On the June 22 broadcast of CBS Evening News, reporter Jeff Greenfield's critique of Michael Moore's documentary Sicko relied on a single premise: that the U.S. public and its political leaders do not embrace Moore's preferred solution (a single-payer system, where medical care is provided by private doctors and hospitals but paid for by the government). But that argument is at odds with the available evidence.
While noting that Moore's film "features affecting stories of personal suffering at the hands of indifferent corporations," Greenfield argued that even though presidential candidates "have all talked a lot about changing the health care system...no one, Democrat or Republican, has come close to advocating the kind of government-run national health system Michael Moore proposes." This is incorrect; Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.-Ohio), a presidential contender, supports the very same approach, as do dozens of congressmembers who have co-sponsored H.R. 676, a bill that would provide single-payer coverage in the United States. Ironically, Kucinich appears on the screen next to Moore as Greenfield made this false claim.
Greenfield elaborated on this storyline, claiming that the U.S. does not have universal health coverage because "Americans are just different." He went on to quote Paul Ginsburg of the Center for Studying Health System Change: "We're much less willing to have government make decisions for people than is the case in Canada and Europe. It's a cultural difference."
That assessment is contradicted by recent polling. In a recent CNN poll (5/4-5/6/07), 64 percent of respondents supported the idea that "government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes." And a recent CBS/New York Times poll (2/23-27/07) found 64 percent support for the idea that the federal government should "guarantee health insurance for all," and 60 percent supported paying higher taxes to provide such coverage. Additionally, 50 percent believed "fundamental changes" to the healthcare system were necessary, and another 40 percent thought the country needed to "completely rebuild" the system.
If Greenfield meant to say that political elites are slow to act on public opinion, he's surely correct (and this would apply to many other political issues as well). The same is true of elite media outlets, which have dismissed and maligned single-payer health care for years. Imagine what the polls would like if there were a serious discussion of the issue, instead of dismissals from the likes of Jeff Greenfield.
ACTION: Tell CBS Evening News to correct Jeff Greenfield's assertions about public opinion and single-payer health coverage. You could also point out that Dennis Kucinich—a proponent of such a system—is in fact a presidential candidate.
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