As I sit here listening to a webcast of President Obama campaigning for health care reform up north in Portsmouth, I’m surprised by the civility. (Actually, civility bordering on candy-coating.) Then again, this is the President of the United States, who flew in on Air Force One, not an elected official that you come across in the grocery store.
What a difference from the experience that Members of Congress have been having back home and from the comments that arrive in this office each day. You might say that a good part of it is misinformation by mail, electronic or otherwise.
Some of the confusion is genuine, because every version of the proposed legislation is incredibly complex, and bloody few of us even try to keep up with it. (I’ve given up.) People simply want to know if they will be able to keep their insurance and their doctor – or if, under reform, “the government” will assign them a physician. Fair question to which the answer is no.
Some of the misinformation seems to have been manufactured – such as the e-mails from ”patriots” warning that Obamacare will lead to medical murder for some of us and more free care for “others.”
Last week, a constituent e-mailed to say that he objected to being forced into soviet-style medicine until he qualified for Medicare. (Come again?) When I called to follow-up, he didn’t know exactly where that information had come from, but it was something that he had been told.
On the other hand, there are those whose support for a public insurance option (and everything else labeled “reform”) boils down to two words: obscene profits.
This is a conversation that we need to have. An honest discussion of health care for people, and improvement of its delivery system, is just too important to be drowned out. As Harvard Business School’s Jim Heskett observes, “Why can’t Americans get health care right?”
Harriett L. Stanley
House chair, Joint Committee on Health Care Financing
This program aired on August 12, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.