SIGNIFYING NOTHING

This week the website for a group calling itself "United States of Care" came seemingly from nowhere to the front and center of social media, at least for people in the "You're not a Trump fan" algorithm. Very Serious People are lining up to applaud its Very Serious Approach to "getting the politics out of healthcare" (what?) and solving this problem once and for all.

A couple things here.

First, the website is absolute word salad. If anyone can figure out what this group stands for you are either a genius or drawing unwarranted conclusions from this mess of boardroomese, buzzwords, Third Way talking points, and frenetic website layout. This may be a record for the most words ever used to say absolutely nothing.

Second, the fact that it didn't exist a week ago and now it's literally everywhere on the internet is a big red flag. There is some very substantial money behind this thing to afford that kind of saturation exposure that ensures that every single journalist, freelancer, blogger, and social media "I like politics" person sees it in 48 hours. That's a marketing budget in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Believe me: I've been pitched these "Get everyone important to see your site!" services and I have at least a general idea of what it costs.

Third, the first two points make perfect sense if you do ten seconds of research into who's behind this thing. If that isn't raising some red flags, you might want to do some googling. Bill Frist, former Republican Senate Majority leader and multimillionaire owner of a chain of hospitals across the South, might not be as interested in "taking the politics out of health care" as the pretty banner makes it seem. Jim Douglas is a fixture on the McCain-esque "Reasonable Republican" circuit. Steve Beshear is one of those conservative Democrats you get when you need to say you have A Democrat but Zell Miller is busy. Dave Durenberger is another retired Republican from the Senate.

If this doesn't turn out to be an Astroturf group for the insurance industry I'll eat my hat. It's brilliantly marketed, the exact kind of thing that looks and sounds GREAT as long as you don't think about it or do any research into what the group is. It's so vague that any viewer can project anything onto the group's mission and goals, and the whole "Let's be Serious, we're Very Serious People, let's meet in the middle" shtick plays extremely well with aging centrist types and people with very low information about politics.

It's hard to draw firm conclusions from anything this intentionally ambiguous, but I'm confident putting my money on the idea that Bill Frist is not genuinely concerned about the little guy's access to health care.

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25 Responses to “SIGNIFYING NOTHING”

  1. SeaTea1967 Says:

    It definitely seems like we've hit some tipping point where smart, cynical people have figured out how to informationally dominate the minds of less-smart, less cynical people. It feels like they figured out how to technologically put a ring in our nose, and now we have to go wherever they lead us.

    I'm going to go with nothing good coming of this.

  2. Droppy Says:

    Insurance ad words translated:
    "Care" = we don't
    "United States" and/or "America" = this is about stealing your money
    "Politics" = pain in the ass bleeding hearts who don't want to let us steal your money
    "Common Sense" = profitable (not for you, sucker)
    "Better outcomes" = pay your premium and then die already
    "Long-term benefits" = we have a plan to keep stealing your money forever
    "The future" = a place where you won't be living
    "For your children" = we hope to treat them even worse than we are treating you

  3. geoff Says:

    Medicare For All is a simple idea everyone can understand, and could be a winning strategy for the Dems in 2018 and 2020. Will they embrace it? I'm not holding my breath.

  4. Ben Says:

    Listen, if you give me your money (just click that "donate" button), I'll get more information about this problem we all share so that we can approach fixing it in a new way once I figure out what we all think that way should be. Just click on the "donate" button! If we all work together and ignore the divisive politics that keep us from doing the things that we know we can do, we will make sure America remains the best place in the country and tell those evil politicians what we, the American people, want. Btw, did you see that "donate" button?

  5. hackenbush Says:

    I love your prognostications (and I agree with the idea that these guys are an astroturf group for the "In Case Shit" industry), but I'd be very careful about making bets like "I'll eat my hat" after the Superbowl B-hole Eating Fiasco of 2018.

  6. hackenbush Says:

    I'm still surprised at the faith aimed at the Democratic party "getting it" and jumping on the Single Payer bandwagon. If we can't understand that the vast majority of relatively conservative, middle of the road, D-in-an-R-state democrats are essentially Republican Lite and have zero interest in cutting off their "In Case Shit" industry donations, well…

    We also seem completely unwilling as a nation to enact (or even *talk about* enacting) the other half of a successful Single Payer system — that of a pricing structure that doesn't seem like it was designed simply to funnel money to extremely wealthy people and deny care.

    For all of the talk of Obama being a socialist coming from the red side of the aisle, he didn't propose anything radical — just propping up a dying industry. I'm not quite sure why we've all be deifying him for that; it was establishing the status quo, even if it did bring healthcare and insurance into the limelight, albeit briefly.

  7. Huey Says:

    At long last, we can take comfort in the fact that Washington DC has weaponized dishonesty against the American people.

  8. Ten Bears Says:

    You had me at "word salad". Which I notice is becoming an ever more prevalent, and ever more sophisticated, rhetorical trolling device.

    If you can't dazzle 'em with bullshit or baffle 'em with brilliance, down 'em out.

  9. Ten Bears Says:

    drown, them out. Foking smart phone.

  10. Mike Furlan Says:

    If you put that site through Google Translate you get:

    Ya got Trouble
    "Well, ya got trouble, my friend, right here,"
    "I say, trouble, right here in River City
    Why sure, I'm a billiard player, certainly,
    I'm mighty proud to say it, always mighty proud to say it!
    I consider the hours that I spend with a cue in my hand are golden!
    It helps you cultivate a horse sense; A cool head, and a keen eye.
    Now folks, let me tell you what I mean; You got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 pockets on a table!
    Pockets that mark the difference between a gentleman and a bum!
    That's a capital B That rhymes with P that stands for pool!"

  11. land_planarian Says:

    Medicare for All is my big issue as an activist. I post about it & broader healthcare debates more broadly pretty often–share the text of draft bills circulating different states, send out event invites, talk about legislators' voting records, follow the National Nurses' United Union and DSA Medicare For All campaign pages, share news articles, etc. If Facebook hasn't pegged me as someone who's Really Into Healthcare Policy, their stock ought to plummet.

    (I suspect I'm That Friend to a lot of ex-coworkers, but I'm also Friends(tm) with a lot of people doing the same work who do wanna see that stuff, so, sorry everyone)

    FWIW, this is the first I've heard of the United States of Care. That's some quality target marketing.

  12. dadude Says:

    So I work in health care and I browsed the site. To me they should just come out and just say it "let's slow the process down, I said LET'S FUCKING SLOOOOOW IT THE FUCK DOWN. We need is more consultation, deliberation, collect a million patient experiences, build entire new ways of communications, and invent a new species of human beings. Then, and only then, will we be on the right path and can inch close to an actual solution."

    The solution is actually pretty simple to anyone who wants to see the answer and we already have all the knowledge we need to fix health care. The whole system is setup to make sure these solutions don't get implemented. Look no further than the whole ACA debate where single-payer or ways to reduce fees paid to the system were simply off the table.

  13. Tim H. Says:

    I wonder if it's an effort to fend off something like this:
    http://www.marciarille.com/2018/01/the-amazon-threat-to-kill-the-hungry-tapeworm.html

    The existing health insurance people would like to be our parasite of choice.

  14. democommie Says:

    Bill Frist likes his patients to fit into one of two categories: snowflakebabeez or Teri Schaivo.

  15. Mike Furlan Says:

    "Bill Frist likes his patients to fit into one of two categories: snowflakebabeez or Teri Schaivo."

    You forgot, his most favorite patients, shelter kitties:

    http://observer.com/2003/01/daschle-beware-young-dr-frist-sliced-up-cats/

  16. Bernard Says:

    Dr. Frist and his couterie of evil doers/aka capitalists are scarfing up whatever money the Government will spend on Medicare and Medicaid. Sharks going after the kill, the American public. lol

    Such "Humanitarians" by their long history of helping steal from Society.

    anything to stop the move to Single Payer, Medicare for All.
    divert the conversation, take as much money out of the almost 20% of the American Economy. so much money and so little time.

    Greed under another name, good PR. Selling is their business, and it is done well.

    Until and unless we move to Single Payer, we will pay more and more. But then again, that's the American Way.

  17. mago Says:

    I dunno Ten Bears, I kinda like "down em out". Kinda what's happening, isn't it?

  18. c u n d gulag Says:

    The only thing Frist is genuinely concerned about is access in)to the little guy's wallet.

  19. doug Says:

    you will not be eating any hats on this one. thanks for calling a spade a spade…

  20. Steve Boone Says:

    Very disappointed to see a respectable, seemingly smart guy like Atul Gawande signed up for this, and I tweeted him to say so.

  21. Robyn Says:

    I think you're condemning this effort prematurely. It’s spearheaded by Andy Slavitt, head of CMS under Obama. Over the last year, he’s done tremendous work in raising support for keeping the ACA intact, and his work was instrumental in the repeal bills failing. He’s got a number of strong progressive voices on the board as well as some from the right and from the insurance and hospital industries. What they’re trying to achieve isn’t as progressive as I would like (I’m a doctor at a children’s hospital and I Have Opinions), but Andy’s actions in the last year speak volumes. Here's a good profile of him: https://www.thenation.com/article/how-a-bureaucrat-helped-save-the-affordable-care-act/

    And if you’ve been closely following health policy Twitter, this didn’t come out of nowhere. I heard about it (and got on the mailing list) weeks ago.

    Finally, here's a useful thread on the matter from Aisling McDonough, who does health care policy for Sen. Brian Schatz:
    https://twitter.com/AislingMcDL/status/961420465213407234

  22. Ten Bears Says:

    Well, yes, but I'm trying to avoid sophisticated rhetorical devices ;)

  23. Redleg Says:

    I'll give Steve Beshear a bit more credit for actually caring about affordable health care. As governor of KY, he helped usher in KYnect, Kentucky's administration of the ACA. The KYnect website appeared to be fairly well-designed and user-friendly and a great many Kentuckians were able to finally get affordable and useful health insurance. Compared to many other states, Kentucky's system worked well. Most of the enrollees liked KYnect (until they found out it was the state's implementation of "Obamacare").

  24. Matt Says:

    @Robyn " as well as some from the right and from the insurance and hospital industries"

    "This chicken advisory board is fair'n'balanced, we've got one or two chickens as well as the farmer, the fox, and a dozen representatives from Tyson and Chick-fil-A."

  25. Huey Says:

    It may not be as dire as all that. Andy Slavitt is one of the good guys.

    http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/former-cms-administrator-andy-slavitt-create-united-states-care-focus-reforms