you decide to accept it...." And of course they did. They always succeeded. Well, I have a new mission for you all. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to help educate the American public about health reform, person by person, from the ground up. Yes, it seems impossible. But like the IMF, if enough people signed on, it could help to counter the lies and misinformation circulating about health reform.

Here are a few things you can do, on a daily basis, to stem the tide of lies, distortions, and outrageous claims being made about the new health reform law.

1. You start by reading (or at least bookmarking) the whole law, PL 111-148 plus the reconciliation language.. Ok, not realistic to read the whole thing, but how about some really good summaries? Here are a few:

The Kaiser Family Foundation (no relation to Kaiser Health plans) has a readable and quite complete summary of the new law, which is called the Patient Protection and Affordable CAre Act.

The Congressional Research Service has a good summary, although less readable, here.

Families USA has this great website to follow reform implementation.

And of course, the Whitehouse.gov site itself.

2. Once you have your sources of information handy, choose a newspaper, blog, or cable network show to follow and monitor. Make it one that is critical of health reform, not just one that you agree with. Forget about the mainstream papers or network shows, they have fewer readers than local papers and Fox News.

Here's a good example. Take the Augusta Chronicle (Please!). Today, there was a Letter to the Editor proclaiming Medicare would be bankrupt in 2014. So I signed up and commented. It's easy to sign up for most of these online versions of local newspapers. During the 2008 campaign, a lot of us wrote letters, commented, blogged about health reform, trying to set the record straight. Not sure how much good it did, but it allowed at least some facts to slip through from time to time. Be sure if you do comment that you stick to the misstatements and distortions and that you cite facts wherever your can.

Two great websites for checking facts are Politifact.com and Mediamatters.org. Quote early and often.

3. Consider calling in to a radio talk show. But this option carries high risks. Facts are not popular on these shows. I know, I tried to call in once and rebut some out and out lies about health reform. The response from the host was,"Thanks for your input." Click. And then right back to the lies, which are much more fun to spread. The problem with radio is that there is almost no counter to the right wing talk shows now that Air America has gone off the air. And a lot more people listen to talk radio than read papers. So if you really want a mission impossible, this would be a good start!

4. Write your own Letters to the Editor at your local newspaper. Believe it or not, it's super easy to do. Just go to your local paper's online site, find "Opinion", "Letters" and off you go. If you keep your comments fact-based and provide some real useable information for readers, you are likely to get published.

5. Respond to emails that get circulated. You may not be on the distribution list of the crazier emails that are going around, but ask your relatives or friends who do receive these to forward them to you. I have done that a number of times and while it is much more time consuming than the Mission Impossible activities above, you will occasionally get emails of thanks for trying. And your rebuttal might go as viral as the original email if you take the time to do it right.

What to write about? Find an article or a blog that really distorts the facts. Then google some articles about that topic and find some good information to rebut the piece. The great thing about the internet and blogging is that you don't have to be original. As long as you cite your source, you can put facts out there very quickly.

The most dramatic lies about health reform are the following: 1) That it is socialism; 2) That it's a government takeover; 3) That it will break the fiscal bank (that's a hard one to rebut because critics don't trust the CBO); 4) That the cuts in Medicare will destroy Medicare (and this one from folks who were screaming about how socialistic Medicare is a few months ago); and 5) that the IRS will put you in jail if you don't buy an insurance plan.

If you fight back, please comment here on what you posted and what response you got.

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