According to Kansas City’s Fox 4 News there were 300 people in attendance, but once people found out the breakfast meeting was not a town hall gathering, many chose to leave the block-long line forming outside the coffee house. A group of about 30 people opposed to health care reform started chanting something about congressional use of jets and “Free Market! Free Market!” – they were clearly having fun despite their lack of a central message. Then there was a chant about the constitution, but when a pro-reform person shouted out “What about Bush and the constitution?” the protesters dropped the chant.
My intent was not to rally with people supporting health care reform (though I support reform) but to test anti-reformers – why would anyone be opposed to health care for all Americans? The quick answer to that question is that some of these people believe you should pay for health care. They are not concerned about whether you can pay for it, and thus are not concerned that people get access to affordable care.
I lost my employer-paid health care after get laid off in a downsizing move at a large area trucking firm. While upset about frequent 10% increases in health insurance premiums, I was confident of quality care during my 15 years on the job. When laid off from this job and offered COBRA continuing benefits at $1000 per month I doubled efforts to find a job with benefits to cover my family. While COBRA would provide care for illness or injury I was not confident these services would be full or affordable. Fortunately, I was able to get a job with benefits within two months of getting downsized.
Bob, a person at the event opposed to reform, claimed that people already have access to health care: they can walk into any hospital and the facility is legally bound to provide health care regardless of ability to pay. His belief is that everyone should pay for health care, just like he does. He heard claims about how expensive health care is, but he did not explain how lower income people could afford health care. Mostly Bob was concerned about government takeover of health care – “Name one thing the government has done without completing messing it up.”
When each person I spoke with was asked why basic services like fire, police, education, and libraries are equally available for all, no response was offered. When pressed further that health care should be included in basic services through a public option, Bob responded “I mean the Federal government,” attempting to separate out local services from Federal programs. These people clearly have no compassion for people that are not able to afford health care.
Bob punctuated his remarks with “read the bill,” and it seems many people have not read the bill, nor are familiar with key concepts in health care reform. Like one pro-reform woman getting signatures on a petition offered misguided advice about how universal health care was the single-payer option. She did not seem to know that while the health care bill contained provisions to cover everyone – universal health care – there was no effort at single payer.
Read up folks, here’s a link to the bill’s four-page summary - http://energycommerce.house.gov/Press_111/20090714/hr3200_summary.pdf
A woman with Bob told two stories – the first about her mother-in-law received services for care by going to the emergency room and another story about a friend that received care through the hospital for a chronic illness. I was amazed that this woman would use these stories to support the idea that people already have access to health care.
“We will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms, colonoscopies, or eye and foot exams for diabetics, so we can avoid chronic illnesses that cost too many lives and too much money.” (From President Obama’s August 8, 2009 weekly radio address)
About 30 minutes into the gathering I noticed many pro-reform advocates start engaging the anti-reform people in conversation. One union worker stood his gound with someone opposed to union support for health care reform. Most of the conversations contained darts back and forth across talking points – Obama plans to have the government take over health care -- not true; national health care plans don’t work -- this claim is dishonest; and ludicrous claims about euthanasia -- get real!
Some pro-reform advocates might be better prepared to inform people about the bill by getting their talking points down better. But I like how quick pro-reform advocates were to test the anti-reform crowd.
“Pat and her husband Dan were ranchers in Montana, but had a hard time finding affordable coverage, and were uninsured when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2000. The medical bills piled up for Pat and Dan, eventually forcing them to sell the land they loved and that had been in Dan's family for generations. Dan succumbed to cancer, and two years later, Pat still does not have health insurance.” (Pat Dejong, SEIU health care worker, on ABC News, June 24, 2009)