White House Turns to Internet To Dispel Health Reform Misinformation
The Web site includes an array of videos featuring top administration officials and health care experts repudiating charges that reform legislation being drafted in Congress would result in euthanasia, rationed care and a government takeover of health care.
Melody Barnes, head of President Obama's Domestic Policy Council, said, "We've been really surprised by some of the wild rumors we've heard flying around" (Parsons, Los Angeles Times, 8/11).
In the introduction to the Web site, one White House official notes that "as more people become engaged in the issue, defenders of the status quo have responded by muddying the waters with more wild rumors and scare tactics." The official adds that the goal of the site is to "provide you with the latest 'Reality Checks' and tools to combat misinformation" (Koffler, Roll Call, 8/10).
White House senior adviser David Axelrod said, "Given a lot of the outrageous claims floating around, it's time to make sure everyone knows the facts about the security and stability you get with health insurance reform" (Elliott, AP/Chicago Tribune, 8/10).
According to the New York Times, by launching the site, "White House officials were tacitly acknowledging a difficult reality: they are suddenly at risk of losing control of the public debate over a signature issue" for Obama "and are now playing defense."
White House Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said, "There's a whole set of rumors that the old playbook would tell you not to do anything about because you draw attention," but the "lesson we've learned is you ignore these rumors at your peril, and the right answer is to take them head on in as big a way as possible" (Rutenberg/Calmes, New York Times, 8/11).
However, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the site is "full of errors, misstatements and falsehoods." For example, Boehner said the White House should not promise that people would be able to retain their current insurance because the White House does not "know how many employers are going to drop their coverage altogether if their plan goes into effect" (Los Angeles Times, 8/11).
AARP Ad Campaign
In related news, AARP this week is launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to rebut "myths" about health care reform, particularly as it relates to seniors, Roll Call reports.
Nancy LeaMond, executive vice president of AARP, said in a statement, "We won't stand idle when opponents of health care reform attempt to scare or mislead the American people -- the older Americans in particular -- about what fixing the system really means."
Through mid-September, AARP will run print, TV, radio and online ads advocating for reform. In addition, the organization plans to increase its grassroots advocacy in every state and host more than 80 events, including a number of town-hall meetings with members of Congress (Ackley, Roll Call, 8/10).
PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Monday reported on the misinformation being spread about how health reform legislation could change Medicare. The segment included a discussion with:
- Former CMS Director and Project HOPE senior fellow Gail Wilensky; and
- Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center (Bowser/Woodruff, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 8/10).