Home Store In Memoriam Deborah Newsletter Forum Topics Blogfeed Blogroll Facebook MySpace Contact Us About

Ingraham Uses Healthcare Reform to Take a Swipe at Undocumented Immigrants

Reported by Julie - March 21, 2010 -

Does anyone remember, almost 25 years ago, the astounding headline statistic that women over 40 were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married? And does anyone remember that reporter Susan Faludi, in her book "Backlash," debunked the theory, tracing its origins to a tossed-off comment in a newsroom? Yeah, well, that's pretty much what's happening now in the conservative world of healthcare reform. Take Friday night's (3/19/10) O'Reilly Factor, with guest host Laura Ingraham. She gloated about the medical community's "explosive reaction" to Obamacare, and cited the "fact" that 46% of primary care physicians would "consider leaving their practices if this healthcare reform goes through." And, while she was at it, Ingraham creatively managed to work in a swipe at undocumented immigrants. Good times. With video.

Okay, first, on how many levels is this "statistic" wrong? Let us count the ways. Ingraham cited this "46%" statistic -- no doubt channeling Bill O'Reilly, who cited the same statistic -- which allegedly comes from a poll by the New England Journal of Medicine. Like the "over 40" marriage statistic (that one was designed to scare women out of the workforce), this seems to be the right-wing's latest talking point to scare people away from healthcare reform. But the New England Journal of Medicine didn't conduct the survey. And more importantly, the survey citing the "46%" number appeared in "Recruiting Physicians Today", a "free advertiser newsletter." Maybe it's just me, but a physician recruiting firm would seem to have a vested interest in preserving the status quo among physicians. And, as Dr. Peter Lipsom, writing for Forbes.com, pointed out, due to the polling questions, the poll "is not a reliable measure of doctors' responses to health care reform." Further, it's not like physicians threatening to leave the medical practice is new news: The same poll Ingraham appeared to be referring to cited the malpractice crisis as a reason physicians have threatened to quit medicine. Ah, well, we don't want to let a presentation of all the facts get in the way of a good, healthy right-wing scare tactic.

Appearing on the program were Dr. Mark Morocco, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Manny Alvarez, a renowned medical professional and Fox News medical contributor. Introducing her guests, Ingraham said that she tends to know a lot of doctors who have had some "health challenges in the past," and out of the 15 doctors she knows, only one is for the healthcare reform bill. No surprise there -- water seeks its own level, yes? She directed her first question to Dr. Alvarez, who amped it up further, saying that he knows thousands of doctors, but can count on one hand the number of doctors that agree with this healthcare bill.

Can we say "right-wing agenda?" I'd like to point out that, in their zest to paint physicians as a whole -- this whole "counting on one hand" thing -- as against this healthcare reform bill, Ingrahm and Dr. Alvarez failed to mention the many, many doctors who feel otherwise. Physicians for a National Health Program, for example, whose members number 17,000, wants single payer, and the American Medical Association supports the current legislation. In fact, as reported by the StatesmanJournal.com, physician organizations representing over 600,000 physicians support the current legislation. That's a whole lot of hands, counting "on one hand."

But, not surprisingly, Dr. Alvarez ran with the statistic Ingraham brought to the table, saying, "You said 46% of doctors may consider leaving the practice of medicine. I would say that that's going to probably happen and evolve over the next two or three years if this global bill passes, this socialized medical bill passes which . . . is ultimately going to destroy healthcare as we know it in America . . . one bullet to fix everything that this presidency wants to do is really not the right thing." Dr. Alvarez seems to think doctors will suddenly be on the street with cups collecting change if this bill passes. But according to Physicians for a National Health Program, even under a single payer system, "On the basis of the Canadian experience under national health insurance, we expect that average physician incomes should change little. However, the income disparity between specialties is likely to shrink."

You know, Ingraham's not stupid -- misguided, mean-spirited and bitter, yes, but not stupid. Dr. Alvarez is clearly not stupid. Yet there they are, ignorantly advancing the notion that the current healthcare reform legislation is "socialized medicine." As defined by Physicians for a National Health Program, "Socialized medicine is a system in which doctors and hospitals work for and draw salaries from the government. Doctors in the Veterans Administration and the Armed Services are paid this way . . . But in most European countries, Canada, Australia and Japan they have socialized health insurance, not socialized medicine. The government pays for care that is delivered in the private (mostly not-for-profit) sector. This is similar to how Medicare works in this country. Doctors are in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis from government funds. The government does not own or manage medical practices or hospitals . . . . The term socialized medicine is often used to conjure up images of government bureaucratic interference in medical care. That does not describe what happens in countries with national health insurance where doctors and patients often have more clinical freedom than in the U.S., where bureaucrats attempt to direct care."

Dr. Morocco pushed back, saying, "I don't know about the 46% of people that you are citing but . . . I know thousands of doctors and let me tell you, 100% of those doctors have considered leaving medicine over the last 15 years based on what's happening . . . in medicine in this completely market-driven system that we're in now . . . their best clients are Medicare and Medicaid."

Dr. Morocco noted that every day 50% of his patients don't pay him -- but went on to say that's part of his oath, to treat regardless -- which prompted Ingraham to ask, superfluously, "How many of them are illegal aliens?" While Dr. Morocco was attempting to complete his statement, Ingraham interrupted him, persisting with her "illegal alien" smear: "What percentage of those people who come to the emergency room -- if you had to guess -- were in this country illegally, what do you think?"

Dr. Morocco, appearing a bit taken aback, responded with, "Oh, you know, I don't have any idea . . . ."

"You don't have any idea?" Ingraham persisted belligerently.

Dr. Morocco explained that he's not permitted to ask that question by law, and attempted to explain that "we have to get back to pure doctor-patient relationships." Interrupting once again, Ingraham asked Dr. Morocco, ""Do you think this bill will make healthcare . . . for the majority of Americans . . . better in America?"

"Yes, I do," Dr. Morocco replied firmly, " . . . It's not a single lightning strike . . . that's gonna make it better instantly . . . ." He stated that we already pay "all day long" a hidden tax by having to cover everybody who is uninsured and underinsured.

A third interruption by Ingraham, who asked, "But who do you think's paying now?"

Dr. Alvarez weighed in, saying, "If what America wants is socialized medicine, go ahead and say that, this is socialized medicine . . . If what we want is to have this balance where we still have private doctors . . . this is not the bill that's going to provide that, it's going to destroy it." Again, no clarification by Ingraham as to the true definition of "socialized medicine," or how this healthcare reform bill will "destroy" the system of private physicians. The short answer? It won't -- which is most likely why she chose not to bring it up.

Dr. Morocco again pushed back, arguing, "We've got Balkanized medicine, we've got little fiefdoms that control your office and your decisions and my emergency room and my decisions. We have worse than socialized medicine now . . . ." I had to look this up, but according to business journalist Dana Blankenhorn, "The term Balkanize, or Balkanization, is often used in English to refer to . . . splitting up, which often (as in the 1990s) is accompanied by enormous violence . . . ."

Ingraham interrupted Dr. Morocco for the fourth time, saying, "Out of time, out of time . . . we're out of time . . . ," but found time to toss in, "I'd rather have little fiefdoms than a huge hulking government bureaucracy that is always unresponsive."

As if the health insurance companies are not huge, hulking bureaucracies that are always unresponsive. Sheesh. Rush Limbaugh threatened to go to Costa Rica (the home of socialized medicine) if this healthcare reform bill passed. Can he please, please take Ingraham with him?