Suzanne Somers is an expert on health care, according to Suzanne Somers and, for some reason, The Wall Street Journal. She is not, however, an expert on historic quotes, public policy, or health care.
The Journal has a weird, traffic friendly section called "The Experts," in which experts come and share their expert opinions on things. You can see pictures of some of the experts at right. They include Natalie Caine (?), Morgan Fairchild, Pat Sajak (!), and former Sen. Bob Kerrey. Perhaps the section should have been called "The Aristocrats."
Anyway, Somers, whose bio describes her as "a health advocate, entrepreneur, Emmy-nominated actress [Ed. – nominated!] and author" — you might remember her from Three's Company — has thoughts about Obamacare and decided to leverage her expertise and expert position to share those thoughts.
As a writer of 24 books mostly on health and wellness and by using my celebrity to get to the best and brightest doctors, scientists and medical professionals in the alternative and integrative health-care world, I have come to the following conclusions:
First of all, let's call affordable health care what it really is: It's socialized medicine.
Her argument bounces around a bit, but centers on three things. First: Canadian health care doesn't work and Canadian doctors want to come to the United States because "they want to reap financial rewards." Second: Pre-existing condition coverage is good for seniors, but nothing else is. And, third: Lenin and Churchill saw health care as a tool to control the public.
The Canadian stuff is based mostly on an anecdote. That her sister-in-law had to wait to see a doctor is sad! But an old Maclean's article isn't terribly compelling, nor would be the idea that Canadian doctors want to come to America to make money. That's the whole point! Doctors here have far fewer limitations on their ability to make money, which is one factor in increasing health care costs. If you were told you could make way more money doing the same thing somewhere else, you might move, too. That doesn't mean you're doing bad work where you are. Regardless, Somers' claim is not true.
As for the elderly, Somers is very concerned about their health coverage, though in generally vague ways. She acknowledges the value of covering preexisting conditions, but then segues into "let’s get down and dirty; the word 'affordable' is a misnomer." Why? Because premiums are "doubling and tripling" as you "hear on the news" and "most frightening of all, your most intimate and personal information is now up for grabs." In this case, "the news" probably means Hannity, and "personal information" means … no idea. No idea what that means. She of course misses the whole point about pre-existing conditions: yes, premiums for some people with pre-existing conditions will go up — since many pay no premiums, since they can't get coverage. And that's good for kids with cancer just as it is for the elderly.
Anyway, this is the best paragraph:
And then there is another consideration: It’s the dark underbelly of the Affordable Care Act reminiscent of what Lenin and Churchill both said. Lenin: "Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state." Churchill: "Control your citizens' health care and you control your citizens."
Neither of those people said those things. Churchill wasn't a huge fan of Britain's health system in his later years, but he helped set it up. There's no record that he said anything about its being a tool for control. And that Lenin quote? Made up.
Don't let any of this cast a pall over Somers' other fine health-related work; to wit, her endorsement of various thigh-enhancing products. On her website, her "ThighMaster Gold & ButtMaster" gets a robust five stars, so it sounds like something in which you can put your faith. Except that on Amazon, it averages two stars. Gonna need Bob Kerrey to weigh in on this one.
Update: The Wall Street Journal has now appended a few corrections to Somers' piece. They are something:
An earlier version of this post contained a quotation attributed to Lenin (“Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state”) that has been widely disputed. And it included a quotation attributed to Churchill (“Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens“) that the Journal has been unable to confirm.
Also, the cover of a Maclean’s magazine issue in 2008 showed a picture of a dog on an examining table with the headline “Your Dog Can Get Better Health Care Than You.” An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the photo showed and headline referred to a horse.