Huh boy. Jeff Wennberg’s had himself a brainstorm. The head of anti-health care reform group “Vermonters for Health Care Freedom” is seeking donations to make a documentary film promoting their free-market approach (a.k.a. doing nothing). Peter “One Man Band” Hirschfeld:
Vermonters for Health Care Freedom wants to raise $18,250 to fund production of “Lessons from Canada,” a documentary it says will show what a train wreck single-payer is north of the border.
Wow. $18,250. That’ll go a long way. On a production-quality scale of one to ten — one being “community access TV” and ten being Michael Moore’s “Sicko” — eighteen thousand bucks ought to buy you a “two.” But hey, it’s amazing what you can do with a cellphone and iMovie.
Beyond the immediate quality question comes this: Is VHCF so strapped for money that it has to make a special plea to raise a mere eighteen grand? Doesn’t Jeff have Lenore Broughton on speed dial? That’s sofa-cushion money for her.
VHCF has managed to paste together a “trailer” for the project, visible on its fundraising website above the following pitch to prospective donors:
This documentary will help us activiate (sic) an already existing coalition of conservatives, independents, and moderate Democrats who think Vermont’s single payer plan is reckless.
That would be the “existing coalition” that backed the entire VTGOP to a catastrophic defeat in the 2012 election. Months and months of anti-reform saturation advertising from Campaign for Vermont, VHCF, Vermonters First, and the VTGOP completely failed to convince anyone outside the conservative core — and now a cheap video is going to “activiate” this imaginary coalition? Dream on, Jeff.
Judging by the trailer, the video will rely on anecdotal stories from people who feel victimized by the Canadian system — individuals, doctors, and conservative commentators. The problem with that approach is, the actual evidence is on the other side.
Last week, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine released a 400-page report detailing the many shortcomings of America’s “best in the world” health care system when compared to other developed nations. As noted by the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson:
Of the 17 countries measured, the United States placed dead last in life expectancy, even though we lead the planet in the amount we spend on health care (17.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 vs. 11.6 percent each for France and Germany). We get radically less bang for the buck than comparable nations.
The report finds that America’s death rate for people younger than 50 is “almost off the charts” due to poor diet, lack of exercise, and high incidence of violent deaths. (Need more guns, I guess.) Plus the fact that for many Americans, health care is “inaccessible or unaffordable.” The report says:
Americans benefit less from safety net programs that can buffer the negative health effects of poverty and other social disadvantages.
The US mortality rate is 17th out of 17 for those under 50, and 16th out of 17 for those under 70.
But after that, our death rate plummets. “By the time American seniors hit 80,” Meyerson writes, “they have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.”
Part of the reason, he says, is that we’ve winnowed out the weak and sick, and those who can’t get health care, while the healthiest and wealthiest live a long time. But the bigger reason:
…at age 65, Americans enter a health-care system that ceases to be exceptional when compared with the systems in the other 16 nations studied. They leave behind the private provision of medical coverage, forsake the genius of the market and avail themselves of universal medical insurance. For the first time, they are beneficiaries of the same kind of social policy that their counterparts in other lands enjoy. And presto, change-o: Their life expectancy catches up with and eventually surpasses those of the French, Germans, Britons and Canadians.
To borrow the title of another wildly successful documentary, that’s an awful lot of Inconvenient Truth. But I’m sure Jeff Wennberg will go on believing that a handful of irked Canadians is all the proof he needs that single-payer health care doesn’t work. And besides, FREEDOM.