Why are the victims of the current health insurance system being ignored?

Melissa Bass asks a good question, to which I don’t have a good answer.

Melissa Bass of the Public Policy Leadership department at the University of Mississippi asks a good question, to which I don’t have a good answer:

Do you know why the health care town hall meetings are dominated by crazy opponents ranting about what health insurance reform may do to them (but won’t really) as opposed to sane proponents ranting about what health insurance or the lack thereof actually has done to them?

I understand prospective loss motivates more than prospective gain, but in this case the current losses are so dramatically horrible (i.e. your “Why We Fight” post) that I find this perplexing. This isn’t a case of boring rationality having to fight dramatic craziness. Our drama really should be winning, and it’s not — it’s not even being covered, which suggests to me that it’s not being presented. Why is that?

Why aren’t there people at these meetings telling sob stories about their mom dying, losing their home and business, etc., like in your post of that woman’s email? That doesn’t depend much on the substance of the bill, just saying to the member “Will you promise not to let this happen to another family?”

Someone to talk back to the crazies and say, “You think gov’t is going to kill your grandma? An insurance company already killed mine. First denied her treatment, and then dropped her entirely. Why are you okay with that? Why don’t you care about her?”

Everything I read criticizes the crazies for being objectively wrong and thwarting productive, civil discussion. That’s the best I can do too. But there are plenty of people who have the experience/standing to shame the crazies, and it’s not happening.

I just read a Steve Benen post on something like this that aired on CNN. The member said that the answer is for neighbors to pitch in more. Like her whole insurance nightmare could be solved by friends bringing by some casseroles. Feh.

To which I’d add: where are the pro-reform spots featuring the horror stories? And where are the reporters seeking out the victims of the current system?

Update Here’s a good example of what Melissa and I would like to see happen. Tom Coburn, of course, gives an idiot non-answer, and gets cheered for it. But Rick Sanchez points out the contradiction to his audience. Good for him!

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com