The simplest, clearest description of how Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders signature “Medicare for All” proposal would affect seniors comes from PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site run by the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalists:
Under Sanders’ plan, after a four-year transition period, all [Medicare] components would be replaced with a health care plan that includes vision, hearing and dental coverage, as well as stronger financial protections.
There would be no premiums or cost-sharing requirements, other than limited cost-sharing (up to $200 per year) on prescription drugs. Patients would be allowed to go to any provider, not limited by a network.
PolitiFact jumped into the debate over the impacts of Sanders’ reform because of Donald Trump’s lies. However, it isn’t just Trump lying about Medicare for All. Health insurance is a trillion dollar global industry – and the Sanders plan would do away with them. In the Medicare for All proposal’s “single-payer” model, the federal government would pay all health care provider bills.
The health insurance companies and their network of subsidized allies (subsisting on consulting retainers, foundation donations) are going to work even harder than Trump to scare seniors about the Sanders plan. They will lie.
Here is an example from National Review (I am purposefully not linking to the article, which I will explain fully below):
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork – Sanders’ Medicare for All plan will greatly benefit seniors – let’s look at how information companies are promoting falsehoods about Medicare for All. And how we can fight it.
Google searches account for two-thirds of all search traffic in the U.S. And topical searches surge when an issue is in the news or on the ballot – sometimes spiking tens or even hundreds of thousands of times vs. average traffic for a search term. It is no hyperbole to estimate that tens of millions of seniors and their family members will search for the impacts of Medicare for all on their household. It is likely that most Americans will find information about Medicare for All through a Google search before the November 2020 presidential election.
And there is already a big problem for proponents – like me and Senator Sanders – of single-payer Medicare for All.
However, pop on over to search results for “seniors” and “Medicare for All,” and the results are dramatically different. And while search volume is lower here today, you can bet that as we get closer to key dates in the primary, health insurance industry consultants will be doing everything they can to drive a wedge between seniors and Sanders and the other Medicare for All Democrats. (Sanders greatly outperforms among young people, but older voters – the current Medicare demographic – are showing some preference for a conservative Democrat like Joe Biden, or for Donald Trump. Groups like Silvers4Sanders are working to change that.)
The search results for seniors and Medicare for All are heavily loaded with health insurance industry propaganda published through opinion columns in mainstream publications. Only a handful of results are neutral, and none are pro-Medicare for All.
So how do supporters of single-payer Medicare for All combat this? Well, we have to get a bit technical. It’s something we used to call, “link juice.”
Search engines like Google may run on the advertising that crowds the top of your results, but to remain relevant, they must present the most accurate search results possible. But they do this with data signals interpreted by software programs that are much less sophisticated than human brains (if you’re up for a foul example, just Google “Santorum”).
Why would searching for the impacts of Medicare for All on seniors give such biased results? Well, the insurance companies and their allies have great credentials and connections and paid PR agencies that help them place misinformation and propaganda in mainstream news outlets as “opinion.” However, Google does little to distinguish opinion from “news” results and gives a lot of prominence to more mainstream, establishment publications that include more objective reporting along with opinion.
Thankfully, just like millions of small donors have made Sanders the presidential frontrunner, we can do the same for Medicare for All and overcome the machine-like use of the existing system of privilege. We can have health care for all with no provider cost to the patient. We can make sure that Seniors who search Google for Medicare for All get the fair and full story.
Just like big donations can make a candidate appear strong, health insurance companies and their allies hope their publications (and TV appearances, of course) will fool seniors. No!
Please talk to your progressive friends who have blogs. Share this blog post with them. Ask them to write their own blog post that supports Medicare for All. Ask them to link descriptions of Medicare for All’s benefits for seniors to honest third-party descriptions of Medicare for All – particularly those that already show up high in search results.
A couple examples from searches today:
Don’t link to lies about Medicare for All.
Let’s send thousands of signals to Google that tell its search engine where to find good information about Medicare for All and seniors.
The fight for Medicare for All isn’t just on the internet – across the U.S., we’re going door to door with National Nurses United. Sign up here to help reach people in your neighborhood with the truth about Medicare for All.
We also have to reach seniors by mail – the kind of data demographic sorting of consumer information where I rely on longtime client and partner Accurate Append.
Every senior in every family in the U.S needs to hear about the benefits of Medicare for All – including dental, vision, hearing aids, and long-term care – in face-to-face conversations, by mail, by truth-tellers in the media, and when they type a search into their browser.