FROM THE HIP: ‘The Big Lie’

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By Lee Einer

It’s called “The Big Lie.” Hitler coined the term. Hitler believed that we, the people, actually are more vulnerable to colossal, outrageous lies than we are to small and relatively trivial falsehoods. He reasoned that the vast majority of us tend to tell the small and niggling little lies of the “that dress looks great on you” variety on a regular basis. Consequently,  petty falsehoods are within our experience and we are on the lookout for them.

The flip side is that most of us are not sociopathic liars and hence cannot imagine someone telling the entire nation a lie so monumental that even cursory fact checking would disprove it. Lies on that scale are inconceivable to us. They are  outside of our experience, and so we often are blindsided by them.

Which brings me to the big lie of the health reform debate — “Single payer is off the table.”

A variant is something we’ve heard from any number of representatives and senators, “I personally favor single payer, but there is just no support for it in Congress.”

When one representative tells you this, it’s plausible. When 10 of them tell you this, it’s laughable.

The truth is that single payer health coverage, which is a system in which a single government-run entity pays for everyone’s health expenses, is very much on the table, and not only on the table, but on the floor as well. The floor of Congress, that is.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, has assured legislators that HR 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act, will be debated on the floor of the House when the fall session begins.

Single-payer legislation is also being being considered in the Senate. S 703, The American Health Security Act of 2009,  is in the Senate Finance Committee.

And an amendment to HR 3200 sponsored by Anthony Weiner would replace the text of HR 3200 with that of HR 676, effectively transforming the “reform” bill into a full-fledged single-payer bill.

There are also 10 states considering single-payer legislation. California’s legislature has passed single-payer legislation twice; it would be California law now had the governor not vetoed it. New Mexico has the proposed Health Security Act for New Mexicans. Studies commissioned by the state report that the HSA, as it is called, would not only provide coverage for all New Mexicans, but do so at an actual financial savings. HSA supporters tell me it has the support in the state House to pass, and that it was kept from a floor vote last time around by diverting it to a “kill committee.”

So there it is. When somebody tells you that “single payer is off the table,” don’t buy the big lie. Single payer is very much a topic in the healthcare reform debate,  there is massive support for it, and there is movement at virtually every level seeking to legislate it.

Lee Einer is the features editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or features@lasvegasoptic.com.