HHS Secretary Tom Price was back on Meet the Press on Sunday trying to convince Americans that the amended American Health Care Act is not going to make them worse off. Tom Price does not explain how the Republicans’ American Health Care Act would deliver “better” healthcare (higher quality and more affordable) than the Obamacare (PPACA) it is replacing. Instead Tom Price manipulates Americans with political healthcare propaganda honed for a particular audience (on Sunday, it was people concerned about the American Health Care Act’s treatment of pre-existing conditions). Every snake oil salesman can learn a thing or two from Tom Price in the art of manipulation.
I have warned my readers that Secretary Tom Price, a medical doctor and politician, has a history of actively championing the financial interests of doctors at the expense of the American public throughout his political career. Any legislation he advocates must keep this in mind. While I find Tom Price’s answers to reporters’ questions do not give me any insights into how the new Republican bill stacks up to Obamacare (PPACA), they do provide me with a lesson in the use of political healthcare propaganda to forward a particular agenda that is not particularly favorable to the American people.
Tom Price manipulates Americans in at least four ways that I have identified. Every statement uttered by Tom Price is geared to resonate with different subgroups of Americans. He does not want any particular group to piece the complete picture together. Let’s look at the ways in more detail below.
1. Divide and Conquer
Tom Price’s “selling” pitch revolves around dividing Americans into groups with different self-interests and telling them what he thinks they want to hear. For those who are concerned about coverage for pre-existing condition, Tom Price manipulates Americans to think that the removal of pre-existing condition guarantees under the American Health Care Act won’t affect them. After all, only about 20 million Americans who buy health insurance in the non-group (individual) marketplace will be directly affected when Obamacare (PPACA) guarantees are taken away. For those with “Medicare Medicaid, insurance through the VA or Tricare or through your employer”, Tom Price reminds you that your pre-existing conditions (along with age) do not result in higher premiums or denial of coverage. You are “safe” for now unless you lose your job or are forced into early retirement. Unfortunately, taking away health insurance guarantees from one group today opens the door for taking away from other health programs down the road.
In this divide and conquer strategy, Tom Price pits the immediate, short-term self-interests of one group against those of others instead of uniting Americans toward a common goal of Affordable Health Care and Beyond for ALL Americans. In other words, Tom Price is advocating the “I’ve got mine, tough for others” or “it’s every man for himself” government policy.
2.”Choice”–What does it really mean?
When Tom Price manipulates Americans, the word “choice” finds its way in most of his interviews. He is a master at being vague and hopes the American public attaches the positive sounding “choice” to all aspects of the Republican healthcare agenda. A typical example is when Tom Price called the Republicans’ bill “a system that allows you an array of choices so that you can respond and choose the coverage plan that works best for you and your family”.
Tom Price manipulates Americans to think that the opposite of Republican bill “choice” is “the kind (of health insurance) government forces them to buy” (i.e., Obamacare). Every American should know that “choice” in the Republicans’ American Health Care Act means “choice” of more than one health insurance company selling many different health insurance plans without a well defined set of health benefits (Essential Health Benefits) and without a minimum value (60% actuarial values). Choice does not mean “choice” of healthcare providers (doctors and hospitals). Choice of doctors is dictated by insurance company networks that are becoming narrower with time. The Republican bill does not give consumers more healthcare provider “choices” and may in fact hasten the trend to narrower networks most Americans are being offered today.
3. Obamacare and Government Regulation are Bad
When Tom Price manipulates Americans he knows that it is easier to “sell” the American Health Care Act if he can discredit Obamacare (PPACA), the law he wants so desperately to repeal. This was a lot easier before the Republicans had a replacement to compare to. Tom Price does not discuss the fact that Republicans have never embraced bipartisan efforts to improve Obamacare now or in the past and the good parts of the law are never mentioned or are openly misrepresented. Instead Tom Price manipulates Americans with the propaganda message that Obamacare’s highly government-regulated healthcare plans are being forced down Americans’ throats! He states that Americans want “access to the kind of coverage that they want for themselves and their families not the kind government forces them to buy”.
No one likes to be forced to do anything. The child within us still remembers our mothers forcing us to eat nutritious meals when we preferred sweets. Thoughtful Americans look beyond short-term gain and look at the big picture. When Tom Price manipulates Americans to think that the government is bad, he is prepping Americans for future Republican Party agenda items that reduce government’s obligations in health care (Medicare will be next).
4. Align Americans with For-Profit Companies
If government “interference” in health care is bad then who are we supposed to turn to for affordable, quality health care? When Tom Price manipulates Americans, he wants us to align ourselves with the private for-profit healthcare companies (doctors, hospitals, medical device companies, pharmaceutical firms, etc.). For-profit healthcare businesses fill Republican (or Democratic) party coffers and elected officials’ pockets with contributions hoping for favorable legislation not to deliver what is best for the American public.
Tom Price tells us that the American Health Care Act puts “patients and families and doctors in charge of health care, not Washington D.C.” As you can see in the quote, Tom Price is especially keen that we align with doctor, a group whose financial interests he has championed many times in the past. Tom Price wants us to think that all doctors and hospitals work first and foremost to deliver high quality, affordable health care, even when it means less money for them. He wants us to think that doctors and hospitals do not need government regulations to force them to spend money on healthcare quality improvements or to communicate with other doctors for coordinated care. He wants us to think that our government is putting in regulations simply to destroy healthcare affordability and quality of care. None of these scenarios has any connection to reality.
This rosy picture filled with caring Marcus Welbys does not jive with the business of health care today. In the United States healthcare system. healthcare providers are not just “folks” that practice medicine or care for patient. Doctors are businesses or employees of powerful integrated healthcare systems where out-patient doctors’ services, in-patient hospital services, and health insurance are increasingly being consolidated for maximization of income and profits. Doctors work under various corporate entities (often more than one) – independent practice associations (IPA), open and closed physician-hospital organizations (PHO), and management services organizations (MSO) to name a few.
Obamacare (PPACA) has initiated many quality improvement and cost reducing initiatives that have put a lid on the efforts to maximize income and profits. Tom Price will undo these initiatives as soon as the American Health Care Act is passed so that the “folks” that practice medicine can return to the days before Obamacare when few questioned the quality of care they delivered or put a serious dent in incomes and profits.
The Bottom Line–How Tom Price Manipulates Americans
It is not difficult to identify the ways that Tom Price manipulates Americans. If I want to learn about which healthcare reform legislation (Obamacare (PPACA) versus the Republicans’ American Health Care Act) is better for me and other Americans, I certainly won’t waste my time listening to interviews where Tom Price’s goal is only to manipulate Americans so that they forward the Republican political agenda. Tom Price is not looking out for my best interest and does not want me to evaluate the Republican bill with any degree of scrutiny. By repealing Obamacare (PPACA), the Republicans are giving doctors the freedom to deliver lower quality health care that maximizes their income and profits. It also lets insurance companies go back to selling whatever health plans make them the most money. Next time Tom Price is on TV make sure to listen closely.