Things I Wanted To Say At The Town Hall Meeting I Couldn’t Get Into
When Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) held a town hall meeting in Yuma last Wednesday, I arrived 35 minutes early in order to get a seat and hopefully speak my piece and let Mr. Grijalva know my views.
Funny boy, me.
The venue was already full with people standing in a line that snaked out the door and down the sidewalk. As it turns out, according to The (Yuma) Sun’s news reports and video of the meeting, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to make my statement anyway. It appears that the only formal provision made for public input was the inclusion of pre-screened questions read by a moderator and answered by Mr. Grijalva. Maybe I have a different understanding of what a town hall meeting like this is supposed to be, but I thought the idea was that we the people get a chance to tell our representatives, in person, what we want, not for our representatives to tell us what we OUGHT to want. But I digress…
Here’s what I wanted to say to my elected Congressman, had I been given the opportunity.
1. I’m a registered independent, I’m not here because some radio talk show host told me to come, I’m not part of an “angry mob,” and it REALLY offends me when I hear elected officials say that voicing an opinion at a town hall meeting is “un-American.”
2. I’m opposed to the current proposed Democrat-sponsored “healthcare reform” because we simply can’t afford it. According to a report released just a couple of weeks ago, federal tax revenues are on pace to drop 18% from last year, the biggest one-year decrease since 1932. At the same time, the federal deficit is expected to reach $1.8 trillion, up from $455 billion in 2008. Let’s make sure we get that: we’re losing almost one-fifth of our federal tax revenue while quadrupling our debt–but we’re talking about adding MORE government spending that the government’s own accountants at the Congressional Budget Office say will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit.
I don’t know how they do things in Congress, but in my family, when finances get tight, our belts get tight, too. When there’s less money coming in, we do whatever it takes to make sure less money goes out. That’s how things work out here in the real world; evidently things are different on Planet D.C.
3. I’m opposed to “healthcare reform” because not only will it NOT cut the cost of OBTAINING medical care, it also doesn’t do anything to lower the cost of PROVIDING healthcare. Why are we now talking about “health insurance reform” instead of “healthcare reform”? If the cost of providing medical care is too high, going after insurance companies isn’t going to address that problem. If we force insurance companies to cover all preexisting conditions, but don’t do anything to lower the cost of TREATING those preexisting conditions, the end result will be that insurance rates will go UP, not down. Even a “public option” government-run healthcare program would have to charge higher premiums and/or raise taxes and/or cut back on services in order to cover the cost of providing care unless something is done to actually LOWER THE COST of PROVIDING that care. Why aren’t we talking about tort reform as part of healthcare reform, to lower the cost of medical malpractice insurance? Why don’t we create one standardized set of insurance forms that ALL insurance companies and healthcare providers have to use? Why do we keep passing laws like HIPAA that only add to the administrative burden on healthcare providers–and raise costs–without providing much in the way of tangible benefit to consumers?
And if you want to talk about insurance, why don’t we allow insurance companies to market and consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines in order to foster more competition? Why don’t we allow insurance companies to offer and consumers to buy “a la carte” policies that only provide the coverage consumers want and are willing to pay for, instead of forcing insurance companies to offer comprehensive policies that many people don’t want and can’t afford? What about looking into establishing a national catastrophic illness insurance plan, which insurance companies can participate in, that would offer very affordable premiums for really expensive medical treatment only?
The point being, the FIRST focus of true healthcare reform should be to LOWER THE COST OF PROVIDING MEDICAL CARE. Next, find ways to compensate healthcare providers for GETTING AND KEEPING PEOPLE WELL, not simply paying for treatment regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, there has to be some element of incentivization for CONSUMERS to do their part to stay well also, particularly in the case of patients with chronic illness. Approximately 75% of the money spent on healthcare in this country goes to treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and half of those conditions are directly attributable to obesity, smoking and other poor lifestyle choices. At some point we have to start taking responsibility for doing our part to lower healthcare costs, and some type of financial incentive would hopefully encourage people to do so. (See this link for a thorough and thoughtful examination of ways to address the cost of providing healthcare.)
4. I’m opposed to “healthcare reform” because I believe it’s just one more example of a massive expansion of government control over American society, the likes of which has never been seen in my lifetime. Candidate Obama promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America,” and now we’re seeing just what that means: government takeover of banks and automobile manufacturers, government dictating compensation in the private sector, government seeking to control how Americans consume energy, and now government seeking to control the one-sixth of the American economy spent on healthcare. Is this what Americans really want, to FUNDAMENTALLY TRANSFORM our country, to change it into SOMETHING ELSE? I don’t believe it is, and the public outcry against “healthcare reform” is clear proof of this. The American people are smart enough to know when we’ve been sold a bill of goods; we know now that this administration is far more liberal than it was portrayed during the presidential campaign. Healthcare reform is part of a radical left-wing agenda that includes government-controlled, single-payor medical care, and Obama and other Democratic politicians are lying when they claim otherwise.
I came across a very thought-provoking quote recently from none other than President Gerald Ford, in his address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974, almost exactly 35 years ago:
“Whether we like it or not, the American wage earner and the American housewife are a lot better economists than most economists care to admit. They know that a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
If we want to restore confidence in ourselves as working politicians, the first thing we all have to do is learn to say no.”
Truer words were never spoken, but 35 years later our elected officials still aren’t listening.
I’ve been self-employed for much of my adult life, and often during that time I have not had health insurance. Sometimes that was because I simply couldn’t afford it, other times it was because I simply chose to spend that money on other things. But at no time in my life have I ever believed that it was the government’s responsibility to provide me with healthcare or health insurance. That is not to say that I’m opposed to states helping low-income residents obtain healthcare services through Medicaid (AHCCCS, in our case), and I know that Medicare is, often literally, a life-saver for many seniors. But there is no fundamental, Constitutional right in this country to healthcare, plain and simple. And considering the government’s track record on administrating Medicaid and Medicare–both are in financial dire straits–why in the world would we trust politicians to expand those failing programs to cover everybody in the country, which is what a single-payor, government-run healthcare system would do?
5. I’m opposed to “healthcare reform” because it’s simply NOT TRUE that “anything would be better than what we have now.” I hear this a lot, and not just in regards to healthcare. How often do people find themselves in a bad situation and are desperate to grasp at anything–or anybody–who seems to offer some hope of better things? How often have we heard people (ourselves?) say something like, “Anything would be better than what I have now,” only to learn the hard way that, in fact, things can and do get WORSE instead of better? Being a single mother, for instance, is really tough, but would you encourage a friend in that situation to go out and marry some abusive, controlling guy just so she won’t have to be alone? Would you tell her, “You know, your life is so bad, ANYTHING would be better than what you have now”?
Don’t think so. (And if you would, no offense, but you’re a terrible friend.)
Yet I fear that some folks are willing to grasp at anything labeled “healthcare reform” in the misguided belief that “anything would be better than what we have now.” Politicians, including our President, were touting the benefits of legislation they themselves hadn’t even read, while still insisting that a healthcare reform bill be rammed through Congress in a matter of weeks. I mean, seriously, doesn’t that strike you as really, really scary, regardless of what you think about healthcare reform? If it’s so important, which it is, and if so many Americans are in favor of sweeping change, as the politicians claim, then what’s the rush? Don’t worry about the details, they tell us, just embrace the CONCEPT of radical healthcare reform, give us the power, and trust us to fill in the blanks and act in your best interests afterwards.
You know, like, embracing the IDEA of being married, but not worrying about “the details” until after you say “I do.”
Let me be clear. There are things about our healthcare delivery system that need to be changed. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe that. That’s not the issue. The question is, what is the best way to go about changing what needs to be changed while keeping the things that are working? That’s an extended process that needs to happen, without question. But what we’re seeing right now is NOT the way to go about deciding something so important. We’re basically being told to shut up and let the politicians decide what’s best for us. I don’t care where you fall in the political spectrum, or what your views on healthcare reform are, I don’t believe you want to be treated that way, to be condescended to by the people WE elect, any more than I do.
I’m forwarding this article to Mr. Grijalva and the rest of the Arizona Congressional delegation. If you agree with any of what I’ve written, I hope you’ll cut and paste and do the same with your own elected officials. Some of us may not have been given an opportunity to make our voices heard at the town hall meeting, but let’s agree that whether or not we share the same political beliefs, we’re not going to shut up and trust the politicians to tell us what to think.