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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Opening Day

The subject of health care has been in the news lately. Locally, State Rep. John Taylor has made a bold move to have his colleagues support his effort not to give Temple University any school funding appropriations. Temple University, in case you don’t know, refused to negotiate or participate in any community discussions aimed at preventing the closure of Northeastern Hospital. As a “pay back” measure, Rep. Taylor very smartly lobbied his friends in the legislature to side with him in his mission to withhold funds from Temple.
Now that Temple realizes they may lose thousands of dollars in state funds, they are willing to talk. But they are a day late and a dollar short.
Northeastern was a solid, well respected community hospital for mostly low income people. It employed more than 800 people. Because of Temple University’s arrogance, Northeastern is history.
The plight of Northeastern is systematic of health care across America. More than 40 million Americans currently have no health care insurance (including this writer), so when President Obama made his move to revamp the nation’s health care system to include low income and poor people, what did he get?
He got (and continues to get) angry (mostly white) suburbanites—most of whom already have health insurance, —who cram local town hall meetings designed to gather feedback on how to fix the nation’s ailing health care system. Since these health care proposals are just that—no final bill has been crafted-- everything is still a work in progress. But just talking about the talking points has hit a nerve with right wing pundits. Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and even Sarah Plain have distorted the facts about the president’s proposed reforms. Right wing pundits have riled up their base with lies, and now self styled ‘Tea Party’ revolutionaries are lashing out at people like Senator Arlen Specter in places like Lebanon, Pennsylvania, accusing the supporters of health care reform of wanting to set up ‘death panels’ that would make it okay to pull the plug on poor ole grandma. .
The New York Times reported that many of the people shouting down the president’s health care ideas at town meetings “seemed concerned about the issues that are either not in the health care legislation or are peripheral to the debate in Washington—abortion, euthanasia, coverage of immigrants, privacy…”
At the Lebanon, Pennsylvania town meeting, these irritable white suburbanites wore T-shirts that proclaimed, “We don’t Want This Country to Turn into Russia.”
Every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States, has some form of universal health coverage. These countries include Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Finland, Israel, and Canada (more than 85% of Canadians approve of the quality of their “socialized” health care, despite distortions of those numbers by American right wing pundits).
Recently I received an email from a Tea Party organization that read: “Get your hands off my health care.” I wrote back, “What health care?” With a mortgage, insurance payments, bills and daily living expenses, who can afford an additional $250 a month (or even less) for health insurance? Health care reform is no reform at all when the only options are slightly cheaper monthly plans than the ones already in place. If I needed hospital care today, I’d have to be admitted via the ER (now that Northeastern is gone, where would I go?) and then claim myself as a charity case at the conclusion of my hospital stay.
But rather than going the charity case route, why not reform the system and offer me a really affordable health care plan, or even a free government sponsored plan, where I can get ongoing preventive care, and therefore avoid that expensive hospital stay that somebody else has to pay for?
These Tea Party mobs claim that President Obama will take their Medicare away, when in fact that’s what the right wing pundits would do, since Medicare is controlled by the government. Next, they scream socialism when the president says that every American citizen should have health care coverage. The truth of the matter is: they don’t want every American to have access to health care.
The biggest lie in this debate is the institution of so called government ‘death panels’ pundits say that Obama’s plan would create. Ironically, this distortion was spun from a Republican sponsored bill which would allow Medicare to reimburse people for end of life care. This proposal called for people to have access to more information on end of life care, and that’s it. It never said that it wanted to make it easier to pull the plug on grandma.
So, dear reader, the next time you’re tempted to listen to a right wing pundit, please count to ten and get your sanity back first.

Thom Nickels

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