Roadblocking the Ambulance of Health Care Reform

I have a simple message for all those who denounce the reform of our health care system as a government "takeover" and warn that government "death panels" will decide whether or not older Americans (like this one, who just turned 70) will live or die.

With a combination of gross distortions and outright lies, you are roadblocking the ambulance of health care reform (Full disclosure: I stole this metaphor from the AARP. See (

While you conjure up the specter of government "death panels," an estimated twenty thousand Americans are dying every year because they can't afford health insurance. (Five years ago, a study by the Institute of Medicine, a branch of the National Academy of Sciences, put the figure at 18,000 a year.) And if you really want to know what a death panel looks like, rent The Corporation (2004), a film by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. In this film, a former executive for a health insurance company tells a Congressional committee that under orders from her superiors, she denied coverage for treatment of a life-threatening condition that did indeed take a life. Is that the system you're dying to keep?

While you darkly warn of a government takeover, more than forty million Americas enjoy the benefits of a government system that long ago (44 years , to be exact) took over the task of providing basic health care to all Americans older than 64. Though the conservative charge against this system was led by the patron saint of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan, who warned that it would turn America into a socialist swamp, 94 percent of all seniors -- ninety-four percent -- are satisfied with the quality of care it delivers for them, and no legislator of any stripe, not even the most fiery red, dares to attack it.

Listen to Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. "We need to protect Medicare," he says, "and not cut it in the name of 'health insurance reform.'"

Michael, let's get something straight. Health care reform will not cut Medicare. It will build on it by extending its benefits to all Americans who need them but cannot now afford them.

Cost? While you say we can't afford to reform health insurance, more than fifty million Americans (at the latest count) live without it, go hungry or heatless or bankrupt without it, and in thousands of cases literally die without it.

Do you have eyes and ears in your head, Michael? Can you hear the siren and see the flashing lights? Then please get out of the way. Now.