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 V.18 No.36 | September 3 - 9, 2009 

Thin Line

Silver Backlash

Jami Hotsinpiller rang up the Alibi on a Friday afternoon. She nervously asked if I had a minute. She hates having her picture taken or her words printed for the world to see, and she describes herself as "really shy." She assured me she doesn't belong to any political organizations. But Hotsinpiller's got a media beef and is willing to go on the record about it.

Her message: All senior citizens are not afraid of health care reform. "I keep hearing politicians saying the public is scared of change, especially old people who are afraid to lose their coverage,” the 63-year-old says. “While there are some that are, there are a lot that aren't."

“They make it seem like everybody's a teabagger.”

Jami Hotsinpiller

For Hotsinpiller, a government-run, single-payer system is the only way to go. "To me, it's not even a political issue. It's a moral issue." She's annoyed with the Democrats for letting single-payer slip off the table. And she's frustrated with the Republicans for being so good at getting TV coverage. "They make it seem like everybody's a teabagger," terrified of high taxes.

She attended a health care rally at the National Hispanic Cultural Center put together by Organizing for America. A small article about the event followed in the Albuquerque Journal. But Hotsinpiller wants to know: Where was the TV news? She called the stations asking if they'd covered the rally that, according to blog Democracy for New Mexico, drew more than 1,000 people. KOAT-7 and KRQE-13 told her “No,” she says, and KOB-4 said the event had been touched on. (Searching the stations' websites turns up nothing.)

“Maybe we need to announce that we're all going to wear clown noses or something.”

Jami Hotsinpiller

The opposition has a simpler message, she says, and a hook. "Maybe we need to announce that we're all going to wear clown noses or something."

She doesn't know how to court the media spotlight for average citizens in favor of reform, she says. "When people discuss things in more complex terms—which most issues need to be discussed in—they're not as easy to cover with a line or two."

Hotsinpiller's not the only “gray-hair” supporting a health care overhaul with a strong public option. According to an Aug. 30 NPR report titled " Senior Groups Reject Health Care 'Scare Tactics,' ” elderly citizens in other parts of the country are doing battle with misinformation spread by reform opponents. Talk of rationing and “death panels” dominates the debate. And that’s no accident. In 2004, 79 percent of Americans aged 65-plus were registered to vote, according to the Census Bureau, and cast 19 percent of the votes.

Still, Hotsinpiller says everyone she knows has a different opinion. And though they may not be able to make it to every rally, it's unfair to use a flamboyant few as a weathervane for that demographic.

So let’s put it all together. Senior citizens are being misinformed and know it and reject it, according to NPR. Senior citizens have become a major talking point for the right because of their voting power. And in spite of the fact that many seniors may be in favor of health care reform and a single-payer option, local media outlets aren’t going out of their way to cover that angle.

We’ve taken the teabaggers’ word for it that all elderly people oppose health care reform. Why are we buying it?

 
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