Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stop Screaming About Health Care Reform

Watching an older man scream that he wants the government to keep its hands off his Medicare insurance has probably been the most ludicrous image I've seen in the so-called debate about health care reform.

The most disturbingly ignorant image was the woman holding a poster depicting President Obama with a Hitler-style moustache as she challenged Representative Barney Frank with the astonishing claim that the President's suggested reform is a "Nazi policy."

The visions of men openly, although legally, carrying guns (including an assault rifle) at several of the President's Town Hall meetings across the country I've found almost incomprehensible.

The biggest problem our society faces is that these are not isolated incidents. Many people are enraged, but they're also woefully ignorant. Political discourse can barely exist in this uninformed, hostile atmosphere.

As blogger Seth Godin said, the screaming of nonsense and lies "is often a tool used to balance out the lazy ignorance of someone parroting opposition to an idea that they don't understand. . . If you want to challenge the conventional wisdom of health care reform, please do! It'll make the final outcome better. But if you choose to do that, it's essential that you know more about it than everyone else, not less. Certainly not zero. Be skeptical, but be informed. . . Screaming ignorance gets attention, but it distracts us from the work at hand."

And there is serious work at hand.

Anyone who denies that health care reform is necessary must be completely out of touch with reality. Steve Lopez of the LA Times reported on a recent free clinic staged in Los Angeles by Remote Area Medical (I mentioned RAM in my August 1st post on charitable giving). He described what he saw there as "scenes from the Third World": The Forum, a huge facility that formerly housed the LA Lakers, converted into a massive medical clinic. Exhausting waits in long lines full of desperate people, often entire families, who had no insurance, not enough insurance or who were unable to pay the deductible required for the treatment they needed. Overwhelmed doctors, dentists, opticians, nurses and other support staff. And not enough time to help everyone.

Unless we were to follow the lead of the UK, Canada or France and offer universal health care -- something that won't happen in this political climate -- whatever changes are made will require many of us to continue to buy some form of health insurance. To say that we will need to be thoughtful consumers is an understatement.

So, in order to participate in this crucial debate -- and let's remember that it is a debate, not a showdown at the OK Corral -- let's at least do enough research to get the basic facts straight. I suggest starting with this very short, informative article from BBC News in which you'll learn that our current health care system is less efficient than those in the UK, France and Singapore.

Then search on-line. Thanks to the Internet, it is possible to get accurate information about the reform that's being discussed (there are no "death panels," no euthanasia for older people, no one interfering with your health care to any greater degree than it's already being interfered with right now by your insurance company, if you're fortunate enough to have one). We can go to major, reliable sources that still have journalistic integrity (thank Heaven) and read. There are no short cuts. We need to get that information and, even if it's confusing or there's a tremendous amount of it or we'd just rather do something else with our time, we need to try to understand it so that we can act to make responsible reform happen.

How do we act? Obviously not by screaming, not by spreading false rumors or innuendo, certainly not by making ridiculous and outrageous claims. Instead, click on these links to find out (if you don't already know) who represents you in the House and who represents you in the Senate and e-mail your opinions to them. Members of Congress can't act in our interest unless they know what we think.

This is no time to bow out of the decision-making process; we all must participate to make sure that we get the health care reform that we need.

Our lives depend on it.

© 2009 Cynthia Friedlob
Photo Credit: Library of Congress via PingNews
Public Health Service Nurse and Patient (pub. date: between 1918 and 1925)

You can read more and get links to many other blogs that are publishing posts on this topic today, "Elders for Health Care Reform Day." Go to


Anonymous said...

It won't be easy but we must not give up.

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Yes, even though it's easy to get discouraged, I agree that we must not give up! Thanks for commenting, Genie.