The medicine men are posed over their tom-toms.
During the month of October, American newspapers and radio stations will beat out the largest and loudest campaign ever prepared by a professional organization. The American Medical Association and an assortment of allies have joined in an advertising campaign designed to abort the growing public interest in a national health insurance program.
Representative John Dingell (R, Mich), sponsor of federal health legislation, describes the multi-million dollar dole compounded by the physicians as an attempt to doctor, drug, and slug the American people into believing the crude big lie that sickness is health; that insurance is socialism and communism; that the President’s plan for National Health Insurance is socialized medicine.”
The campaign was conceived last June when the AMA Board of Trustees approved an advertising budget totaling $1,110,000, the entire sum to be spent during two weeks in October (conveniently timed to affect the November elections). Editor & Publisher reported that the campaign against “state socialism” would mean $560,000 in full-page newspaper ads, $300,000 in radio propaganda and $230,000 in magazine ads. However, in the intervening two months, the million dollars turned out to be only a modest installment on the total cost of the anti-health campaign. The AMA tapped its allies for tie-in advertising to be scheduled simultaneously.
AMA President Elmer Henderson sent letters to 23,000 big corporations and to 7,000 members of the National Retail Dry Goods Association asking them to join in the program at the local level. The 24 largest insurance companies announced they “will bring up heavy advertising artillery to back the AMA campaign against socialized medicine,” covering the 48 states from “coast to coast.” Whitaker and Baxter, the husband-and-wife publicity team whose $100,000 a year contract has just been renewed by AMA, said the railroads and private power companies were cooperating.
Lawrence C. Wells, public-relations director of Blue and Blue Shield health plans, announced that the organization had timed its own institutional promotion campaigns with the AMA’s advertising program. Whole and retail drug companies have also joined the fray, estimated $19 million will come from these tie-in Newspaper and radio admen, who have watched is bonanza grow, look .to October as the lushest in advertising history.
Terming the campaign “a tragic waste,” Senator James E. Murray (D, Mont.) itemized what the $20 million could have brought in the way of medical care. It could have paid for:
One year’s average medical costs for more than 160,000 families in the $3,000-a year bracket; or
Medical-school tuition for four years for 9,000 students who could care for six million patients when they became doctors; or
Eighteen times the present amount of dental research, estimated at about $1 million a year, to help decrease the $1 billion dental bill paid by patients every year; or
The training of 5,500 heart specialists to combat the 600,000 annual death toll from heart disease; or
A 100-bed mental or tuberculosis hospital, construction of eleven completely equipped health centers, and two-year fellowships for 2,000 scientists for advanced medical research.
Instead of fulfilling any one of these needs, which even the doctors themselves admit are critical, $20 million will be spent next month to bring the AMA “Message of Freedom” to the people.
The 980-line advertisement the doctor doctrinaires are running in 11,000 newspapers during the opening days of the campaign is entitled “Who Runs America? The Congress? The President? OR YOU AND THE MAN NEXT DOOR?” The American eagle, with the frown of a corporation president after taxes, peers down at the answer:
The reality of war has made every American think hard about the things he’s willing to work and fight for—and freedom leads the list. But that freedom has been attacked here recently—just as it has been attacked in other parts of the world. One of the most serious threats to individual freedom has been the threat of Government-dominated Compulsory Health Insurance, falsely presented as a new guarantee of health security for everybody. ... In the American manner, the people studied the case for Socialized Medicine—and the case against it. They found that Government domination of the people’s medical affairs under Compulsory Health Insurance means lower standards of medical care, higher payroll taxes, loss of incentive, damage to research, penalties for the provident, rewards for the improvident. They found that no country on earth can surpass America’s leadership in medical care and progress.
The ad, listing 12 of “10,000 great organizations” on record against “Compulsory Health Insurance,” boasts that the people, gave Congress a “Grass Roots” signal “and ever watchful, ever sensitive to an alert people, the Congress saw that signal, and heard the people speak out, loud and plain. That’s democracy in action. That’s the American way!” The doctors, the ad continues, are grateful that the people refused to be wooed by the fantastic promises of this un-American excursion into State Socialism.”
If “the people” were so united against the Administration’s health-insurance plan, the AMA shouldn’t have needed such a costly campaign which, according to Whitaker and Baxter, is “without doubt, the broadest coverage newspaper advertisement of the year.” The Lockwood-Shackelford Company, a Chicago advertising agency, has distributed this ad and hundreds of others to 11,000 newspapers (“every bona-fide daily and weekly American newspaper”), 30 national magazines, the three Sunday newspaper supplements and the 28 in dependent Sunday magazine sections (“total circulation of over 38 million”), and more than 1,000 radio stations which will broadcast spot announcements (“covering every state, Hawaii and Alaska”).
While this is the first concentrated dose of “consumer” propaganda administered by the AMA, the doctor’s lobby has been listed “top spender” under the Lobby Registration Act, last year budgeting more than $2 million against the President’s national-health program and distributing 55 million pieces of propaganda during those 12 months.
In its desperate attempt to kill public interest in any form of federal aid—to train doctors, build hospitals, encourage research or lower medical costs—the AMA has wandered from its original purpose as an objective, professional organization of doctors united to keep in touch with every step of medical progress. It has become a politically-minded, publicity-seeking organization. An enthusiastic editorial, entitled “The Value of Advertising” and appearing in the September 16 issue of the AMA Journal, says “Advertising, freedom of the press, American ingenuity and old-fashioned but ever needed “get up and go” have made this country what it is. … The AMA ... campaign … is intended to help preserve the freedom this country has enjoyed.”
Whether or not the AMA can inoculate the American people with its propaganda injection remains to be seen. There is increasing doubt on the part of conservative businessmen about the effectiveness of this type of institutional advertising. They are discovering that many people don’t bother to read it, and that those who do have remarkably little interest in what business has to say about “free enterprise” and “the American Way of Life.” Since most readers consider themselves experts on good Americanism, they resent the inference that comes with having the definition spelled out in high bounding phrases, as the slickest of the business magazines points out in its current issue.
If the editors of the AMA Journal have looked up from their own magazine long enough to read this article (in the September issue of Fortune), they might begin to wonder about the value of their grandiose campaign.
The Free Enterprise campaign [Fortune says] is shaping up as one of the most intensive “sales” jobs in the history of industry. ... This year it will probably account for at least $100 million of industry’s ad budget and an unknown but hefty share of its employee-relations expenditures. ... And it is not worth a damn. …
Can you merchandise a concept as you do a concrete article; can you homogenize it and package it for mass distribution, hawk it over the air waves, or even, for that matter, sell it door to door. ...
The Free Enterprise campaign is psychologically unsound, it is abstract, it is defensive, and it is negative. ... In a great many of its aspects it represents a shocking lack of faith in the American people, and in some cases downright contempt.