I went to the Tim Bishop Health Care Forum tonight. To be fair, the Congressman was patient, and interrupted by frequent outbursts from the crowd. I got to the event nearly an hour before it was scheduled to start (6:30). I was one of the last of the 800 or so folks let in -- there were easily that many others left out. I sat next to an elderly couple Frank and Louise, both clearly against HR 3200, and a lady who jumped to her feet whenever the elderly couple sat on their hands. Unfortunately, we were all in the same row as a very rude, loud and belligerent man.
The League of Women Voters hosted the event. The format was such thay anyone who wanted to speak had to submit their question to panel. It was given the appearance that questions were screened and that the best would be read and answered by the Congressman. I assumed the League would do the screening, and considering the first few speakers were clearly against HR 3200, it seemed that they had not loaded the deck in favor of one side or the other. Later I noticed Bishop speaking off-mike to a staffer, and soon after the same staffer was shuffling through the various question cards. Obviously Bishop wanted a particular question asked and wasn't getting it from the "random" sampling.
Ok, here's the rundown: first speaker asked the obvious question, "How can we possibly afford this, and specifically how can we pull $625B from Medicare and still meet obligations?" Bishop had obviously prepared, as he rattled off a litany of numbers--$220B here, $165B there-- and TA-DA! We can't afford not to do it!! And he won't vote for a measure that isn't funded.
Next speaker was a WWII vet. He wanted to know if HR 3200 would be renamed after Teddy Kennedy. After the union (oh, they were there in great number, early to guarantee seating, and with slick posters) applause subsided, he got to his point and it was clear the union regretted all that applause because he laced into Bishop pretty good.
It only took the fourth speaker to Godwin the whole discussion, "This is like Nazi Germany! This is like Nazi Germany!" Oh boy.
Union leader from out of district was roundly booed to the point that he left without speaking. To be fair, there were 1st CD residents who did not get in, so he shouldn't have been inside, let alone given a mike.
Boy of about 12 asked if the death panels would kill off his grandmother, 71, who just had bypass surgery. OK, here is the party line: "There is no wording in this bill that would even remotely do anything like that. We have review boards right now in NY." Best moment of the night came then: "Well, Congressman, on pages 424-432, that very thing is described." I haven't read the whole bill (I have a job...), but I really admired the kid's spunk.
Not much more to report. Bishop danced around most issues. "There is no wording in the bill..." seems to be the preface for all our "misconceptions." What gets me the most frustrated is the inability to get meaningful dialogue on how they see the health care landscape 5, 10, and 15 years from now. Sure there won't be rationing (any more than we already have) immediately. But what happens if you add even more demand to the system? At some point it is inevitable that if we place government in control of health care, they will also start making decisions based on the behavior of the citizens. (Hey, if we have to pay for this, you have a responsibility to do everything in your power to live a healthy lifestyle. Put down that double cheeseburger with bacon, or risk losing your health care. And don't think you mountain climbers are safe either -- that shit is dangerous! What if you fell and survived, or got caught in unexpectedly harsh weather? Why should we pick up the tab for your reckless behavior?)
Here's an overall observation:
Pimping for Obama Organizing for America definitely got the message out. There was a huge union presence, and their signs were all professionally done and matching. Planned Parenthood all had pink signs. You get the idea. The overwhelming majority of folks who were there against HR 3200 had hand made signs, with various messages that obviously were the work, and thoughts, of the people holding the signs. Astroturf my ass! More on this in an upcoming blog.
If I had been able to speak I would have asked this question: I keep hearing President Obama use the term “keep the insurance companies honest” as a selling point for the public option. Can you elaborate on that? Does he mean that they are not currently being honest? Or is the implication that a government program is needed to “keep them honest” an admission that they are not currently operating in a free market arena where the customers “keep them honest?” Wouldn’t it be better to loosen the restrictions on health insurers, for instance letting them insure out of state customers? Wouldn’t that foster more competition, and result in more honest pricing? Could we try that instead first, rather than instituting another government program that will never go away?