Letters to the Editor

‘Facts’ in letter about Grecian health care weren’t

Joan Gorner’s May 28 letter was critical of U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, who expressed ignorance at his town hall when she asked: “Are you aware that the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and the New York Times all agree that Greece must privatize its health care system in order to survive economically?” Perhaps the reason Inslee’s reply was a simple “No” was because the facts of the question are inaccurate.

I went to websites of the New York Times, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and other sites researching Gorner’s question. The only mention in the Times of Greece being required to privatize their now privately funded health care system was one entry on a financial blog, with nothing in the paper’s news archives or in any op/ed pieces of the Greek debt crisis.

The IMF’s and EU’s plans for solving the crisis contain no mention of the asserted type of health care restructuring, nor is such change in the reform package enacted by the Greek Parliament. All plans do insist retirement eligibility in Greece must go up from age 53 so workers will pay taxes and health insurance costs longer. Government workers in Greece will no longer be paid 14 months of wages every 12 months, further reducing the government’s expense for health care and retirement plans. Unlimited sick leave is eliminated and additional wage cuts will reduce workers’ expense to the state. The plans also insist that wealthy Greeks, who now pay little in the way of taxes, will be compelled to pay their fair share as well as being required to bear a larger portion of the government’s public option health insurance.

Greece, unlike Britain or Sweden, but like the United States, France, Germany, and Canada does not have socialized medicine but rather has a public/private mixed system that attempts to ensure coverage for all citizens. Just as in those nations, the vast majority of Greek doctors are in private practice. In the rescue plan the only structural changes to the health care system will be the elimination of that characteristic of all Greek enterprise: rampant corruption.

One must ask: where did Gorner find these “facts” that she accused Inslee of being ignorant of? I found these ideas, always attributed to the same NY Times, EU, and IMF sources she cites expressed all over the conservative and Tea Party blog-o-sphere; where ideology and self righteous, but largely erroneous, conventional wisdom consistently trumps truth, fact, and accuracy. Their misstatements are endlessly repeated and amplified until, though still with no basis in fact, they begin to take on an air of believability, an air of what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.” Truthiness supports what one already believes; what one wants to be true; what just sounds too good to be false, but what, in the end, is not supported by fact. The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Tom DeBor


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