White House Makes 'Viral E-Mail' of Its Own

Feeling victimized by misinformation spread virally through the Internet, the White House Thursday is launching its own "viral e-mail" for supporters to spread.

With the subject line: "Something worth forwarding," the e-mail -- from senior White House adviser David Axelrod -- seeks to combat "the viral e-mails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions" and invites Americans to "start a chain e-mail of our own."

The e-mail outlines 24 points -- eight ways the Democrats' health care reform measures will, in Axelrod's view, "provide security and stability to those with or without coverage," eight "common myths" about reform, and eight reasons why reform is an urgent matter.

The e-mail also features a Web video from White House health care reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle in which she refutes an opposition viral e-mail sent to one of her White House colleagues from his father, a physician.

DeParle then proceeds to refute points in the email (which, it appears, has made its way into Pat Boone's in-box ), claims such as "the government will have direct real-time access to bank accounts," that all doctors will be paid the same regardless of speciality, and the notion that employers must enroll employees into the government run plan.

"This is probably one of the longest e-mails I’ve ever sent," Axelrod acknowledges at the beginning of the message. He explains that "it could be the most important."

This is just the latest attempt by the White House to combat opposition to health care reform, some of which is rooted in false information such as the "Obama 'death panel,'" that former Gov. Sarah Palin wrote about last week, painting a picture of a bureaucratic care-rationing board that would withhold medical treatment from seniors and the disabled.

This week, for instance, the White House set up a webpage "RealityCheck" "to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the Internet," Axelrod said.

The eight "common myths" are: that reform will lead to rationing and will mean a "government takeover" of health care; that reform is unaffordable; that it will encourage "euthanasia"; that it will limit veterans' access to the health care; that it will hurt small businesses; that it will be paid for by cutting Medicare benefits; that health reform will force Americans out of their current insurance plans or force them to change doctors; that it will mean the government will be in charge of Americans' bank accounts.

Some of the "myths" are clearly false -- that euthanasia is part of reform, for instance.

Others are matters of some dispute. Will health care reform really not lead to any American being switched from one insurance company to another, or one doctor to another? No, as President Obama has acknowledged , he cannot stop a private company from doing so -- though, he emphasizes, private companies are dropping coverage altogether for millions of Americans. But wouldn't the creation of this less expensive government-run plan lead to some employers opting for that coverages? Estimates of how many Americans would go from private to public plans range from two million Americans by the Congressional Budget Office to an estimate of tens of millions by analysts at the Lewin Group, a group that asserts editorial independence but is owned by UnitedHealthcare.

Axelrod goes on to argue the eight reasons for reform, among them that "36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market" were either unable to do so because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or they were dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill.

Other reasons for reform, Axelrod says, are that employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, that those in rural areas have less access to health care, that nearly one-third of the uninsured are employees of small businesses, and that projections suggest that the number of uninsured Americans will rise to about 72 million.

The eight ways health reform will provide security to those with or without coverage include provisions in the health care reform bills working their way through Congress that would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions; yearly caps on how much companies can charge for out-of-pocket expenses; and prohibitions against charging women more than men.

"Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered" by the viral e-mail, Axelrod writes. "So what are you waiting for? Forward this e-mail." He signs it: "Thanks, David."

- jpt

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