Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care at the Forum

There isn’t a more striking symbol of America’s health care crisis than the thousands of people who are lining up this week outside the Los Angeles Forum waiting for treatment. One patient put it succinctly, "If everybody in this country were in the situation my daughter and I are in, they would have a whole different view of (the health care debate)."

Many of those in the queue have jobs but they do not have adequate health care. In many cases the employer does not provide enough coverage. Still it seems a bit ironic that the nonprofit Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corp (RAM), whose mission is to provide free health, dental and eye care to poor or under served areas around the globe, is turning people away in Los Angeles. This is because of the heavy demand, and because RAM does not have enough volunteer doctors. One RAM worker compared the need in Los Angeles to the poorest parts of India.

Yet this unfortunate scene is far from an antidote for the radical and misleading assertions being screamed aloud at town hall meetings across the country in the health care debate. “Death panels” and “eugenics” are among the outrageous lies being spun by those seeking to benefit, either politically or financially, by killing health care reform.

In a country of more than 300 million people there is bound to be a small fraction that absolutely believes President Obama wants to kill grandma, or that the president is a Nazi. These are the kind of folks who make up the core audience for Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin, all of whom everyday feed their loyalists the red meat of socialism and government gone wrong. Beck's and Limbaugh's few million loyal listeners never miss a minute of their shameless diatribes. After all, these radio commentators get paid an enormous amount of money to incite a national ruckus, and their audiences love it. You are right Mr. President, it sure plays well on television.

Protesters don't want to hear the truth. Like that there are no death panels in the government's health care reform proposals. They believe that government gotten too big and is not true to the wishes of our founding fathers. In fact, some of these folks are joining local militias perhaps with an eye to "one day taking our country back!" From whom? It's very scary.

For the past decade America has been caught up in a great ideological feud between left and right that has perhaps been more polarizing than at any time in our history, except for the period leading up to and during the Civil War. The feud is being amplified and accelerated by technological advances.

At the core of the feud is the role of government in each American's life. And a wasteful, inefficient and bloated government is easy to criticize. It is also easy to criticize those elected officials who lie and cheat. Or those who want to spend taxpayer money on corporate jets. And what of a government that mishandles the economy and yet saves the rich bankers during the worst economic downturn in decades? One Wall Street banker made more than $700 million, yet the unemployment rate is unacceptably high and foreclosures are too.

A large number of well-intentioned Americans are "mad as hell" and say they are not going to take it anymore. There is a lot of pent up emotion and concern in our populace. They feel no one has been listening to them, and hot August days are especially conducive to raising the heat in town hall meetings across the nation. The complaints and cries for help have become louder, especially at the extremes. But there is nothing to fear. This is American Democracy at work.

Most Americans are smart enough to see through the fog of distortions, fabrications and flat out lies being offered up about health care. They know that all politics is local and that hypocrisy runs deep in DC. They know that many Senators and Congressmen are being well funded by the health industry. That many elected officials will do what is best to assure their own survival.

Most Americans agree that this country's health care system is broken. There are 46 million uninsured people in the U.S., and that number is growing every day. They know that health insurance companies have enjoyed record profits while co-payments have gone up and “pre-conditions” and other loopholes are impeding access to quality care. They see it every time they need care.

President Obama must continue to aggressively push his agenda and highlight its benefits. They include making health care accessible to all, making it affordable for everyone and "bending the curve" of health care costs, which are out of control and are a tremendous drain on our economy. Proponents must also speak out with a clear voice.

Few Americans are happy with our current system. Just ask anyone standing in line at the Los Angeles Forum.

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