Yesterday I had the distinct honor of standing up before my community and defending the merits of the PPACA. This opportunity is one that I have sought out for over 18 months and yet when the chance arose, I was afraid. Defending something you have passionately fought for seems as though it would be an easy thing, but it can be a difficult task when faced with a barrage of half-truths and fear mongering. Opponents of the ACA will use any tactic, however low, to scare their listeners.
I suppose we’ve all identified that one of the great failures of this current administration and legislative leaders is their inability to properly showcase and defend the merits of the PPACA. It seems this task must be accepted by those of us that want to see it succeed. With the non-stop flow of myths being spewed about the law, we are left with no other choice. The strategy of simply presenting your information and hoping that the public and our colleagues will absorb it is failing. Poll after poll shows that when Americans learn about specific provisions in the law they move towards supporting reform. But time is running out. A new legislative session begins in 49 days. Many newly elected to Congress believe they have a mandate to repeal the law. Despite the fact that this may a gross misreading of recent election results, there is a fight coming. The ones with everything to lose are doctors and patients.
Our strategy must change. We must begin to not only disseminate information, but simultaneously refute the lies and half-truths. My opponent last night was full of these. Example 1: this law establishes rationing boards composed of appointed officials that will tell doctors what they can and cannot do. Example 2: doctors will be forced to practice ‘cookbook’ medicine and will be financially penalized if they do not follow the rules. Example 3: charity hospitals like the one in New Orleans are a viable model for how we must provide care to the indigent. Obviously, my opponent made my job easy. Many of these myths are so absurd that when said aloud to a room of intelligent people, the audience of physicians did not know whether to laugh or call a psychiatry consult. But the common technique of repetition & screaming loudly often leaves the only voice heard being, the loudest one.
I prepared for this debate as if my life depended on it. I was supported by knowledgeable and passionate colleagues. I remained graceful and yet forceful. I never let my voice rise up, as if in desperation. I smiled as he tried to weave a web of lies for the audience. I then smiled even more when I unraveled his web, very carefully.
I suppose, the most difficult part of this endeavor is deciding who you want to be on that stage? Do you want to be the raving lunatic doctor with charts and graphs full of misrepresentations and ‘fuzzy math’ or do you want to be the caring, voice of reason trying to bring your colleagues together as we move forward. The choice is ours and the moment is now.