A Plea To The President

Dolores L. Mitchell, Executive Director of the Group Insurance Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, implores the president and congress to finish what they started and approve legislation to reform the health care system:

Many of us who were — are — strong supporters of health care reform have the sensation of what it must be like for a polar bear, standing on an ice floe in the warming Arctic waters, watching pieces of its perch melt away beneath it.

I, just a year ago, firmly predicted a health care bill by year’s end, and I along with others, have watched, with growing dismay, the delays, the calculated campaigns of disinformation and distrust, and the erosion of the spirit of a community caring for those who did not fully share in access to America’s health care system. It is the loss of that spirit of caring about, and for, our fellow citizens, that I find most distressing about the events of this past year. The passion about making sure that no one in this country should have to worry about getting care for a sick child, or fail to take life-saving medications because they couldn’t pay for them, has given way to a kind of callousness from those who have, about the plight of those who have not.

I suppose that the tidal wave of concern about job losses and home foreclosures is partially to blame and of course those concerns are more than justified, but where did the compassion go? Talking about hearing the anger doesn’t quite add up to a rationale for walking away from a need that hasn’t disappeared. Indeed, the need has gotten worse as costs continue to escalate forcing more people to forego medical care or risk bankruptcy to get it. We, in the Commonwealth, despite our fiscal woes have much to be proud of for not walking away from our resolve to cover all of our citizens. Our sticking with our commitment, not the fact that we got there first, is what we should be most proud of.

I, for one, would feel much better about the need to address jobs and the economy up front and central, if I had some sense that the president and congress could lay out their commitments as to when and what they are going to do about health care, and to remind us that all of us need to participate in finding a solution for all of us, not just for some of us. Surely we can work on more than one economic issue at a time. I write this before the President’s speech tonight, hoping that these words of distress will be obsolete by the time any of you read them.

(The Group Insurance Commission of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is the agency that provides life, health, disability and dental and vision services to over 300,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents.)

This program aired on January 27, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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