Stretching the truth

Herger’s misrepresentation of health reform does a disservice

The other side: For the White House’s take on health reform, go to

Our congressman, Wally Herger, will be holding a meeting here next Wednesday (Aug. 19) on the subject of health-care reform. It won’t be like the town halls elsewhere that turned into shout-fests, however, for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the event, called a “power lunch,” is being put on by the Chico Chamber of Commerce for its members only, and they aren’t usually given to shouting, even when they don’t like something. The second is that Herger is a Republican.

The shout-fests have taken place only at meetings hosted by Democratic legislators, since the folks doing the shouting are mostly Republicans angry about President Obama’s health-reform plan. Or what they think the plan is, since they seem to be getting most things wrong.

How wrong? New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tells a revealing story in his Aug. 7 piece. At a meeting held by Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat, “an activist turned to his fellow attendees and asked if they ‘oppose any form of socialized or government-run health care.’ Nearly all did. Then Rep. Green asked how many of those present were on Medicare. Almost half raised their hands.”

When folks don’t understand that Medicare is a government-run health-insurance program, we’ve got a problem. It’s difficult to pass a comprehensive reform plan when such ignorance prevails. No wonder people don’t understand what the Democrats are trying to accomplish.

Granted, there’s a lot of legitimate confusion, in part because the plan is still being developed, and also because it’s complicated. That makes it vulnerable to those whose goal is to make it Obama’s “Waterloo,” the massive defeat “that will break him,” as Rep. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, so pungently put it.

Thus the mountains of misinformation and even disinformation that have been piled onto the plan as proposed thus far. And in this Herger has played his small, typically backbencher-like part.

In a series of press releases, Herger has charged that the Democrats’ plan is “a government takeover of health care,” a charge he repeated Wednesday (Aug. 12) at a Chico press conference. He’s also said it will “force people to give up the health care they like,” and that “independent studies show that 120 million Americans would lose their current coverage and be forced into a government program.”

With all due respect, Wally, that’s bunk. It’s a health-insurance plan, not a health-care plan. The government is not taking over anything, merely expanding current offerings and possibly adding a public option (similar to Medicare) to compete with private insurance and keep costs down. And saying that “120 million Americans would lose their coverage” and “be forced into a government program” is the worst kind of fear-mongering.

Our health-care system is broken, no matter how good any person’s own insurance may be. The president is correct that we can’t fully recover from this recession until we fix it. By stretching the truth to cast doubt, Rep. Herger is doing us a disservice.

Chamber members should be wary. A meeting at which Herger is the only speaker is inevitably politicized and one-sided. It would have been much more helpful to include someone knowledgeable about the Democrats’ plan and thereby have a healthy debate.