Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sept 12, 1 month later

A month ago, a friend and I were on our way to D.C. for the September 12 March on D.C. It was an event we knew we had to be at, even though we weren't sure exactly what to expect when we got there. But we went, and we were glad we did.

Now, a month has gone by...Congress is back at work trying to pass through any number of bills that we would like them to leave alone (the Government takeover of Heath Care and Cap & Trade being at the top of the list), and not fixing the one bill we WOULD like them to deal with -- the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Did our March on Washington accomplish anything? It's too soon to tell whether it did anything in the short run. But I think we'll really know the results in 2010 -- when the 2010 elections come around.

In the meantime, it was good to see that we weren't such a rare breed after all...And to be around so many relatively like-minded folks.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Universal Health Care

I've had a little more time to digest the talk we went to last night, where they were trying to explain to us how important it is to give everyone universal health care, and how cheap it would actually be.

My response can really all be summed up in a short Economics lesson: Everything we purchase has to be considered a scarcity. No matter how much of it there is, there is still a limited amount of it. (Do we have consensus on that?) In a system that is working, scarcities are taken care of with one tool – prices! And yet, under the Universal Health Care System being pushed under the Conyers bill for example (H.R. 676) – prices are taken out of the economic equation. When price is no longer allowed to regulate demand, demand ALWAYS exceeds supply. There are no exceptions.

So the bottom line with universal health care is shortages, and shortages will lead to rationing. Doesn't matter what they say!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

March on D.C. final notes

I started the day with a full charge on my phone battery – but I ran out of juice, between pictures and tweets (I hit 100 tweets today before the phone died at 3:30 p.m.)

So my notes from the last 30 minutes or so of the Rally will go here instead of on twitter.

The next speaker was Hector, a former SBA Administrator: "Welcome to this Million Patriot March…We don't need another Trillion Dollars in debt to fix problems…all you're asking for are common sense solutions…(Tell the politicians), "If what you're selling is more government and less choices, we're not buying it." The crowd started chanting "We're not buying it."

Darla, one of the 9/12 Organizers spoke next, telling us that "Glenn Beck has a message for you on his website afterwards…It's been a long year since January…a lot of people thought we couldn't pull it off…We showed them! …God gave us a right to freedom, and nobody is going to take that from us! …Congress knows we're here, of course, we've shut down D.C….God has blessed America, and that blessing hasn't ended!"

Next was Bruce, a recording artist who survived Katrina and is hoping to survive Obama. He mentioned a CD he has put together: "Forgotten but not gone." The song he sang included the lyrics, "Stand up…make your voice heard…"

William: "What a beautiful sight this is…Our group's motto is "Patriotism in action"…For today, the motto is, 'It's the Constitution, Stupid!' ….Favorite amendment is the 10th…They lie…It is time for us to stand up…Thank God for Congressman Wilson…(Tell Congress) Read the Constitution and obey it!"

The next gentleman is an immigrant from Poland (after World War 2?)…He wrote Legacy of the White Eagle about his experience in Warsaw Poland as a young man. He addressed us, "This is the greatest day of my life…I congratulate all of you for joining hands…There can be no human progress under tyranny…No sacrifice is too great in defense of freedom and independence..we have a lot to be thankful and grateful for in this great land of ours…If you've never lived under tyranny, you can't fully appreciate how fortunate you are…" He was 10 when the Germans invaded Poland, 12 when the Nazis closed their schools and he joined the underground Army, and 15 when he fought in Warsaw. "If you can imagine 180,000 people dying in 2 months…" Then he was transported to a POW camp from which he escaped 9 months later. "Why did kids like me fight? Because of our shared legacy of Freedom!" Chants of freedom through the crowd. "Visit Arlington Cemetery while you are here…Remember the young men and women who laid down their lives for you….Our responsibility to keep the flames of freedom burning."

Last speaker: "Get involved..Today is not the end, it is the beginning…We are ALL Community Organizers! …We are working on a Contract From America."

And with that we headed out – quietly, respectfully…An amazing day, I'm so glad we participated! At that point, we were tired, hungry, thirsty, in need of a real chair to sit in, and in need of restrooms…other than that we were in great shape….We headed down Pennsylvania Avenue, back towards the Metro trying to decide where to stop that 100's of others wouldn't be at – when I spotted the tower of the Old Post Office – so off we went – and took care of all our needs! Great, easy, end to a wonderful day.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

August Town Hall in Athens

The week had started with a 4 hour Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Parker Griffith in Florence, and I certainly thought that was plenty. But then the emails started coming in about the Friday afternoon Meeting in Athens…And a request for the attendance by as many of us as possible…So I made arrangements for my daughter to watch our store, and off my son and I went for Athens. This one was only scheduled for 2 hours, so we figured it shouldn't last TOO long!

This was to be the 6th Health Care related event I had attended in the last two months, and I must say it rated as the most uncomfortable! They had set up ~120 folding chairs on a gym floor -- - and the rest of us got to sit on bleachers! We guessed that there were at least 400 folks at this one by time it got going, maybe more like 500 or 600.

Promptly at 2:00 the event began with an invocation. It was considerably longer than Monday evening's: "…here today as a community…gather today out of a common concern…give thanks for gift of freedom…acknowledge many perspectives…seek your wisdom…help us to remember the Common Ground we come from…your compassion eclipses partisan politics…"

Then a Professor came up to finish welcoming us: "The University is proud to have Congressman Griffith here…but we are also proud to see you here…Mr. Jefferson would be proud…Health Care consumes 16% of our national wealth every year…Congress is engaged in a great debate (on Health Care), the first in over 40 years…(Remember) hearing yourself talk is not always the best exercise of the First Amendment…Our Congressman is new to Congress, (it is his) first term…not new to this topic, since he is a physician by occupation."

There were two microphones set up, and we were directed to keep our introductions short, under one minute. (That continually proves to be a hard concept for so many at these meetings!) As usual, I took detailed notes during the meeting, and share those here. Parker Griffith's words, as best as I could record them that afternoon, are in bold below and my thoughts are italicized. I have also underlined some of the key points.

Congressman Griffith started his introduction: It is gratifying to see the interest in Health Care…America is no longer confined to the TV set…(But I) must say to you that there are other issues should turn out for – education (and) illegal immigration (are) serious problems in our country.
[1st applause this afternoon]
If he wants us to attend Town Halls on those other issues, guess he needs to try setting them up…Only then might he be able to complain that we don't care about those other issues as well.

He continued: The federal Government has no backbone to close that border
[2nd applause]
I have to ask myself when I hear these comments – did he misspeak, or does he truly want NO immigration from the South…If that is not the case, he wants the border secured, not closed – there is a VERY important difference!

Now on to today's topic: Let's talk about Health Care…The American public is living longer and longer…and people from all over the world come here for Health Care. [applause]
But where will we/they go if this wonderful Health Care system is destroyed?...system second to none. Trying to fix SMALL part of it. But aren't we in danger of destroying the entire thing with most of these "fixes" being suggested? Trying to provide access for small number (lost jobs, etc.)…We have decided in America to air this out/tee this up. Well, no, let's get this straight, Congressman Griffith…The President and Congress decided to make these major changes, and we, the People, have forced the issue by not taking the changes quietly. …We are asking ourselves as a Nation…

One of those, the Waxman bill, is already out of committee…I am not for that bill and will vote against it. (applause)But doesn't mean (I'm) against reforming Health CareAt this point he launched into the tragic story about Patsy and her cancer that we heard Monday evening. …Can we find (the) solution to that problem? …Waxman Bill is a threat to Medicare…We need a solution…There is no Senate bill yet…2 committees…Vast majority want us to improve our Health Care… Do you really care what we want? I don't believe the majority wants the Federal Government trying to "fix" Health Care…and does it really matter what the majority "wants", if there is no money to do it?!?

Griffith continued: How did we get in this fix? Times have changed since World War II…every company began to offer perks, and one of them was Health Care…We had men and women who worked at the same companies for 20 – 30 years…A system that we were used to became scrambled…For small companies (it is) too expensive…no health insurance…(There was a) great debate back in the 90's that went nowhere…Big companies, pharmaceuticals, etc. were against any reform…(Now we are) trying to reform this Health Care system around an acute shortage…the typical medical establishment failed to recognize Baby Boom generation coming through…even wealthy counties like Madison, hard to get Medicare patients seen…

Griffith started to make his proposals for correcting these problems: …good students being turned down by medical schools, need reform [applause] …Tort Reform
[applause] At this point Griffith had been talking for almost 15 minutes, and sounded like he would have continued, until one brave soul walked up to one of the empty mikes and asked for the opportunity for the audience to be heard by the Congressman now, instead of the other way around. Within moments, lines were forming at both mikes:

  1. "I don't understand…why can't we think outside the box? (Are we offering) a blue ribbon plan or bottom level plan?" Griffith: Insurance Companies need to be reformed, need to compete across state lines. Oh yes, those big, bad insurance companies again… isn't it the fault of governments (state and/or federal) that insurance companies CAN'T currently compete across state lines?!?
    Questioner: "(Could set up) community Centers to provide Health Care for those without insurance…" Griffith: (There are) not enough of them.
  2. "On FTC commission, are you not?" Griffith: No, I'm not. Questioner: "Why are we allowing trucks and truck drivers coming across the border and taking jobs from Americans?" Griffith: Until the federal government stops it…and your elected officials take care of
    {At that point someone pointed out included him.}
    I'm on your team, don't fight me. Questioner: "Other question, what would it take for you to vote for Obama's plan?" Griffith: He doesn't have a plan…he's waiting for Congress to fight this out…One day he says this and one day he says that… Seems like Griffith won't be real popular with his own party when he returns to D.C. next month! But I'm still not convinced he has any plans of switching parties!
  3. George, from Liberty House: "…Congress didn't write these bills, lobbyists did… [applause] We ask that bills be available for 14 days on the internet before any votes and that those who wrote the bills are listed in the bills, an annex…Health Care is only the symptom." [applause] Griffith: I authored two resolutions…they would require that any Health Care bill must be on each Congressman's desk for 1 week before a vote and any Health Care plan passed becomes Congress' plan. Kudos to the Congressman for each of those proposals – but my understanding is that they have both failed…so nothing really changes. It's not lobbyists who write bills, they write checks…The most dangerous individuals are the long term staff.
  4. An older gentleman was up next: "Most of adult life working for the federal government…I learned one thing: Whenever government buys anything, its market value falls to zero….(During) LBJ's Great Society – Medicare checks devalued husband/fathers – 42% of kids now live in home with no father or step-father." (Someone in audience stood up and yelled: "Are you advocating getting rid of Medicare/Medicaid?") The gentleman continued: "General Motors was selling at $42/share…now Government GM, is not even listed on Dow Jones – it's penny stock…" [There were boos from the audience when Congressman Griffith tried to explain the demise of GM was because of debt at top and Toyota…]
  5. Next older gentleman explained: "H.R. 3200 isn't about Health Care, it's government control."
    "We don't want a greater expansion of our entitlement society, we will run out of our money."
    [applause] "The (true) number of uninsured does not equal 47 million, that includes illegals and those who don't want insurance. Only about 3% of population is uninsured. [Audience members yelling, "Ask a question."] He quoted from book, "Goal is to keep us on the plantation." Griffith interrupted: Town Hall Meetings tend to go to the negative…The Judeo-Christian ethics is woven into capitalism…I don't want us to believe (we are) not the best in the world. [Audience member yelled, "Get government out of it."]
  6. "One solution would offer: small number who need Health Insurance, Health Care, Government can help those…(could) easily pay for (it, with) Health Care stamps, however you want to do it…Government facilities…Has to be a way to deal with illegals clogging Emergency Rooms before we close our borders…Do you believe any bill that rations Health care would lessen our life expectancy?" Griffith: No question. But Judeo-Christian ethics reject that.
  7. Diane: "First question: "What was your very first vote as our representative?" It was clear she already knew the answer…Griffith danced around the question/answer before he finally admitted: For Pelosi (as Speaker of the House). Second question: "In Florence several people asked you Constitutional questions; do you carry with you a copy of the Constitution?" Griffith answered: No. To which she responded, "I have one for you to keep with you…this is it…you don't need a 15,000 page document." [She got a standing ovation while she was taking it up to him.]
  8. A 19-year-old student from UAH spoke next: "…My Mom had ovarian cancer…no chemo ever worked…She is using an experimental drug, which is banned in Canada and U.K….Obama would decide if my mom is worth the money…Obama is so arrogant, he thinks he can play God." [applause] "Will you stand up to Pelosi?" Griffith: Absolutely.

  9. "In 1963 my husband enlisted…(we were) promised Health Care for life, not true…perhaps we should go looking for all these "lost dollars" first…We would ask for at least one week on ANY bill, and no last minute additions…How can we stop Cap & Trade?" Griffith: Cap and Trade is a perfect example of why Blue Dogs decided not to let Waxman do that to American people again. Why did they let Waxman do it once? We knew it was a bad bill! Why didn't ALL of the Blue Dogs and Republicans vote against Cap and Trade?!?…Pelosi didn't bring Health Care to the floor, she didn't have the votes. Barack Obama's responsible…we learned a lesson with Cap and Trade, men and women folded under pressure…American people don't want (it). [applause]
  10. Christie, Huntsville Tea Party Organizer: "In Florence you said, 'You liked Price's bill, but it doesn't have enough support.'…Will you get behind this bill and give it the support it needs?" Griffith: I will.
  11. Dale Jackson came up next. He started in politely enough, "Thank you for holding these events…Thank you for opposing HR 3200 and Cap and Trade…" But Griffith was ready for him: Why did you falsify the state seal? Dale explained his mistake and then asked, "Is it important that Congressmen have integrity?" Griffith: Yes, it is. But then Dale started wasting time talking about Pelosi, and then the "secret" meeting in Decatur… Griffith wasn't happy: You took it out of context…There was an individual recording…It was a joke…you're an entertainer, son. [Much of the audience started yelling, "Next".] A wasted opportunity, Dale, in my humble opinion. So many important things you COULD have asked him.
  12. An older gentleman was next: "$91 Trillion deficit over next 10 years…How do you propose that any costs of any Health Care (Reform will) be paid for?" Griffith: We've gone off the cliff on debt…Unless the Senate can come up with a bill that is deficit neutral. Since that will NEVER happen, except with rationing, which he claims is wrong, they should just give up and move on to other things…maybe protecting our Country from enemies?
  13. "Half my face is paralyzed permanently…I'm married to a Marine…I went to see military doctors…I was misdiagnosed for 5 months…until got permission to see private doctor (diagnosed with a childhood cancer at 22-years-old)…(There) will be rationing of care…I've been trying to read the bill…The committee (will all be) appointed by the President directly or indirectly. Too much power for any one man…" [applause] Griffith: One of many reasons Waxman bill can't be law! The Commissioner will be kind of a king or a czar…We've already established going to kill bill, so relax… Excuse me, Mr. Congressman, that was very rude! We won't relax until the bill IS killed…Promises to do so don't mean much.
  14. "Most doctors in Alabama oppose Waxman…It is very complicated to treat patients…Pharmaceutical companies are raising the cost of Drugs." Griffith: A deal about 8 weeks ago between the Executive and Pharmaceuticals…can't stand. [applause] …We know we CAN improve our Health Care system…We know we MUST improve our Health Care system.
  15. "…Drugs I had been using, are now being denied…I don't want to live in country where being run by czars who don't believe in the Constitution." [applause] "…I heard Obama (would be) doing away with the insurance I have…it replaces Medicare (Medicare Advantage)…Why would they do that?" Griffith: Many of Medicare Advantage have been sold well… I must have missed the point somewhere in that answer.
  16. Older gentleman: "…(Tell us) why you voted for Pelosi?" At this point, it feels like we need to get beyond Pelosi! Griffith: New Congressmen…As Blue Dogs, we sat down with Pelosi… Gentleman: "Do the Blue Dogs control the way you think? Why did you vote for her?" Griffith: …We needed the support of leadership…Committees…
    [audience members yelling "Pork"] Griffith: Bridge and schools are not equal to Pork….The opportunity to do…to help my district… I wouldn't vote for her again… What's good for this district is important. Gentleman: "…Won't be any grandchildren if you continue along this path…What is COBRA?" Griffith danced around the answer, before finally saying: Ability to continue insurance after lose job… Gentleman: Single Mom who just got laid off, would she get treatment at Huntsville Emergency Room?" Griffith: Yes, but we want to see her earlier. Gentleman: "You want to steal all of this money…" [audience members yelling "Next"]
  17. This older woman went on and on about shaking Griffith's hand and Senator Kennedy... "I want to tell story…" [boos] "I'm going to tell it anyway…His son, with treatment after lost leg… Said he couldn't have afforded it without his senate insurance…" [more boos] She finally asked Griffith a question, "Are you willing to give up money you've received from Insurance Pacts?" Griffith: Not the facts…I have accumulated whatever wealth I have by grace of God and hard work…I cannot be bought by any individuals… Her: "Pacts are not individuals…Will you give back the money you got from the Insurance Pacts?" At this point Griffith was getting upset, maybe because she wouldn't accept his answer.
  18. "…I'm a right wing terrorist, not wearing a swastika…Would you vote for any bill that funded abortions overseas?" Griffith: No. "(Do you think they should have) access to our accounts?" Griffith: No.
  19. U.S. Army retiree: "How will we pay for this? I can't afford more taxes…I'm working harder in retirement to protect freedoms for my grandchildren…"
  20. Older gentleman: "I voted Republican, but very impressed today…" By what? Someone PLEASE tell me what Griffith said at any of these Town Halls that should have impressed a Conservative?!? "…a Legal house of prostitution in Nevada was taken over by IRS; they couldn't sell sex and booze, how can they sell this?"
  21. Karen: "…an enigma – Conservative from Massachusetts…any price you can be paid to vote for Pelosi next time?" Griffith: No. Karen: "…Convey to your colleagues…you are employed by 'We the People'…We need Term Limits…This entitlement mentality…What has happened to personal responsibility in this country?"
    [major applause]
    "Do you oppose Fair Tax?" Griffith: Don't know yet. Haven't read it.
    That's a dangerous expectation to start there, Congressman Griffith,
    we might start expecting that type of reaction on every bill you are presented.
    [The Audience is getting rowdy, they have less and less patience with those who don't get to a question quickly.] Karen: "…We need picture IDs to vote…" [audience: "where is question?"] "…fire in your belly…I would cast my first Democratic vote, but I would love to see you flip to the Republican Party." Again, I have to ask "Why?" Griffith:
    Left wing crazies are as crazy as right wing crazies… Guessing that was his way of telling us he was content right where he is; but would we be better off with another RINO anyway?
  22. I recognized this gentleman from Florence Town Hall, where he asked a similar question about Drug Companies and Doctors. I don't get the impression he likes either group very well. Griffith: Drug companies have too much power…but experimental drugs cost millions to develop, even those which fail…easy to suppress creativity…
    I don't remember that attitude about Drug development on Monday evening, Mr. Griffith…Does that mean you are learning? Or just changing your answers to please us? Gentleman: "Tort Reform – return to hands of people." Griffith didn't respond to that comment, maybe he didn't understand it any more than I did.
  23. Bob, an older gentleman, who had been a pastor for 25 years: "You mentioned…Judeo-Christian…What is the foundation of the U.S.?" Griffith: Other than the Constitution? Bob: "What you think (it is)?" Griffith: "Freedom…to make choices…to fail…to reach potential…a country born of an idea, not a geography…Christian…
    [applause] Bob: "Past 16 years, I've been teaching high school History/Economics…my greater concern: I subscribed to the White House newsletter, and the first one blew me away. 'Dear Friend…a nationwide…building a NEW foundation for America…' Do you believe…that America needs a new foundation?" Griffith: I do not.
    Then why do you make all these suggestions that would take away our freedoms, and would tear at our foundation?
  24. Older gentleman: "…all Blue Dogs are going to have their arms twisted…" Griffith: It has already happened. This is hard ball. Like being in the principal's office. I'm new up there, but I'm not new! Gentleman: "Average people…we're fearful of what this country's becoming..." [applause]
  25. Very old gentleman, couldn't understand his question, something about cancer and cancer tests… Griffith: Tests varied…and very complicated…specifically, can't answer.
  26. "…Millions of Americans uninsured continue to (just) survive…(Yet there is) more outrage over Vick's actions towards dogs…(Always) excuses: socialism, too expensive, death panels…(Then) why do grandmas live longer in Europe than here? …Obama is a Christian…This is a moral issue like Civil Rights… [boos] …(We are in the) Bible belt… (In Heaven, when Jesus says, you) 'saw me sick and uninsured', how are you going to answer the Lord?" [audience – "Thou shalt not steal"]
  27. Stephanie, from Huntsville: "Will you dismantle Medicare and Medicaid?" Griffith: No, but if we allow government to compete with private insurance companies (it won't matter)…(this) program (has the) potential to drain people (from their existing plans)… She asked again, "You don't support a government option at all?" Griffith: Medicare and VA are existing systems, but they are not working well. Stephanie continued: "…(In) Canada they will fly you if you live in rural area… [negative reactions coming from the audience]
  28. Older gentleman: "…We haven't talked much about Health Care (here today)…Is it a right? …(Is it) a privilege? …We know our Health Care system needs reform…In 1992 (there was a red flag, but) nothing was done…(It was all) left in private hands, (with) insurance companies…(But) now (we are) in a dilemma…Think we all know need reform…83% (approve)...(There are) more and more losses because of loss of jobs… [audience: "ask a question"] …we're losing…The only way is to put some pressure on insurance companies is a public opinion." [boos] Griffith: Every major employer in U.S. is begging us to make this an affordable system…change from '92, back then all your major companies were against any reform…all recognize this as a competitive problem
    I think we need to go back to one of the first people, who warned of government competing with private enterprise.
    …without us improving the system…(It is) a business decision on CEOs part…Half of all deaths in America in the next 100 years will be preventable. When did Griffith get a crystal ball? …smoking is a self-inflicted wound…obesity/diabetes (are lifestyle choices that add a) huge cost into our system…(Because of this) the life expectancy (of kids) is already going down…personal accountability… Personal accountability should be exactly that, personal!
  29. Gentleman from Limestone County said something about silly discussion of co-ops. Griffith: You need a critical number of people, (there are) not enough in Alabama who are uninsured (only 600,000)…They threw the word out, (but) national co-op not any better than (government option).
  30. Very old gentleman asked: "…Is it true that people in U.S. fund the research of new drugs?" Griffith: A big federally funded organization does fundamental research, then promising finds are shown to a Drug Company, who decides whether to raise millions of dollars to do toxicity study, study of last resort, and then the FDA considers release…(The whole process can take up to) 15 years. Gentleman: "American people, not other countries, are paying for…Other countries should be paying for drug development, too...Obama, the people he surrounds himself with are Communists. Griffith: He is having trouble transitioning from Candidate to President. Gentleman: "…Say public health care passes – will abortion be included?" Griffith: In the Waxman bill, yes! Gentleman: "I don't want my tax money paying for abortion."
  31. Martha, as one Health Care practitioner to another: "Have you heard of the Australian filing a lawsuit against U.S. officials, for attempted 'mass murder' with mixture of swine flu, avian, and tama flu…to use as vaccine? (It is a) criminal act to refuse forced vaccines…" Griffith: I will look into that.
  32. Older woman: "Back to illegals…illegals are not going to be covered in Health Care, however also heard if there is one citizen in the family, the entire family is covered." Griffith: It is not true that (illegals) won't be covered; the border has to be closed. Her: "Why do they say it?" Griffith: …Trying to get it (the Health Care bill) passed.
  33. Retired female teacher: "Inquire about the Health of our Nation…(I am) thankful for TV; it covers a lot that needs to be covered…" Griffith: Very concerned…Obama will be a one-term President if this is rammed down our throats [No reaction today to that comment] …The danger is we don't care enough to change things…
  34. Older man: "We (my wife and I) worked on your campaign…I have a rhetorical question: as someone who cannot buy individual Health Care at any price, how can we contain costs without a Public Option?" Griffith: Four changes would make that happen. Him: "I don't share your confidence."
    …I think we can change that without a Public Option.

  35. Personal friend of Terri Schiavo, daughter of World War II Vet who committed suicide, thanks to Hemlock Society: "…You are a Senior Citizen, a physician, and a politician…do you see anything in HR3200 (that starts us down a) slippery slope…" Griffith: …If we are paying physicians to discuss end of life care…becomes a standard…Language means something, (which is) why we don't want it rushed through… (Well, I would agree that it's ONE of the reasons we don't want it rushed through, but ONLY one.)
  36. Vet: "…(We want) a Congressman who talks the talk AND walks the walk…You rival Obama in speaking skills…(But I am) disappointed, (since you are) unique as physician and as a Blue Dog, you could lead the opposition against this – with one phone call. Griffith: …It could make my effectiveness LESS if I was a TV "thing"…I am working behind the scenes, (since the) Congressmen I serve with are not physicians; I have to sit down with them and go over again and again…(If you become a) media star, you lose your credibility with your peers. Vet: "You need to influence the American people…through the Media." Griffith: It's going to be a different Congress…in September.
    That is certainly our hope, but it is hard not to think those are hollow words.
  37. Older woman: "…HR 219 (has been) in committee for almost 2 years; (it is) robbing from Social Security…Why are we so intent on pork barrel spending? …Our President wants us to be a third world country…(he is surrounded by) communists (who) don't pay taxes…" Griffith: We are showing our muscle with this… Her: "Take some of that money out of the Stimulus and put it back in Social Security…ACLU should be closed down; they get paid with taxpayer money."
  38. Older gentleman, retired Navy vet, fully dependent on VA care: "…I can't stand, because in pain, can't work, because can't breathe…What are you going to do to help me? …" Griffith: …We are completely dedicated in this Congress to improving our VA system, (to get rid of) rationing… (It is an) overloaded system; …a very, very difficult problem…My office is here to help you… Him: "Regulations from Washington make it more difficult to get care…(with) too much government, it can get broken!" Griffith: …Health Care…like Post Office…our men and women not be attracted to medicine… I think I missed something in that answer, sorry.
  39. Older gentleman, Marine, son in Iraq: "…I did this for freedom of speech… We should be respectful of all…We need Term Limits, redistricting…reappropriating of Congressional seats…Term limits is pie in the sky…(We need a) reasonable number of reps serving reasonable number of people…The Census occurred…(In the past) Congress expanded the House of Representatives; (if we) enlarge Congress two – three times, so have more voice in Congress… Griffith: No real answer. Gentleman: …TV...sick of…FCC… [At this point the audience started yelling "Next" and being quite rude.]
  40. Mr. Wall: "…offering solutions, not just criticisms…I am self-employed, so one but me responsible for my Health Care [applause] Two Bills (you might want to endorse): HR 1495 and HR 2630. First one let's ME compete with private insurance [applause] …Tax credits (give me) more money in my pocket, so I can help those who need help…Have you heard of these? Do you support them? Are you familiar with how low percentage (of charges) insurance companies actually pay?" Griffith: …Great idea…don't know of those bills… Mr. Wall: "Credit so reduce taxes pay for insurance…(Should also) look at tax rebate for EXPORTS…" [more applause]
    I'm not sure if Mr. Wall ever mentioned Dr. Lappert by name when he was referring to us competing with insurance companies, but I had my notes from Dr. Lappper's talk a couple of weeks ago, and presented them to Mr. Griffith's staff member afterwards.
  41. The Tea Party Organizer from Limestone County spoke next. She spoke of: "…I am part of the majority – opposing government (intervention? option?)…I am a gun owner…The Obama administration is working behind the scenes to take away our rights to bear arms." Griffith:
    …NRA monitoring EVERY bill submitted to Congress….alot more diligent than you think…Every bill dropped in to the hopper is read by them… That was an amazing concept to me – the NRA is capable of monitoring EVER bill submitted to Congress, but our Congressional representatives can vote on them without reading them?!? Her: "Assurance, you will fight for our right to bear arms?" Griffith:
    Unequivocally! She ended by invited us to join her in D.C. on September 12. I hope to see you there!
  42. Small business owner…He and his wife are independents, Conservatives, Christians: "Two factions concerned about in D.C…. Pelosi/Boxer/Reed faction…Other faction…Rahm Immanuel…Frank Lloyd…Is this a back door?" Griffith: …The lines are drawn…It should be clear to all of us…The people the President has surrounded himself with…(We can't let it) divide us on an issue…we have to be American…independent thinking…vote for the woman/man/issues.
    [applause] Businessman: "…Dan Jones, head of the Apollo Alliance, is taking credit for authoring the Stimulus bill…" Griffith: The Stimulus…has been a disaster.
  43. Retired gentleman: "…VA had database compromised about three years ago…(An example of) government in action…In Seattle, Washington (there was an) article in the paper about illegals…taking jobs from U.S. Citizens." Griffith: The Stimulus bill had E-Verify in it when it left the House, it was gone when it left the Senate. Retiree: "…Democrats voted against it overall…" Griffith: I would have voted for E-Verify. Retiree: "…Acorn & SEIC…Acorn…why hasn't Democratic Party demanded the A.G. investigate Acorn? Griffith: The issue in many districts (is that there) are many Congressmen/women who will block…
  44. "We need to learn to disagree without being disagreeable…If government wants to be involved – issue vouchers for physicals every 3 – 5 years… And how much would that cost? And who would administer it? I don't trust the government to come clean on this…(I was in the military during the) Vietnam era, as an Officer, I was promised Health Care and Dental Care for myself and my wife for the rest of my life…The only winners will be the bureaucrats who administer that system…" Griffith: …We have a fundamental distrust of government…In God we trust…(We believe in) Personal accountability…Your freedom is in your wallet…(This is a) nation of free will and free choice….It is hard to tell people what they can and cannot do…Those of you who don't believe in Government intervention…the polio vaccine was developed without one penny of government money.

Almost an hour later than the 4:00 scheduled end, the Town Hall was closed out with these parting words from Congressman Griffith: …It is wonderful that we are here…America goes through these cycles of agreement and disagreement…(An important) issue that didn't come up…You should get involved in your school system…

I went up and talked to the Walls for a few minutes about the bill, and Dr. Lappert's previous talk on Health Care. Since some of Lappert's points had come up, I presented my notes from that talk to a young man on the Congressman's staff. I don't know what the likelihood is that anyone connected to the Congressman will actually read the various things that were presented to them, but figured he certainly wouldn't read it if we DIDN'T share it with him.

After three Town Hall Meetings with our Congressman, I still don't trust him NOT to vote for this bill (or something equally bad), and I am not ready to consider him the next candidate for party switching, but we should at least hold out SOME hope that he's right that the Blue Dogs WILL succeed in keeping the liberal Democrats from ramming the worst of these things down our throats! And we should pray our country holds on until the 2010 elections, and succeeds at that point in changing the tune being played in Washington!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Griffith’s August Town Hall Meeting in Florence

Monday night, August 24, my daughter and I drove to Florence to attend another Town Hall Meeting with our Representative, Parker Griffith. We had attended his Town Hall Meeting in July in Huntsville and were anxious to see if his stance had changed on anything. We had hoped to arrive much earlier than we did, especially after having missed out on getting into Senator Sessions' Town Hall Meeting a couple of weeks ago because of the size of the crowd (and the inadequate size of that facility). Parker Griffith's words, as best as I could record them that evening, are in bold below and my thoughts are italicized.
I have also underlined some of the key points.

Kudos to Congressman Griffith and/or his staff for choosing a large enough facility to hold this event, and for the three microphones which were placed in easy to get to areas of the auditorium. The auditorium at UNA is big enough to hold over 1600 people, so even though it looked like 1300 or so turned out, there was plenty of room for all of us! Promptly at 6:00 p.m. it started, with a brief invocation, which included the request that the Lord grant us "a productive meeting" here tonight. The invocation was followed by applause from much of the audience.

Then Griffith was introduced; he began with an introduction of his own: "First of all, I appreciate so much…the number of people here…this is truly what America is all about and needs to get back to…we need to have such meetings in the future about education and illegal immigration…" From there he launched into a story about one of his patients (Patsy) from his days as a doctor. Of course, the story was being used to indicate to us that something needs to be done to our Health Care system: "Had she had insurance…and I seen her earlier…she would have had a 95% cure rate…saw Patsy late…spent over 1 million dollars….that's why we're here." I don't want to take away from the tragedy of that situation, and I hate to be disagreeable so early on, but no, I don't believe that's why most of us were there that night!

Griffith continued, "…Judeo-Christian ethic wants to make us do better…one of the best Health Care systems in the world – if you can access it…we are doing something right in our Health Care system, but we want everyone to be able to benefit from it."
Again, I have to disagree with the Congressman. The Judeo-Christian ethic is what makes US want to do the best we can – but we are not asking that of our government! As Dr Lappert pointed out in his talk last week, hospitals as we know them were started by Christians. Charity is to be a work of individual people, not something done by the government.

From there, Griffith started talking about the specific bill that is currently working its way through Congress. So far, the bill has been voted out of committee, but not onto the floor. Griffith assured us that he is opposed to the current bill – Waxman's bill. (Yes, that would be the same Congressman Waxman who recently co-authored the Cap and Trade bill, and who is almost single handedly keeping last year's toxic bill, CPSIA, from being fixed!) Waxman's bill started at 875 pages, and has already grown to 1017 pages, and weighs 40 lbs. At that point he held up his copy of the bill. (I don't think anyone asked him during the evening if he had read.) He continued, "We are discussing this at the right time – we don't want to have the same thing happen as the Cap and Trade…hoping and praying the Senate will shelf or gut." (Major applause at that point.)

Parker Griffith pointed out that he is vice-Chair of the Blue Dogs Health Care Committee. (Blue Dogs came up many times in the next 4 hours….) He also pointed out that there are several bad parts of Waxman's bill – including that it includes a federally sponsored Insurance company (commonly called the "public option"). At this point there were a couple of shouts of "yeah" and lots of boos. There is also a proposal on the table to do a public – or insurance – exchange – all wanting to sell would have to put their proposals in – with the federal government's proposals. (The audience reacted negatively at this point, and Griffith had to wait to speak again.) The difference is that the public one would be based on a similar idea to Medicare, which is financially unstable at this point. Several people in the audience got very rude here, and probably should have been excused from the auditorium. Griffith continued, the proposal is to remove money from Medicare to support the new public option (many boos) – Not a good idea. (applause)

The discussions continue about where to get billions and billions of money from – money from "Medicare savings", but would put Medicare further at risk, not a good solution. (An audience member yelled out, "been borrowing from for 40 years") So then Griffith told us, "Here's what I want to do. It is a fact that there are 4.6 million in Alabama, 1 million are on Medicare, 700,000 are on Medicaid (and yet later he would tell us how difficult it is for people to get on Medicaid), and 600,000 have no Health Care Insurance. At this point, I was still waiting for what exactly he was proposing we should do, but he finally got to his "suggestions": All insurance companies have to compete across state lines (much applause); no "pre-existing" refusals; small business be able to bid together; Health Care Insurance companies will not be allowed to "overrate for age". These should be the conditions to sell insurance in the U.S. Additionally, we need Tort Reform which is not in this bill (much applause at this comment).
Currently there is a doctor, patient, and a lawyer in every examining room and emergency room…It's not the amount of money in the suits, but the existence of the threat at all…He has to protect himself from suits…extra tests, etc. (more major applause).

Griffith said he asked Congressman Waxman,
why isn't there Tort Reform in this bill? Waxman's response: "Not time to talk about it." (Guess we can only wonder whether he needed more than 1,000 pages…or more than a few months…or…?) What else isn't in this bill? No increase in nurses/doctors in more than two decades, and the shortage of doctors isn't addressed…Less than 2% of medical students going into Primary Care…47 million Americans are uninsured – 10 million are under 19 and 20 million are under 40, not hard for us to insure. (I had to ask myself, on what does he base that claim?) Griffith than claimed that Medicaid in Alabama is the most restrictive in the U.S., we could liberalize Medicaid and cover more of the above. (And how would we pay for this small miracle?)
Additionally, the VA needs to be more liberal with care and take care of more Vets. (My husband, father, and father-in-law are all Vets, so I'm all for that in principle, but again, who pays how much for this?)

Griffith told us that the current Health Care bill contains many, many pages that are fine. (I've apparently missed those pages when I've read through the bill…I haven't seen ANYTHING that looked good to me!)
Appreciate folks who want Public Option, even though I'm against it, that's why we're Americans…I will do what I think is best for my constituents…We are in a very trying time…easy to knee jerk…I will take on the leadership of my party, the other party, the executive branch, to protect this district…

By this time dozens of people had lined up at the three microphones to ask Congressman their "brief" questions:

  1.     "Remind you that government should never be in the place of competing with Private Enterprise." (applause) Where do you stand on COLA adjustments going down for Social Security and Medicare?" Griffith: "Sorry about that…little Congress can do…will get worse if this bill passes." (Congress can't prevent COLA Adjustments? They make sure they get their own adjustments!) Questioner: "Before you pass the final bill, give us the chance to read it!" (Should have added, and be sure to read it yourselves!)
  2.     "Like Public Option…My daughter aged out of my insurance in high school…in college used infirmaries…sick over the summer…Mom's doctor wouldn't see her. What in your plan will take care of that?" Griffith: "Final bill we write, your daughter will be covered…our 5 children became uninsured when they finished school…let them stay on parents' insurance longer." (I have to wonder at where all this money is supposed to come from when liberals come up with this type of stuff…)
  3.     "…an opponent to Public Option…Christian…6-year-old diabetic grandchild, 6 month wait could prove fatal to her…want system that won't create long waiting lines and care that doesn't leave out elderly." (applause) Griffith: "Thank you."
    (Yes, that was his entire answer to this "question".)
  4.     "What bill would cover questioner number 2's concern…What would your bill do to lower my insurance rates for employees?" Griffith: No bill yet…No amendments offered to #3200 yet.
  5.     "1978…wife Margaret with breast cancer given about 6 months to live…state of the art Health Care under Blue Cross…$750,000 bill over 10 years…she lived 10 years, not 6 months…What we have is better than we realize…We have a Mercedes with a bad transmission, and the President wants to put us in a Hugo, I want to fix the transmission." (applause and standing ovation at this point in his speaking) "Will future Margarets die under care like Canada and England?" Griffith: "We have to be careful..can't take away from what we have…have to improve access for 47 million."
  6.     "Retired medical technician…used to be $3 for throat culture…until insurance started paying $12 for throat culture…all prices raised…bottom line is money…Try to get those people to understand you can't spend money you don't got!" (more applause) No answer from Griffith.
  7.     Woman with AARP: "What do you see as some of the most misunderstood and divisive portions of this bill?" Griffith: (a) "Comparative effectiveness" – originally to compare 1 treatment with another…Danger in bill like this to put things like that in law…used as standards for treatments…takes decision away from Physicians. (b) "End of life care counseling" scaring our elderly unnecessarily. At that point it wasn't clear to me whether he was saying that we were overreacting to the "end of life counseling", or whether it shouldn't be in the bill…. Then Griffith continued: If Physician gets graded on amount of end of life counseling…Needs to be taken out of bill…not a government responsibility.
    (applause)Look at that, Griffith and I agreed on something! "Hospice happened without the government…Polio Vaccine happened without the government, without one federal dollar…Less government in Health Care the better off we'll be. And for that he got a standing ovation – it's a shame that some of us have trouble taking him at his word on this – maybe it has to do with all the other things he's been saying about Health Care!?!
  8.     An Anesthesiologist spoke next: "Thanks to the Blue Dogs for getting this delayed until after recess so we can have Town Halls like this. Individual Responsibility and Lifestyle choices have to be addressed…" I always get a little agitated when I hear people talking about individual responsibility and lifestyle choices in this context – is he suggesting the government needs to address those issues?!? No thanks! Griffith liked that topic: 2,000 deaths/year in Alabama from various cancers --- and 3,000 deaths/year from smoking-related diseases alone…Lifestyle issues leading to Diabetes…no bill can fix that… Well, then please don't try!
  9.     My friend's husband, Chad, spoke next, bringing up the "Empowering Patients First Bill" by Dr. Price, and asked about making Health Savings Accounts simpler. Griffith: "Dr. Price…good bill, not much support for…Health Savings Accounts are good – if you have a job. I think that was one of the most obnoxious things I heard Congressman Griffith say all night! Chad continued: "…Lawyers/Hospitals can do Pro Bono as tax write off, but not Doctors…" No response from Mr. Griffith on that last idea.
  10. The next person was someone I recognized from last week's talk at the Liberty House. He made three points: Alabama rates second to last in using Nurse Practioners; 37% of budget goes to Health Care (in Europe 50% of budget goes to Health Care; do not support illegals receiving Health Care benefits…thousands of illegals registered to vote in Alabama (Alabama hindered by federal government for fixing that). Griffith responded that Emergency Rooms are overrun by illegals. (Is that a fact, or just a "truism" everyone likes to throw out there? I would love to see the stats on that.) Griffith got into a story about a friend being rear-ended by an unlicensed illegal…Until federal government has backbone to shut that border down…(He was cut off by cheers and applause)…Plenty of blame to go around – R's and D's in power – not dealing with… The questioner then mentioned that Parker Griffith should talk to Dr. Lappert – who has some great ideas.
  11. "Nine trillion dollar debt we have…federal government has stolen everything I've made and my children will make…didn't just start…going on for decades…Do you support term limits?" Griffith: Absolutely – that's an easy one…more important than term limits – have to stop begin disinterested in our government…have to stop losing our children…
  12. Older woman: "My concerns with Public Option: Lack of choice/rationing…husband using VA services…happy at first…chest pains…nitrate pills…went to another doctor through private insurance – ended up in Huntsville Hospital with 80-90% blockage in arteries…" Griffith: Great concern…danger in a system and we hear a lot about cost…many things Americans spend on that are much less important than Health Care (this was another one of the most obnoxious things Congressman Griffith said – so the Federal Government can tell us that we need to spend more of our money on Health Care?!?)…don't want to see that type of care marginalized by this bill…Why we're here…" No, sir, that is not why we are here – we want to make sure you understand that we don't like this bill!
  13. Respect to have Town Hall Meetings and hear all sides…bill up there doesn't need to be modified, doesn't need to be tweaked, it needs to be trashed. (Standing applause from audience) Portability – why can't we do that now? Griffith: State law. Her: "So it's a government-created problem."
  14. One of my favorite questions: Where do you find authority in the U.S. Constitution for the Federal Government to get involved in Health Care?" Griffith: "That's the second time you've asked me that…" Older gentleman: "Still no straight answer." Griffith: In our Congress, 1965, we decided to develop Medicare. Gentleman: "No better case." Then Griffith went on about Medicare increasing life expectancy since 1965. (Interesting claim, Congressman, it's a shame most of us aren't buying it!) Then Griffith made annoying remark #3 – Not a constitutional scholar…rabbit trail with you. Excuse me, Congressman, you don't have to be a constitutional scholar, you just have to read it and believe it! And it is not a rabbit trail!
  15. "I do support a public option…no doubt would lower costs of Health Care. (Audience was a little rude here...booing him)…Poor college student… Griffith: Massachusetts is proving Public Option not working. (applause)
  16. "Working for Pharmacy Call Center…83-year-old woman, her insurance would cost her $800…you are a blue dog…will you support closing the gap in Medicare…?" Griffith: Absolutely.
  17. Next we heard from a 13-year-old: "I do not want nationalized Health Care – neither do many of my friends…if you get nationalized Health Care, and its being rationed, still telling her to die, happens in nations like Canada and England. (applause) Not much Griffith could say at this point, so he didn't say anything.
  18. "Member of Labor – you promised would be an advocate for Labor…also said would be advocate for health reform…would do everything you could to get Health Care for everyone in the country (booing in the audience…which part were they booing?)…You have not voted for one thing for Labor in D.C….In 2001, U.S. down because of deregulation…This Economy is turning around, even though you didn't vote for Stimulus. Griffith: No, I didn't (at this point the audience was getting pretty riled up). Labor guy: "Are you Democrat or Republican?" Griffith: I'm a good Democrat.
  19. We finally moved on: "Member of NRA" (applause) …Broke college student…but opposed to Public Option…News…a lot of ruckus about Democrats in Congress pushing bill through in spite of concerns.
    Griffith: With a technique called reconciliation…Obama will be a one-term president…we are a polarized nation and can't afford to get more… Then Griffith said something about what stimulus will do… (I missed most of the answer, but there was lots of applause.)

  20. "Esther (Old Testament)…there at the proper time…surprise to me, but the Blue Dogs may be there at right time…Waxman typical of politicians in D.C….salespeople… 'gotta be done now'…We're not ignorant...we know way socialized medicine care goes..these salesmen are the reason bill weighs 40 pounds…thank you it has not been voted on yet…if Blue Dogs will go back to D.C. and hold a bonfire on the mall and burn every one of them you would do our children and grandchildren a great favor…We don't have enough doctors and Health Care people going through our system…what's to encourage them when looking at a bureaucrat deciding what they can make…constitutional authority…but when it comes down to reality…very dangerous thoughts to us." No answer from Griffith, though I'm not really sure what he could have said at that point…
  21. The next question was very off topic – about Congress declaring war, not what happened in Korea, Viet Nam…Moving right along…
  22. Good questions: "…correct earlier person…People who made mess of mortgages were Barney Frank and Chris Dodd…Constitution…Declaration…government is based on consent of government…" Griffith: "…We the people have got to make our voices heard."
    I'm sorry, when I hear that from a Democrat, I have to shake my head. No, Congressman Griffith, WE the people, have to have OUR voices heard…" Back to questioner: "Retired for 22 years…How do we as individuals make those idiots in Congress show us what they are doing and do what we want?" Griffith: "Doing it right here…the more hollering the better…Need to do more often."
    Implication being that he is listening to us? Time will tell!
  23. "…Moved here from California…Type 1 Diabetes is NOT based on lifestyle…need to figure out way to cap insurance profits…if can afford premiums can't afford co-pays…Health Care costs up because Clinton's bill requiring all facilities taking Medicare money must take all who show up wanting/needing care…" While I think this questioner made some good points about Medicare, I'm still not so sure that insurance companies are raking in outrageous profits…No response from Griffith (but I don't think a question was really asked.)
  24. "Not from this district (originally from New Jersey)…Great tax system here in Alabama…(we're trying to figure out what his point is…) …More like medical control…end of life – don't like direction that is; don't like taxpayers paying for abortions a moral issue there); other problem we have…Federal Reserve…" (Audience started yelling, "Ask him a question."…He finally stepped down without having asked a question.)
  25. "How do we keep abortions out – since every attempt to exclude abortions has been shut down?" Griffith: Co-sponsored bill that would exclude abortions…promise not to vote for ANY bill that does not EXCLUDE abortion…lost some votes here, gained some.
  26. College student at UNA: "Why do you associate yourself with leadership of your party like Pelosi and Obama?…we have reached a tipping point." It looked like he turned to an audience member at this point, and said, "Sir, you are in a minority in this building today". Back to question to Griffith, "Will you stand firm in our principles, or will you fold to pressure of Democrats?" Griffith: "Practically speaking, Conservatives couldn't have stopped this bill, don't have vote…Someone asked me earlier whether I'm a Democrat or a Republican, I'm an American…What we have watched for last two decades, enough blame to go around…we need to change our attitudes and stop stereotyping people…worrying about jobs…"
    My question for the Congressman at this point would have been, if you are worried about jobs, why are you willing to sacrifice the Economy for the sake of any type of Health Care "fixes"?
  27. From Huntsville: "Cap and trade – sitting on a shelf – and you hope and pray it stays there. I hope and pray you are doing more than hoping and praying…You're saying all the right things…but you seem to be divorcing yourself from fact that your party is ramming this through…Need more than good words…You need to fight your leadership…biggest bait and switch ever, will create the biggest bureaucratic takeover of Health Care, all will be set by standards of BOARD appointed by President…willing to go and fight your party, haven't seen that." Griffith: Have you seen my voting records? Her: "Safe votes because party had votes without you…we need you to go and fight, not just vote NO! Take the leadership down and stop this insanity!" Griffith: Nancy Pelosi promised vote on floor before August Recess – Blue Dogs told her it would fail if she did.
  28. I missed the next question, it was something about Medicare. Griffith: 435 Congressman – a lot of competing views on Medicare.
  29. Next speaker started by commending the 13-year-old for speaking. "…Against the Public Option…Brother-in-law dentist with health issues, insurance because of wife's job…would get pushed aside under this bill…260 million Americans DO HAVE insurance!...Those vets didn't fight for socialized principles, they fought for democratic principles." Griffith: Very opposed to Waxman's bill…but believe that we as Americans want to preserve our Health Care while keeping what's good about it!...we don't want a bureaucrat even thinking he is in a position to make those decisions.
    How does he think we can possibly keep what's good with our Health Care and do even a portion of what ANY of the Democrats are proposing to do?!?
  30. "Some Congressmen won't face constituents at Town Halls, but willing to send our boys to harm's way..Have seen where Obama has said (in past) he was FOR single payor nationalized system….House Bill backway path to socialized Health Care…we will lose all control if makes it to Conference Committee between House and Senate. My question, why are things happening so fast? …Why does it have to be done in such a short period of time? (members of audience getting rude…) Griffith: We're losing some audience here. Questioner kept going, without saying much. There was applause when he finally stopped, and Griffith didn't even try to answer. Not much he could have said at that point.
  31. "…you made me proud I voted for you…Obama said, 'If you like your doctor and your insurance you can keep it." Griffith: Mistake to think if Waxman bill passes, will be able to keep… Questioner: "How much do doctors have to pay in malpractice premiums?" Griffith: $50,000 - $300,00/year or more…When I'm sued by a patient, my house, everything I own, goes on the line…not how many suits, only takes one for hospitals and Doctors to practice defensive medicine…Told Waxman had to have Tort Reform, ignored me. Questioner: "Pelosi might not let you back in chambers if she hears what you said here tonight." Griffith: …I'll have a gift certificate to a mental institute for her…
  32. Long drawn out story with the next person…Audience getting tired, taking too long to get to question: "How many would have to be in Co-op to work?" Griffith: Don't think state co-op would work, would have to be a regional. Questioner: "Trying to get insurance in Tennessee, joined affiliation of contractors to get better rates, no significant difference in costs, with 600,000 members. Why couldn't get better discount?" Griffith: You're asking me? I have no idea. Questioner: Paying 10% in insurance, raise my taxes 9% with Single Payor, and I'll still be better off." Griffith: If could get seen! He got it better than she did! Griffith continued: Cannot reform a system around a shortage…have to reform system fundamentally, not just an insurance question…If you had a pure Medicare hospital it would close… (She still thinks Single Payor will be better!) Griffith: It won't feed the bull dog, it won't pay the bill. (audience is getting rude again; getting restless) But I still don't see how anything being proposed will accomplish Griffith's grand goals!
  33. "If we got the government option, it would be subject to change at any time." Griffith: If we enact Health Care reform in a partisan way, it will be reversed in the next four years...too important to be decided along partisan lines. (We might add that it's too important to have the government deciding!)
  34. "…Need more people in D.C. like you…since both parties suck…Adding 47 million to Health Care without adding more doctors – rationing will become a reality.
  35. 36-year-old single mom: "How long will this arguing take…What is it going to take? What can we do to help hear other's… Griffith: You are exactly what we need… (Audience member yelled, "Give her a job.")
  36. Now, we're all getting emotional: "Not what will happen to my care, but what will happen to her." (Audience members telling him to go help her himself…) "One question, will you work as hard for her as for cheerleaders here?" So now, we've been relegated to the status of "cheerleaders"! Griffith responded with another non-answer: Need to see our children early and our ill early!
  37. Minister: "For the public option…Vietnam Vet…fought for black folks to have same rights as white folks…One daughter in college, went to Emergency Room, charge $1560…Ask these people what planet you live on? … When you Blue Dogs going to get behind a winner like Barack Obama? (boos from the audience) My question is: "When are you going to read the bill and stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?" Griffith didn't answer.
  38. "My husband and I both voted for you." Then she asked the audience, "How many of you have read the bill? Many hands, including mine, went up. "Got to fix the problems…Pre-existing has been a monster for years…bill deals with it….Illegals…what about companies who knowingly hire illegals? Griffith: Stimulus bill took out the E-Verify system. Her: "Why can't you guys look at the bill and see what we can agree on?" Griffith: This bill weighs 40 pounds. It was completed on Thursday, they wanted to bring it to the floor on Friday – we blocked it from coming to the floor without ANYONE reading it…A government that can give it to you can take it away!
  39. Christie: "I want to correct one thing about Blue Dogs, didn't stop the bill – just slowed down. If had all stuck together, wouldn't have come out of committee." Griffith: We wanted the American people to see the bill.
    Christie: "Pelosi one of the front runners of this bill, would you vote again for her as Speaker of the House?" Griffith: No (audience member yelled: "Best thing you said tonight…she needs to go home.") Griffith continued: Someone that divisive cannot bring people together.
  40. "We have a lot more in common than I would have realized…Do you feel the most significant thing in Health Care is cost?" Griffith: It's access.
    That is a common theme we hear from Griffith – that the biggest Health Care problem is access, not cost. And yet, only real complaints we're hearing from people is the cost! He tried again: If costs were reduced significantly, would take care of some of the issues. Griffith: We need more providers. Questioner: "How do we get those?" Griffith: Medial School in North Alabama…System trying to change here didn't grow out of a mandate from government…as plans grew, became more and more expensive…companies becoming international, without loyalty to American workers… Questioner: "…eliminate tax incentives for employers paying for Insurance so employees can get own insurance…We need you to fight for us…Pharmaceuticals gauging us… (Why is it so often assumed that because the price of something is so high, that it is because we are being gauged?!?) Griffith: Big pharmaceuticals made deal with President…no competitive bids. (If that's true, there the government goes, interfering with the Free Market again.)
  41. "…carry on to next generations…(hard to hear this gentleman, and he was having trouble getting to his question) …Social Security…cover most of your Health Care." (I had no idea what he was saying, and I don't think the Congressman did either…We finally moved on)
  42. From Huntsville area: "Very opposed to any government insurance…have read most of the bill…What can we do to help you keep this bill from passing?" Griffith demonstrated how his voting card works and then said:
    What I can do for you is listen to you…people in our Congress that don't think like we do…something fundamentally flawed as that…not against reform our Health Care system…not way to do it.
  43. "You say availability is biggest issue…I agree with others that cost are biggest issue…big difference between taxation and charity – an act of free will – want everyone including YOU to understand the difference (applause)…with other reforms put in place don't need government to subsidize doctor's education. Griffith: Existing schools… Questioner doesn't earn himself any brownie points at this point: "I'm against government education." Griffith: Greatness of America has come out of Public Education (Personally I think that's as big a stretch as crediting Medicare with our increased life spans...)Then the questioner really goes over the edge: "This is the Constitution. You said this is a theoretical document. (Checking notes from first 42 questions/comments and answers, don't see that comment anywhere!) Griffith: I didn't say that. Then they get in a nasty fight about public education and I stopped listening (thankful that the questioner never mentioned homeschooling in his arguments!)
  44. Business owner in Huntsville: "Lady from AARP had asked about misconceptions about this bill…misconception is that this can be free or affordable…a bill that forces transparency in insurance companies…and some type of cap on costs." (I guess he was saying that was what we needed a bill to do?!?) Griffith:
    A scarcity…increase supply, reduce costs. (So the earlier fight over scarcity versus costs boils down to both – if we increase supply, the costs will go down, and there will no longer be a shortage…but government intervention will decrease supply and increase costs!)
    Griffith: Agree that Pharmaceuticals are out of control…only country in the world that allows them to push drugs on TV.
    (So pass a law forbidding that and be done with it!)
  45. Linda: "It's been said that the President, Senators, Congress have insurance that will not be effected by this bill, is that true? Griffith: Introduced a resolution that would require Congress to be on the same Health Care plan. Linda: "What doesn't Congress understand about 'No'? Get your hands out of my pocket and your nose out of my business!"
  46. "You have people in need…people don't mind helping people in need, mind being taken advantage of…" Griffith: No system someone won't try to take advantage of…people in financial world taking advantage of the system… Questioner: "Difference when people buying dog food with food stamps…. Griffith: We can cure diseases today that we couldn't dream of curing 25 years ago…lifestyle choices…we decided as a country to fix best Health Care system in world.
    Excuse me, Congressman Griffith, Mrs. Difficult here again to argue with you – No, WE didn't decide that! Absolutely not! Some of the more liberal minded folks in D.C. decided that – it is not the will of most of the people!!! Questioner: "Take a message back to DC. About the Health Care plan… (I missed the message somehow…) Griffith: I didn't take the Government Health Care option, paying for my own.
  47. "Vietnam Vet, been on Medicare and on Blue Cross/Blue Shield…How are we going to defeat that bill…We need to take the U.S. back."
  48. "Earlier you equated Medicare with increase life expectancy; don't believe one has anything to do with the other." Griffith: We have people living today…that would never have lived…if we hadn't accessed system… (Oh yes, clearly because of Medicare! AARGH!) Questioner: "…bill that's a complete overall of Health Care in U.S. and I'm just trying to figure out why…go about it slowly, one issue at a time…give our Congress time to figure out where money is going to come from." Griffith: That's why we slowed it down…One of things we can do is require any new drug on market be cheaper and more effective… Okay, let me see if I have this straight, Congress will declare that only new drugs can be developed that are cheaper AND work better…Yeah, just like they declared that bicycles and ATV's for children will suddenly be made without lead – because they said so – Say goodbye to new drugs!
  49. An elderly gentlemen, over 80: "WW2 Vet, Medicare has been a blessing to me and my wife…reading about specific pages in bill…we Americans are benevolent people…"
  50. "Do you currently have enough votes to kill that bill?" Griffith: Yes, why it hasn't been voted on yet…and they have fewer votes than they did before, after these Town Hall Meetings.
  51. "Walking, without Hugo…If you're against it, where do I go?" Griffith: Let you have a choice of Insurance Companies…Let them compete…Ability to get Health Insurance will go up, like term life insurance, and home insurance…Will always be people who need to be on Medicare/Medicaid…Need to expand SHP…or will spend fortune correcting what could have corrected earlier…
  52. "How in the world did Democrats put someone like Pelosi in Chair…sounds like regardless of what American people want, they'll pass it." Griffith: If they do reconciliation (only need 51 votes in Senate, not 60), end of Democratic power – including President Obama…
  53. Vet from Iraqi Operation Freedom: "…didn't come back same…30% connected to VA…How am I going to be taken care of?" Griffith: Don't have to worry, VA getting better, not worse! (not a repeat of post-Vietnam) We have 486,000 Vets in Alabama, just under 80,000 in this district. We owe it to you and your family that you get the care…
  54. "Are you willing to oppose all Public Options?" Griffith: "All I've seen so far, I've opposed – don't know what's coming down the Pike.
  55. "Are Blue Dogs willing to pull Obama to the middle where most America is?" Griffith: If he doesn't separate himself from ones like Pelosi, he'll be a one-termer…Hasn't transitioned from a Campaigner to a President.
  56. "…How about a gift certificate to Dr. Kevorkian? …Ronald Reagan warned about socializing medicine."
  57. "Said earlier, 'no turning back Medicare'…almost had bill rammed down our throats…need time for public to see bills…ALL legislation should be approved by us…Medicare/Medicaid have raised the costs of Health Care…How will Single Payer reduce costs of Health Care?" Griffith: It won't! …Access to Health Care…It's outcomes we're interested in… Questioner: "Nothing in that bill that leads to positive outcomes." Griffith: Exactly! Questioner: "Bill gives employer incentive to drop Health Insurance…8% tax less than cost of Health Insurance currently providing." Griffith: Fewer people in private will pay higher, until private insurance goes away…leads to Single Payer Government Plan…
  58. Widow of proud Marine; brother was Marine… "Dad would have been exterminated under this… She has Blue Cross/Blue Shield…It works. Don't exterminate our parents and our Vets."
  59. Medical technologist for 37 years: "…will be shortages in ALL areas of Health Care… We (lab) did VA hospital inspection, found problems, no longer allowed to do inspections…Our VA system needs to be overhauled!"
  60. "So many Congressmen holding Town Halls…arrogant…not going to listen to his constituents…bothers me…" Griffith: Bothers
    me too. Questioner: "How do we know who to trust in D.C. anymore?" Griffith: Many honest people in D.C…Representatives are people's reps! You best pay attention to your constituents. Questioner: "You yourself said we can't undo Medicare, so how do we undo this?" Griffith: Best just not to do it!
    Then Griffith started using Great Depression as example of good government. Gag! Griffith: Some people need help, they truly do… (But our argument isn't against people needing help, it's about whose job it is to provide that help – individuals or the government?) Our strength is we can come together to solve…We can't get too close to a problem…We have a track record second to none…we cannot be defeatists!
  61. "All questions about Health Care have been answered…immigration is transforming our country overnight…what angered me…when they asked Barack Obama whether English should be official language…divides our country…angers me…We can send our solders to harm's way, but we can't secure our borders?!?" Griffith: Complete agreement…No backbone… Questioner: "Health Care is a problem…Immigration will rip our country apart! (If he is referring to illegal immigrants, I agree with him, but he almost sounded to me like he wanted ALL immigration ended!)
  62. "Knee replacement coming up…9 providers to find someone who will do…VA limit is 600/year…Tort Reform in Health Care will be handled, but still make Doctors more accountable?" (Something about an ad on TV that mentioned Congressman Griffith, as if it had his support, he didn't know anything about it in advance, or approve it…) Griffith: Tort Reform doesn't mean we don't want doctors sued… Questioner: "…Competition across state lines, if we bought insurance in California, and that Company went bankrupt, who bails them out?" Griffith: Health Insurance is regulated, reserves required… Questioner: "Most I can stay in hospital with knee surgery is 7 days…"
  63. "Paid taxes 47 years…I have a vested interest in what happens…resent being called a Radical…Make sure abortions are left out of any Health Care bill…" Griffith: Will do! (Okay, we've all heard it. Griffith has promised repeatedly now to vote against any bills that do not EXCLUDE abortions!)
  64. "…Courageous gentleman to say what said about Pelosi…Dr. Price of Georgia set up day to go over bill with Barack Obama; please take a day too." Griffith promised to do that.
  65. One of the last speakers of the night was a 16-year-old Eagle Scout whose Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. "We won the battle…like the Health Care we have…greatest in world." Griffith: You need to run for Congress.
  66. "Would like to see something pass…my brother has been laid off for 8 months…he has no insurance…there are people being laid off daily – Blue Cross/Blue Shield is great, I love my insurance, but what is in there for them?" Griffith: We are not saying NO to improving our Health Care system…you would not still have Medicare under…No one in Congress I've spoken to is against Health Care Reform, but want DIFFERENT bill! …No one wants to avoid that, we want to improve the system….Well-meaning individuals in Congress… (Well, as they say, the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions! And frankly, most of us don't care how "well-meaning" they are, we care what they DO!)
  67. "Illegal immigration, moment you bring it up you will be a bigot, a racist…this has to stop…the Schumers, the Pelosis…" Griffith: McCain got thrashed by his own party, over amnesty... Questioner: "Open Door into this country…."


And with that off-topic comment, an hour late, the 4-hour Town Hall had come to an end! All in all, I was glad we went. (Didn't realize then that we would be in Athens just a few days later listening to Congressman Griffith discuss Health Care yet again, but those notes have to wait for another blog post!)











Monday, August 24, 2009

Health Care Talk

I enjoyed the Health Care Talk last week at Liberty House.
Dr. Lappert gave a wonderful talk that he called, "Taking Our Medicine: The Government Takeover of Medicine and its Consequences for Human Dignity". I went expecting a talk on the ins and outs of the current Health Care bill (since Dr. Lappert is one of the few I've heard of who has read more of it than me). But this talk was so much more than that. In fact, my biggest frustration was that the group present to hear him was so small! As is my habit, I took notes throughout his presentation, but he talked very quickly, and shared much good information, so this is just the highlights of what he covered last week (his comments are in bold, my thoughts are italicized).

Right away, Dr. Lappert was changing the tune of today's debate, at least for me; spelling out clearly that this is not the first time liberals have tried to take over the Health Care system; the battle has been running for over 70 years (he explained that further, later in the evening). I really liked what he said next:
"If we are arguing about the details of the current legislative effort, we have already lost. It is NOT a question of too much, too fast. We need to get away from any argument that makes it seem like we're just unhappy about portions of the bill – even large portions of it." He then pointed out that we are living with a government manufactured crisis (which he also explained further at a later point). And he explained that most of the current Health Care problems could/should be solved at the State level, not the National level (which many of us have been saying throughout this argument!)

Dr. Lappert explained that the role of government in private lives is unparalleled! (I don't think there was much disagreement in the room that night!) And he talked of the collision of interests in this "crisis" – private, corporations, state, and federal. (Depending on which figure you believe, Health Care equals ~14 – 20% of our Economy.)

Meanwhile those in the Government complain that the crisis is worsening because the population is getting older, the number of workers paying taxes is going down, the rising costs of high technology, fraud, poor patients abusing the Emergency Room, and Insurance Company abuses.

But then Dr. Lappert pointed out that we need to look at our Health Care "Crisis" in the context of the History of Western Medicine, which cannot be fully understood without understanding the Christian Worldview (a connection I'm sure that most of us had not made before!) He spoke of: Faith (in an eternal destiny),
(our actions have meaning and affect our destiny), and Charity
(perfection in the love of God is best action for affecting our destiny).
And that right there summed up much of what has happened in Western Medicine, and what we have strayed away from today, in ways that I had never thought of before!

From the earliest days of Christianity, Christians have believed in caring for the sick, the poor, the forgotten, and the impoverished! In fact, hospitals were started by Christians because of those beliefs…In the third century hospitals first appeared, run by Christians, for the care of the poor, the stranger, and pilgrims. (Before that, the Romans had clinics in wealthy homes for the care of the rich, their families, their servants, etc.)

Julian the Apostate, nephew of Constantine, who had renounced his faith when he came to power, saw the effectiveness of Christian medical care and ordered a state version, based on taxes. (Sounds familiar…)

The Christian methods of caring for the sick and the poor worked well for centuries, until:

The rise of materialism during the Age of Enlightenment; which put faith and reason at odds with each other. The myth of progressivism claimed that man today is superior to those from 1000 years ago, and that science is "based on reality". Dialectical Materialism comes out of this belief and was the foundation of Marxism.

Meanwhile, in America public and private efforts in Health Care had grown in parallel. For instance, the Mayo Clinic was started by the Sisters of St Francis and the two Mayo brothers… But, charity is not obtained at the point of a gun – that kills charity….the Government has no business "doing charity". And under this system, who got care? Everyone who needed it – No one went without medical care. (And until the 1960's it was understood that all doctors gave 10% of their time to pro bono work.)

But even before then the Federal Government started to get involved in Health Care: In 1934, with FDR's Committee on Economic Security's Social Security Bill came the promise that a "health insurance plan would be forthcoming"… and it was violently rejected by the voters of the time.
Bills were presented to give the government more control over Health Care starting in 1943 – and President Truman was the first president to publically support the idea – costing his party the 1950 mid-term elections.
(Hopefully, the same will happen in 2010!)

In 1956 the Disability Act, a "necessary prelude to universal health care", was passed. And in 1957 the AFL-CIO came out in support of the idea. In 1965 65% support was garnered for Medicare – with the idea of shifting dependency away from family and charity to the state. Claims were made that elderly would be ruined by catastrophic illness – even though there was no catastrophic coverage in Medicare. Among other things, they misrepresented the poverty level of the elderly in the U.S. The AMA fought the idea of Medicare idea (the last intelligent thing they ever did?)

In the beginning of Medicare, the bills were paid in full – and there was no incentive to cut costs. (We were in the midst of a booming economy, since Kennedy had cut taxes recently.) The generous Medicare payments skewed the valuation of services, and resulted in 30% of spending on the last three years of people's lives. Before this government interference, less than 40% of Americans had any insurance at all! Medicare caused a rise in the prices of Health Care for all. And it led to an explosion in malpractice and product liability lawsuits. It also led to a dramatic rise in private insurance with the promise of "Pay a little, get a lot" (Actual result: "Pay a lot, get a little.")

With all this government intervention, we have gotten to a place where insurance companies pay only an average of 9% of the total bills that hospitals submit to them…And doctors average 40% payment on the bills they submit. (And yet, a private payer, with no insurance, is expected to pay 100% of the bill!)
And then these billed prices are the ones used to calculate "Health Care costs", even though they are inflated, and not generally paid in full!

Our system has become nothing more than a
protection racket. But the threat has been createdby the Government – those that are now offering to solve it for us!

What are the top reasons most of us think Health Care is as expensive as it is? Inflation? Litigation? Technology? Bureaucracy? And of those, technology is often believed to be the worst culprit – but technology makes goods and services less expensive and more available to more people.
No, the real reason is the implementation of the "Soviet Model" of Federal Government with central planning, unmanageable complexity, and the denial of basic human motivation…

And now those who are trying to get the current bill rammed through over our protests are changing the terms – referring to the bill as the "Insurance Reform Bill" rather than the "Health Care Reform Bill",
as if that would make it more palatable! And they've started calling for "medical co-ops", blending market forces with collectivism…but the result will still be central planning, federal start up money; cherry picking of the lowest risk patient pool, and entry into "Medicare for the young"….none of which those of us who believe in liberty/free markets can endorse!

There are a couple of truisms that will hold up well in this argument against the socializing of our Health Care: (1)
"The most efficient place to control costs is at the point of sale" and (2) "People are most frugal with their own money!" If we spend our own money on Health Care – we reduce the cost at the point of sale; remove issues of "injustice" (who's paying for what and who's receiving what); and get rid of morality issues (like "end of life decisions").

We need to make incremental changes – we didn't get here overnight; tort law is mostly state law; insurance law is mostly state law; we need to keep hammering the MORAL TRUTH – not the TECHNICALITIES – of Socialism (including this bill!) A
good starting point would be: States should mandate that those using Health Care Savings Accounts must get the same discounts as the insurance companies…And we do need tort reform: caps on punitive awards; caps on product liability awards; and jury of peers …

In summary: What is the central issue that makes this an unjust system? The use of other people's money! (He who pays the piper calls the tune)
Medical care is the current battleground between forces of liberty and forces of statism! It is an Invented Crisis! And they are trying to nationalize a state problem.

And finally: Remember 1950 – Keep them on the run! We need true champions of liberty!