Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Fwd: Something worth forwarding - at the request of David Axelrod

The blogosphere and MSM are buzzing with excitement and twittering in anticipation of the new, improved, updated and revised administration strategy to pass health care reform. As leaked to Ambinder yesterday, Politico reports today that Presidient Obama will be "specifying what Obama wants to see in a compromise health care deal" and "is considering detailing his health-care demands in a major speech as soon as next week".

I am glad the President is finally going to be speaking out on health care reform. We are well overdue to hear from the President on this issue. It has been quite a while since his major health care reform speeches on June 15, July 17, his major health care reform press conference on July 22, his heath care reform town hall meetings in Wisconsin (June 11), at the White House (June 24), North Carolina and Virginia (July 29) , New Hampshire (Aug 11), Montana (August 14), Colorado (August 15) and maybe a few other major speeches and media events that I might have missed.

This time the President will be telling us what he wants to see in health care reform now, as opposed to what he wanted to see during the campaign, or David Axelrod's chain-mail missive of August 13 outlining in detail what the administration expected to see from health care reform then.

Speaking of which - I am doing my part. I have been diligently forwarding David's chain-mail to every e-mail address I can find as he requested me to do. I can see now why he felt it was so important to get the President's message on specific health-care reforms out as quickly as possible, since he probably knew they would be changing the list of what is really important next week. Since the Axelrod e-mail may soon be declared inoperative, I've decided to post my forwarding e-mail introduction here as a public service while it still is the ObamaCare feature list of record. Please feel free help the President and David Axelrod by copying, pasting and forwarding to everyone in your e-mail contact list.

Dear Friend, Family, or Complete Stranger whose e-mail address happens to be in my possession,

Two weeks ago, I received the "longest most important e-mail " that David Axelrod has ever sent. I was flattered to learn that President Obama's closest political adviser considered me a friend. I know this because he started the letter with the salutation "Dear Friend". Later I was disappointed to learn that he did not sent this e-mail to only his friends. In fact the e-mail was sent to any e-mail address that could be either be legitimately or illegitimately acquired by the chief White House political officer. No matter. I still appreciate the sentiment.

David suggested in this letter we "start a chain email of our own" on the topic of health care reform, and asked me to forward his e-mail to everyone I know. He was quite insistent, concluding the note by saying "So what are you waiting for? Forward this email". Now, I've always thought an unsolicited e-mail broadcast to millions of accumulated e-mail address fit the definition of "E-mail SPAM" and was considered bad form, rude, and kind of illegal. But - my spam filter did not flag David's e-mail - so I guess it was ok.

I frequently find chain-letter style e-mails in my in-box, as well as exciting business opportunities from Nigerian bureaucrats who have stumbled on secret bank accounts and soliciting my help to transfer funds to the U.S. However, because I thought chain e-mails epitomized bad e-mail etiquette, I never forward the chain e-mails (although I do sometimes forward the Nigerian e-mails). I don't even forward the ones that say I will be cursed with bad luck if I break the chain. I take that risk and have probably lost several hundred dollars in lucrative football parley wagers as a consequence. But I digress.

This chain letter was different. This chain letter came from the White House, from the President's closest adviser. I've always thought that if the White House asks you to do something, as an American, you should do it. If it is unpatriotic to show up at a town meeting and complain about the President's policies, surely it is unpatriotic to directly refuse a personal White House request like this, is it not? So I am forwarding David's e-mail to you, my close friend, family member, or complete stranger whose e-mail is in my possession and I would like you to forward it to all of your friends, family and any other e-mail addresses you happen to have in your possession.

I do have one concern. I received this e-mail directly from David Axelrod two weeks ago, and have yet to receive any additional copies from my friends, family or complete strangers. This would indicate that this viral chain e-mail is not working as well as the White House and David Axelrod hoped. Perhaps I can help.

Many of the viral chain e-mails I receive share certain characteristics. Either they are humorous, or they are pornographic, or they contain virulent partisan rants. David's e-mail is - to be quite honest - boring. Boring e-mails rarely become viral. Since David Axelrod is humorless, and sending paparazzi photos of starlets is inappropriate for the White House, this only leaves the partisan rant. David did make an effort in the letter. It was pretty clever to claim that opponents of the President's healthcare plan were "spreading all sorts of lies and distortions" shortly before David Axelrod himself started spreading all kinds of lies and distortions in the same letter. Good one David! But just not good enough to go viral. To go viral you need a rant that has a little more vitriol and energy. As an example - maybe something like this:
"David Axelrod is a corrupt Chicago machine political hack and a lying sack of shit. He was instrumental in cutting a deal with big pharma promising to protect their profits, gutting ObamaCare in exchange for millions in advertising funds that coincidently flowed to his ex-partners in his ex-firm where his current son is currently employed and from whom he is currently receiving buyout payments."
The above paragraph is for illustrative purposes only.

I have a few other suggestions for David. His e-mail is confused about which are the myths and which are the reforms. Next time, he should have someone read it before sending it.

Also, it is best not to outright lie. Like when David says in this e-mail that ObamaCare "reform will stop rationing" of heath care. Nobody believes a whopper like that. Not even the most kool-aid addled Obamite. Proponents can argue that it will be better rationing than occurs now, and the opponents will argue that it will be far worse rationing than occurs now. But no one (except David Axelrod) argues that reform means no rationing of healthcare at all. A statement of belief in Santa Claus of that kind of undermines everything else one has to say, except maybe to a two year old.

My final suggestion for David Aexlrod to improve his chain e-mail is this... If he is going to insist on spamming a sales pitch, it should be for a product that Americans are vaguely interested in buying. Now, I could be wrong, but if I were to guess what the American people are looking to buy, it would be something that can be articulated pretty simply and emerges from some basic American values of fairness and common sense. I’d say it is really about these three things:
  1. Every American gets a baseline level of solid health care. No one is left behind.
  2. No American need be at risk of financial ruin or bankruptcy because they get sick.
  3. The program is manageable and fiscally responsible. Americans want to feel reasonably certain we won’t see mushrooming costs like with Medicare and the prescription drug plan.

That’s it, David., that is all that is needed - not long lists of half truths, dubious benefits, or even a set of ginsu steak knives. Interestingly, ObamaCare HR 3200 at best accomplishes one of the three, while the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act (S 391) actually does accomplish all three. Perhaps that will be a better choice for Mr. Axelrod's next chain e-mail promoting ObamaCare 2.0.

Hopefully this was helpful. I am linking a short slide presentation to highlight the difference between ObamaCare and Wyden-Bennett for his future reference. It is also embedded in an allegorical tale linked here for the enlightenment and education of anyone who would like to learn more about a widely ignored bipartisan healtcare bill that offers real reform without bankrupting the country.

And remember - David Axelrod would like you to do your patriotic duty and forward this to all of your friends, family and any other e-mail addresses you happen to have in your possession whether they asked for it or not.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Your Friend, mw

The White House, Washington

Dear Friend,

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President

P.S. We launched this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage
  1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
  2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
  3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
  4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
  5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
  6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
  7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
  8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform
  1. Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
  2. We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
  3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
  4. Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
  5. Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
  6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
  7. You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
  8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now
  1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
  2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
  3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:
  4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more:
  5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:
  6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
  7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:
  8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:

This email was sent to mw AT dividedwestandunitedwefall DOT com
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