Fear-Based Health Policy

Today’s New York Times features a number of stories about the proposed health reform bills, with one interesting thread: fear. Fear of “rationing,” fear of excessive costs, fear of the unknown, fear of the future. Take just the first, for example –

“Rationing.” It is what many people say they fear most from an overhaul of the health care system — the prospect of the federal government’s limiting the medical care they can receive.

Even some people who now have private health insurance through their employers have expressed this concern in opinion polls and public forums. They say they worry that the enormous price tag for providing care to tens of millions of additional Americans will eventually force everyone else to make do with less.

Of course it’s not a reasoned fear; rationing ‘s not going to happen any time soon. But somewhat like the tossing out of the utterly false “death panel” phrase, the R-word works to solidify the base for those who want no reform at all. And for some who simply want Obama to fail.

Aren’t the stakes a little too high?

Policy Experts Call Fear of Medical Rationing Unfounded – NYTimes.com



  1. People are scared of the unknown. Americans are used to a me-first mindset and the idea of anyone else receiving quality care at their expense is more than many can bear to imagine. We’re already tightly rationed in what we get and when so HMOs can make enormous profit and pay their CEOs millions. That scares me a lot more, but then I grew up with a system that already covers everyone….and there are waits in Canada and other nations with government-run schemes for non-urgent care. Not everyone needs everything thisverysecond. But Americans think they do, even when many of their fellow citizens have nothing at all.

    1. If I can inject a bright spot, Caitlin (OK, there are those who say my middle name is Pollyanna), I really believe there are people in this country whose concern for their fellow citizens motivates their activism for health reform. If we are to get this critically needed legislation somehow passed, I think it will only happen with a combination of pragmatism, concession, negotiation — and a little altruism.

  2. The insurance companies already ration care, why are they not scared of them? Insurers cherry pick healthy people and pass over the ones with pre-existing conditions or carve out coverage for things patients might need based on their past medical history. Get sick and file a claim and the insurer just might deny the claim until you are dead; if they can save a buck. Insurers should be feared more than regulators.

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