Taking back the healthcare debate….

OK, I’ll admit I’m venting a little….

It’s time for a little sanity and rationality. I’m tired of the angry mob ranting and screaming over scheduled speakers in the healthcare town halls even before they get a chance to utter their first word. I have read H.R. 3200 and H.R. 676 and I’m still working on reading the rest of the proposals, so I do at least know and understand what is in H.R. 3200, which is what the media has been referring to when they talk about the healthcare bill.

Let me say upfront that I do not support H.R. 3200 because it does not accomplish what I believe needs to happen for real healthcare reform, which is Medicare for All – a single-payer universal healthcare solution that gets the for-profit insurance companies out of the healthcare business permanently. Why?  Because it is the nature of for-profit insurance companies, mandated by law, that they must make a profit for their stockholders, which increases our premiums and deductibles.

The first responsibility of insurance company executives is to their stockholders, not to their insureds (patients).  And, especially in recent years, we have seen policy premiums, deductibles and co-pays rise astronomically and coverage is continually cut back further and further while insurance company CEOs continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly bonuses….

Every town hall I have seen on the tube shows people screaming at the politicians or other presenters about unrelated issues or making wild accusations like the Palin comment about “death panels,” which is not just incorrect, it is grossly misrepresentative and a completely irresponsible remark for a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate to make.

And I am tired of hearing how anyone who does not support the verbal lynchings that go on in the town halls is suppressing free speech and being a bully. Those in attendance of the town halls who are respectful and ask the ranters to be quiet long enough for the speaker to make his or her presentation aren’t being bullies just because we want to hear what the scheduled speaker has to say before we make comments or ask questions. I’m sick and tired of ill informed idiots trying to shout the speakers down rather than have a rational, factual discussion about healthcare…..

This issue is much too important to allow special interests and those only concerned with scoring political points based on propaganda, lies and fabrications to take over the discussion. I fear that the stranglehold that corporations and special interests have over politicians (because we have not dealt with much-needed election reform and campaign finance reform) is coming back to bite us in the butt once again.

There are plenty of logical reasons to oppose any of the healthcare bills — none of them are perfect, nor will they ever be, and some of them may well be worse than doing nothing. But the reality is that there is a huge inequity in our healthcare system because of lack of access to care based on unaffordability, uninsurability (because of pre-existing illnesses) and “job lock” (having to stay at a job you don’t like because changing insurance companies could jeopardize your coverage based on pre-existing conditions). Those who can easily afford the premiums and co-pays are happy with what they have, and why shouldn’t they be? But over 47 million (and counting, since the numbers grow as unemployment rises) people have no healthcare and even more have inadequate healthcare coverage — and worse still, they often don’t know it and don’t find out until the need it.

The town hall ranters speak about “taking their country back,” but from whom?

From my view, it looks like “we the rational” need to take this issue back from “those the hysterical” that are dominating the news!  Some of these demonstrators are simply honest, but ill-informed and easily manipulated, folk being used by the right wing-nuts to score political points.  Some are right wing-nuts or special interests that are deliberately trying to confuse and obfuscate and manipulate Americans using fearmongering to reject healthcare reform, yet again, and, often, not based on their perception of the need for healthcare reform, but because it provides them a convenient opportunity to score political points against a political opponent.  In other words, any issue will do if it creates a backlash against the opposing party.

And, given the change in public attitudes regarding healthcare and the recognition that this crisis has serious economic implications in contrast with the economic and political forces opposing healthcare reform, this may be the last real chance we have for a very long time to make any progress toward solving our healthcare crisis.

At this point, we Americans who understand the importance of this issue are all going to have to stand up and claim ownership of this issue and make a concerted effort to get the debate back to what should be the real focus: single-payer universal healthcare v. for-profit insurance company-dominated healthcare. And our common goal should be working together to solve problems, not fearmonger.

It is amazing to me how many people have no idea what single-payer universal healthcare really is. They think it is socialized medicine, and it is not. It is a “hybrid” system that makes the government the insurer, reducing the overhead of for-profit insurers by about 26%, but the healthcare providers are still privately owned and controlled.

It is equally disturbing to find that many of the people making these wild accusations about what is in the healthcare bill haven’t read any of the proposals yet.  What’s worse, even our elected officials admit they haven’t read the bill(s) either, and some have already admitted they don’t intend to.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the level of arrogance an elected official must have in order to vote on a bill he or she hasn’t read.  Why do they think we put them in office?  We certainly didn’t put them there just so they’d have a media platform, and the ability to get contributions for the next campaign.

A perfect example is the “death panels” comment by Palin. There is no such thing as death panels where government officials or medical professional make life or death decisions about patients in any of the bills. What she was referring to is the end-of-life consultation provision in H.R.3200 which simply allows healthcare professionals to be reimbursed for the time they spend explaining the medical content of Living Wills, et al., to patients. These consultations are completely voluntary on the part of patients, who request a conference with the doctor or nurse practioner to sit down with the patient and explain what each provision in a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare) means, medically speaking.  More about Living Wills later….

The other bill where the “death panel” charge was wrongfully made was regarding the Health Information Technology provision in the Stimulus bill: the provisions contained constitute an amendment to the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.).  See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/usc_sup_01_42.html for complete text). There is no provision in the stimulus bill for “death panels” which would review a patient’s medical records and decide to approve or deny coverage based on his or her value to society (age, general health, etc.).  Oddly enough, insurance companies do that now in their appeals process.

The Health Information Technology section is amending a previous bill that mandates a national database information exchange with a codified format that will allow health information systems to “speak” to each other and to access medical records of individuals. All this must conform to HIPAA standards regarding privacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountability_Act ).

Now, back to Living Wills and the bogus “death panels” charge regarding the H.R.3200 (commonly referred to by the media as the healthcare bill or ObamaCare) –go to the Library of Congress website (http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:1:./temp/~c111whxT0k:e513253), and see SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.  Advance care planning consultation “means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning….” and “An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses;” and “An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy [someone designated by the patient to make medical decisions should the patient become unconscious or incompetent],” and so on.

Every individual should have a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare), which is a legal document with instructions on what to do should he or she (the patient) become ill or injured and is unable to communicate his or her wishes directly. The medical practicioner refers the patient to a number of resources (some funded by the government that are free or low cost), including attorneys and other professionals who can help the patient determine his or her resources and the options that are available to him or her should hr or she need hospice care or other special end-of-life services.  There is no “death panel” — no committee of government officials or healthcare professionals voting to see if grandma lives or dies.

Of all the misrepresentations made thus far, I find this the most objectionable, particularly since it is creating fear in the elderly about something which all of us need to address BEFORE WE BECOME INCOMEPTENT AND UNABLE TO MAKETHESE DECISIONS FOR OURSELVES. Shame on you, Sarah Palin, for promulgating this nonsense!

Now, if you recall, I stated early on in the piece that I don’t like the H.R.3200 healthcare bill (ObamaCare); so, you might ask yourself, why am I defending parts of it?  Well, it’s not the bill itself I am concerned about defending, it’s correcting the lies and propaganda.  In order for our country to get past the hyperpolarization and political gamesmanship that pervades the public forum, we must start speaking truthfully with accuracy and clarity about all the issues and bills – whether we like them or not.  In order to “speak truth to power,” we first must begin speaking truthfully.  If we don’t like a bill or are against an issue, we should be able to articulate truthfully the reasons why without resorting to fabrication, emotionalism and propaganda.  My concern is that we as a people have not made good decisions in the recent past, due in large part to the fact that we are too busy trying to manipulate each other rather than respectfully argue the pros and cons of an issue with truth, accuracy and clarity.

I believe that honesty may not always be the best policy, particularly if the truth does not serve your interests, but honesty is ALWAYS the sincerest form of respect.  When you respect someone, you are honest with them.  And it is time that our elected officials earned our respect by showing us the respect of being honest with us.

For those of you who are proactive in nature and responsible enough to want to inform yourselves, go to www.thomas.gov (the Library of Congress website) and search for bills using the word “healthcare.” You will come up with about 250 entries to work your way through. The two major proposals that have gotten some media attention are H.R. 3200 (ObamaCare) and H.R.676 (the only single-payer option that I am aware of), but there are about six other plans.

The bottom line is that we need accurate, complete, clear information. I believe that Obama made a mistake to not have a solid plan to discuss before holding these town hall meetings. However, these meetings could be effective if they were used to discuss possible provisions, their pros and cons, and find out from the people what they need and want rather than dictating to them what the administration thinks they need and want.

Timing is everything. Preparation is the next most important thing, and the administration blew it on both counts. But it is not too late for the American citizens to stand up and take the issue back from the special interests and insist on sanity, clarity and truthfulness. We need to get the country focused on solving problems rather than acting out in anger and ignorance, because whether you like any of the bills proposed or not, healthcare is the one, single most important issue that prevents American labor from being competitive internationally.

And it is a national shame that the richest country in the world ranks only 37th internationally in terms of healthcare — lower than all the European countries and even Cuba. As Robert Kennedy once said of America:  we can do better than this!  And we must if we want to regain our economic power and stability.

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About Laura Schneider

Retired IT consultant (disabled), musician and animal lover. I support the constitutional concept of Right of Privacy and no discrimination against any person based on race, religion, ideology, gender, sexual preference or disability. I am very concerned about the erosion of our constitutional rights and protections under GWB (and even this administration). I strongly oppose torture, rendition or illegal search and/or seizure (without a warrant) and warrantless wiretapping. I believe that education is our best hope of a bright future for our children. Knowledge is power, and that's the kind of authority (Biblically speaking) that our children must have in order to be successful in a 21st century world.
This entry was posted in civic responsibility, economy, freedom of speech, healtcare, incompetence in government, leadership, media, philosophy, political corruption. Bookmark the permalink.

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