When I saw the headline (1/19/11), “Vocal Physicians Group Renews Health Law Fight,” I thought maybe–just maybe–the New York Times might be talking about Physicians for a National Health Program, the group comprised of “18,000 physicians, medical students and health professionals who support single-payer national health insurance.”
But no. The Times story is about the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons,a3,000-member organization that is on the far right of the healthcare debate, and is garnering coverage now because they support repeal of the new healthcare law. How far? These excerpts from the Times piece should give you some idea:
Founded in 1943, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons opposed the creation of Medicaid and Medicare. A decade ago, it was among groups that unsuccessfully urged the United States Supreme Court to release post-mortem photographs of a former Clinton administration official, Vincent Foster. In its brief, the group argued that an independent inquiry was necessary to confirm that Mr. Foster, whose death was attributed to suicide, was not murdered.
Its internal periodical has published studies arguing that abortion increases breast cancer risks, a tie rejected by an expert panel of the National Cancer Institute, as well as reports linking child vaccinations to autism, a discredited theory. Another report, “Illegal Aliens and American Medicine,” contended that illegal immigrants not only brought disease into this country but benefited if their babies were born with disabilities.
“Anchor babies are valuable,” that 2005 report stated, using a negative term for children born in America to illegal immigrants. “A disabled anchor baby is more valuable than a healthy one.”
Now perhaps the angle here is that since repeal is in the news, this group deserves coverage. And citing their extremist positions on an array of subjects might be useful for readers who want to know what sorts of folks are backing repeal.
But in the broader debate over healthcare, single-payer advocates like PNHP are largely sidelined. A search of Times coverage in the Nexis news database shows that PNHP usually shows up only in the letters section. A June 11, 2009 article, “Doctors’ Group Opposes Public Insurance Plan,” focused on opposition to the public option from the likes of the American Medical Association; it included a passing reference to PNHP.
It makes sense for the healthcare debate to include the voices of doctors and other caregivers. But that discussion needs to include those who support single-payer.