I started the week attending a very positive, enjoyable event for Phil Williams. Then on Thursday evening I attended my first Town Hall Meeting with our U.S. Congressman Parker Griffith: "A Healthy Alabama is a Prosperous Alabama". It was co-hosted by two groups I hadn't heard of: Alabama Appleseed's Health Insurance Project and Arise Citizens Policy Project. I don't know anything about the two groups, but if they were happy about how the event unfolded, it would speak volumes about them; to me, that night was as depressing as Tuesday night had been uplifting.
On Wednesday evening I did some more research on Health Care, in preparation for the Meeting. I already know where I stand on it, but I wanted to have more facts. A great article on Health Care came out in the Wall Street Journal on July 1: "Parsing the Health Reform Arguments" (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124640626749276595.html) The author does a great job of summing up the arguments against the Government messing around with Health Care. I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the arguments being made.
While I was doing my research, I ran across references to the Arizona Health Care Freedom Act. More attention will definitely need to be paid to that...It looks like Arizona may be the first state to pass its own law saying they don't have to participate in whatever disaster the Federal Government comes up with for Health Care.
As the meeting Thursday evening was about to begin, I listed the points that I would want to have made about Health Care:
1) Our system brings Medical Innovations like no other in the world.
2) The system being proposed in Congress leads to long waits and rationing.
3) Even if it doesn't begin as a Government Monopoly, it ends that way because Private Companies won't be able to compete.
4) And most importantly, it is Unconstitutional. There is no way to construe anything in the Constitution as giving the Federal Government the right to deal in any way with Health Care!
After he was introduced, Congressman Griffith gave his overview. He said that there is a general feeling among businesses, the AMA, and the population as a whole that our Health Care system needs to be improved. Really? Interesting, since most folks I know understand our Health Care system to be the greatest in the world!)
He spoke of our 233-year Democracy, and something about not living up to its ideals. I knew we were in trouble then. Especially when Griffith followed it up with a comment about 47 million Americans being uninsured or not having access to Health Care. That is when I really wanted to scream. Note for Parker Griffith and those who think like him: Not having Health Insurance is not the same thing as not having access to Health Care! Five of my older children are currently uninsured. They all have access to Health Care.
And yet Griffith went on to admit that deaths from Cardio Disease and deaths from cancers (besides smoking related) have gone down. What, in our failing medical situation, how could that be?
He spoke of the options: A single payer (everyone in the U.S. has the same Insurance card -- Medicare-like). Why would anyone want a system like that?!?
Or where we just ADD Govt Health Care option to existing options since "some" of us are actually satisfied with our existing insurance, we would get to keep ours -- at least until the Govt drove our companies out of business. It wasn't clear to me that either of those were good options, but a small portion of the audience seemed to thing they were.
Griffith went on to say that "We want everyone to have access at a reasonable cost, quality, choice..." Wish we could have asked him right then when the Federal Govt became Santa Clause and how we were going to pay for such offerings.
Then Griffith talked about trying to reform a system around a shortage; in this case a shortage of Physicians. What part of this program does he really think will lessen the shortage of Physicians?
Then the ground rules were set and the floor was opened for questions.
- An older gentleman right in front of us asked Congressman Griffith right away where in the Constitution the Government has the right to provide Health Care. Parker Griffith tried to put the gentleman on the defensive by asking him if he was on Medicare. Griffith wasn't happy when he got a Negative answer from the gentleman, who persisted in asking Griffith to "follow his oath". We could have ended the evening right there and I would have been happy…Very few of the questions that came after this one were worth listening to.
- Now the complaints began: "Prescriptions in the U.S. cost $50, in Europe they are the equivalent of $5…How can the Government do worse than Private Industry…We need Single Payer…" I personally think that the Government can do MUCH worse than what we currently have, but pray we will never find out!
- Next complaint came quickly: "Policies today are too complicated" Griffith quickly comments, "We have lots of Single Payers here"
(Really, he was able to determine that by two questions. Amazing.)
- Another Conservative finally got a question in: "When Medicare was started in 1965 they predicted the cost would be $12 million. By 1990 the cost had exceeded 98 million." Not much Griffith could say to that, so he didn't say much.
- A sad story about a 29-year-old sister who's insurance lapsed through no fault of her own. (A bad situation, but socializing Health Care is not the answer.)
- A small business owner shared his frustrations about not being able to compete with big businesses for Health Care plans. (Must be an answer to this besides the ones being suggested.)
- The point was made that the quality of care of Dialysis patients on Medicare is much worse than those of commercially insured patients. Like most of the questioners here tonight, it wasn't clear if they actually had a question for the Congressman, or just wanted to make a statement. At this point Griffith took the opportunity to point out that a child with appendicitis is five times more likely to die if has no insurance.
- The point was made that Medicaid should reimburse for prenatal care…And then that infant mortality is so bad in the United States. (Sorry, don't buy that statistic at all.) Parker Griffith used this opportunity to point out the big problem we have in this country of the distribution of doctors. Really?Again, how will socializing Health Care fix anything?
- Another sad story – but this one was from a small businesswoman whose husband had been in a really bad car accident. She was very thankful that the hospital's main emphasis was on saving his life - -and pondered whether that would have happened if they didn't have insurance. Griffith pointed out that the unique thing about OUR system is that we are making advances…we see whoever in the Emergency Room…(So why do we want to want to change this great system?)
- The next gentleman went on and on and on (people started yelling "What is the question?"). After Griffith asked, "Would you like to ask me a question," he finally got to saying something about regulatory issues in medicine being a big joke. We moved on finally…
- Now someone complained about going to the Emergency Room and how bad it was there, and how he spent 4 hours waiting to see a Doctor. And yet somehow he was convinced that nationalizing Health Care would somehow be an improvement!
- Someone got up and pointed out that a Government Option would compete with private insurers. Then asked Griffith bluntly, "Do you support a Government option?" Griffith was not straightforward with his answer, "We don't want unintended consequences." (Really, Congress actually thinks about unintended consequences? That would be a nice change!) And then he actually made two more reasonable comments: "If Government Care equals Medicare, we will be destroying." And "The public option is okay, if we have level playing field." He was quite accurate in that second comment, and since we'll never be able to level the playing field – I would like to take his third comment to mean we can't do it! (Though I'm sure that's not what he meant.)
- A real question finally – "Recently President Obama appeared before the AMA and said he doesn't support Tort Reform" (The audience booed!) "What is your position on Tort Reform?" Griffith had a great non-answer, "Tort Reform and Distribution haven't been addressed in current bills." Moments later he made another couple of interesting comments, "We may be promising people something we can't provide"
(You think!) and "…These are not easy decisions…."
- More of a comment than a question: "You Republicans are selfish, you want roads…water…but no taxes."
- Another good question snuck in: "How can private companies compete with the Government…Maine and Massachusetts have tried public options and failed, how can the federal government do better?" I know, I know, they can't! Griffith mentions his own efforts with Health Care, "I am introducing legislation to say that any Health Care bill as to be on our desks one week in advance of the vote." (Why isn't that the case for ALL major legislation?!?) and "Whatever legislation we pass for Health Care for the Country, we will have to have the same care. (Can we all say, "Yeah, right!)
- "Insurance companies have to earn profit on each patient enrolled…" (and he went on and on and on) He finally got to a point. "You can't force everyone to buy insurance – or the government will have to subsidize those who can't/don't." Griffith pointed out that the expected cost will be between $1 – 2 Trillion. (And remember, that's expected costs!) And then the questioner pointed out that a Single Payer is a better solution, but that Griffith is not supporting it because it isn't politically feasible. Griffith pointed out that the Single Payer in the bill is NOT better! But the concept of eliminating administrative costs is good!
- An employee of a small company pointed out that he can't afford his company's insurance. How will we lower our costs without putting for profit insurance companies out of business? The answer to this question was not an answer, "Big pharmaceuticals need to be regulated."
(Yeah, we all know how effective Govt regulations have been in other areas!) And "the Health Care Industry is the largest industry in America." (And this is before the Government takes over!)
- Good question: How do we convince Insurance Companies to reimburse Nurse Practioners, PA's, etc. Good question, no answer.
- The United States is built on free trade and capitalism. We can't we regulate these problems away? (Yeah, I got lost with that argument too!) Griffith just went on to make an unrelated statement: "I disagree with President Obama on 30-45 day timetable on something so critical as Health Care."
Okay, we can agree on that position! And then he went on to say that "Competition is good".
(We agree on that too – so how do we go from that to socializing medicine? Got me!)
- Then we got the guy who wanted to say that "Health Care is a right in so many countries…" Griffith said, "There are many improvements that we could make." To which someone yelled, we "Have to go to Single Payer option!" Really? And how will that improve anything? I was particularly disturbed by Griffith's next statement, "Health Insurance is a right."
- The next questioner complained that the Insurance Company is making the decisions.
Griffith's next statement was interesting in light of his positions: "Medicare is a form of Single Payer, and it reduces your choices."
- Some good questions came up from the next person: "So many foreigners come to our shores for health care, where will we go…How will we pay for this?...Government Health Care is limited for older folks in other countries…." Interesting response from Griffith to these questions: "We're asking Congress to reform Health Care, and Congress has less than a 25% approval rating."
- Next questioner mentioned that we're trying to force everyone through a Cadillac Health Care system…Why not try a free market?
- With current layoffs, joblessness, the loss of Health Care to the forefront…Griffith mentions that we need to fix Medicare/Medicaid fraud.
- How can we trust that Congress will do the right thing on this – when so many in Congress are taking money from Pharmacies and Insurance Companies? Interesting answer: "Everyone is a special interest…trying to influence Congress for a vote…we have to be savvy enough and try to make decisions on what is best for MOST of the people." Questioner then makes the claim that "60% of Americans want Single Payer and 83% favor a Government Option." (Where do people get those types of statistics from?)
- A college student with an immune disorder has great insurance now, but worries about being dropped in the future. Griffith responds that he wants reforms so that "Every American has access and has insurance." (There we go with the access = insurance nonsense.)
- Next person claims that we "All know that the system is broke." And that "Canada has a pretty good system".
- Good response from the next person. "Let me throw some caution in here. I've lived under Canada's single payer system for 8 years…Our primary care was good, but I was glad that nothing unusual happened to me during that time. There was 1 MRI Machine for the over 4 million in the entire city of Toronto. We need stop gap coverage for people between jobs, etc. We are the medical treatment country of last resort for Canada.
- Our last question for the evening ended with "Do you believe illegals should be entitled to our Health Care?" Griffith answered with an emphatic "No" and then caveated that "Problem is, every child born in the USA is a US citizen".
And with that, a very painful evening of "questions" and "answers" came to an end.