Tag Archives: Don Aanestad

Sen. Kuehl Offers a Lesson in How To Talk About Health Care

This passage from Anthony Wright on the deabte over SB 840 (the single-payer universal health care bill), which passed the California State Senate yesterday, caught my eye.  I think it’s a good lesson on how to deal with Republicans who will lie and lie about how health care is delivered in this country and abroad.  It’s important for every Democrat who wants to move forward on this issue to read this.


In the staid Senate, there was little debate on the measure. Being its fifth time around the block, Capitol watchers expect nothing other than a party-line (or near party-line) vote on the measure.

However, Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, did take the opportunity to attack the nationalized health care systems of other countries.

“There’s no question that we have problems with the high cost of health care, but to say we have the lowest standard of health care, or that we’re at the bottom of industrialized nations is not a true statement,’’ Aanestad said.

Contrary to what Aanestad said, though, the U.S. spends more on health care, but gets less, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The latest numbers show that the U.S. spends $7,800 per capita on health care, nearly twice as much as Canada’s $4,050; the UK spends $3,250. Meanwhile, the US ranks 21st in life expectancy (Canada ranks 7th and the UK ranks 18th), and 23rd in infant mortality behind Canada and the UK .

Aanestad went on to say that the “the only universal health care … (seen) in the US is the outmoded and substandard Veterans Administration Health Care system. Do you really want your American health care to end up in the Veterans’ Administration model?”

Lastly, Aanestad proclaimed that “if I needed bypass surgery, I could not get it (in Canada) because I’m over 60 years old and I would be put on a waiting list because I’m too old to qualify for bypass surgery.’’ On the other hand, in the U.S. “If I needed bypass surgery, I’d have it tonight,’’ he said.

Sen. Kuehl contradicted this statement.

“This notion that waiting lists exists somewhere else, but not in America ? Maybe for the privileged few of us who can get right in. But there are a lot of people in my district – the richest district in the state and the one with probably the highest number of people insured – who are still on waiting lists, whether with Kaiser, or with Blue Cross,’’ said Kuehl, who represents Santa Monica.

“You can’t just run right in and get your bypass surgery,’’ Kuehl said.

Please read and absorb that.  The Republicans are going to lie about health care.  But their problem is that everyone in this country already knows about the current the health care system, and has faced its ineptitude and soaring costs.  It’s easier to lie about something more abstract like Iraq than health care, when everyone knows the deal.  This, of course, is why they always try to shift the debate to health care in Europe, where they can lie with impunity.  It’s easier to demonize the unknown than the known.  They’re of course wildly at variance with the facts on health care in the Western world, and I think Democrats can leverage personal experience with the American system here, and ask, “How can this possibly be the best we can do?”  Kuehl pretty much did just that.  There are wait lists right here at home; everybody knows this.  It can take months to see a doctor, particularly a specialist.  We’ve all had the experience of sitting in the ER waiting forever for what is supposed to be something used in case of catastrophic emergencies. 

They also spend a lot of time on VA hospitals, which not everyone in the country has had a chance to use, and there’s a blurring of lines here.  Mentioning VA hospitals is designed to call up the imagery of the terrible conditions at the Walter Reed outpatient facility.  Except here’s the problem: Walter Reed was an ARMY hospital, and a good deal of the issues with the outpatient care had to do with the fact that they were privatizing the facility.  If you’re strictly talking about the VA system, it’s actually quite good.

Remember, too, that the VA is the only truly socialized health system in the US: they run the insurance side, sure, but also employ the doctors, build the hospitals, and administrate the care. All of which makes the VA a particularly fertile example for liberals because, unlike the French or German or Canadian systems, the VA exists within the America lifestyle context, short-circuiting the weird well-we-eat-more-cheeseburgers retort to arguments about lower medical spending and better health outcomes in foreign countries. The VA is cheaper, more efficient, less error prone, and boasts higher patient satisfaction than any system in the US, and it does so without the reputation for rationing, waiting lines, and low-tech care that erroneously plague other countries. Now, if some of our conservative friends have an answer for that, I’d like to hear it.

There’s more here.  It’d be great for Democrats to line up people who use the VA system and tell their stories, about a successful government-run program that’s completely at odds with the private for-profit system most of us use.  They’ve particularly done an excellent job at keeping down prescription drug prices because they’re given the ability to negotiate; you can “get your meds,” as VA care user Mike Gravel said in Sunday’s debate, cheaper and quicker.

Democrats, all you have to do is SPEAK THE TRUTH.  The people are with you on this issue.  And there are specific ways to demonstrate the viability of a health care system that values treatment rather than money.