Sunday, August 24, 2008

Harry and Louise Return

Today, August 24, 2008, marks the return of the old Harry and Louise ads credited with defeating the Clinton universal health care plan of fifteen years ago. They are being put on the air on the eve of the presidential conventions for the same purpose as the last time: to try to convince Americans that single-payer universal health care is not in their best interest.

The persons portraying the fictional couple Harry and Louise are the same as before, now obviously fifteen years older, but the message is a little different this time. Aware that health care reform might be coming soon, the ads’ sponsors are trying to use the ads to warp that reform in a direction that favors the health insurance industry and its allies, but which is to the detriment of the users of health care, namely the American public.

The sponsors of the new Harry and Louise ads are promoting not only less regulation of the health insurance industry, they want the government to subsidize it by paying the premiums for the high-risk persons that the industry would otherwise either not insure or charge unbearable rates. They are trying desperately to maintain their throttlehold on health care financing. As one ad sponsor, the National Federation of Independent Business, states, “To the greatest extent possible, Americans should receive their health insurance and healthcare through the private sector. Care must be taken to minimize the extent to which government safety nets crowd out private insurance and care.”

Overall, the primary purpose of the new Harry and Louise ads we are going to see a lot of from now on is to maintain the profitability of the private health insurance industry. A proven propaganda ploy; it will be interesting to see how well it works this time.

Also jumping on the bandwagon is the American Medical Association with its own Louise ad (not the same Louise as in the other ads, but obviously borrowing on the Harry and Louise concept) touting the association’s reform proposal. This is not a health care reform proposal at all; rather it deals only with health insurance, and it basically also calls for less regulation of the insurance industry plus government subsidies to the industry to help pay the premiums for high-risk persons. Not the powerhouse it once was, the AMA’s membership has declined, and it now represents less than one-third of all U.S. physicians. Increasingly, physicians are going against AMA and are coming out in favor of establishing a single-payer universal health care system.

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