Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I learned tonight: Health Insurance Reform Discussion

So tonight I had the privilege to sit on the panel for an open discussion on healthcare reform sponsored (in a nonpartisan way) by the Cape May County Federation for Democratic Women. Lots of stuff happened, many words bantered. Fun, but really aggravating. I got to speak a lot of my views in a fairly nonthreatening environment, as most of the audience was already in favor of big time health insurance reform, and not many particularly resistant to universal coverage. I also got to sit next to Steve Fenichal, one of the infamous Baucus 13 ,arrested for trying to have doctors represented as equally as insurance companies and pharmaceuticals at the Senate hearing to discuss healthcare reform. He's cool, and knows lots of good supportive facts.
Also got to hear lots of arguments, and also fears from other sides of the battlefield. Lots of people worried about rationing of care, of somehow a rise in cost (how?), somehow trying to come up with common ground that allowed for a competitive market so that people could choose their coverage. It is something to think about, but every time i look at where a competitive market has gotten us, it sucks. if there is a cheap/free plan and an expensive plan, there will never be able to be fair coverage. I was on the fence, but actually the people in favor of the "public/private mix" plan pushed me over the edge (sorry , scrab-bill).

Then, it was all over, I was chatting with the other lovely social reformers there, and, as if i was in a movie, while i was getting a brownie from the refreshments table, appeared my old nemesis, Ann Richardson. And I must take this opportunity to rescind my comment about her being lucky and not having medical problems. And for any other inappropriate remarks I made about her. Her deal was this: if there is socialized medicine, "how will i know that i or my family will be able to continue to get access to the care they get now?" my response was along the lines of "why wouldn't you be able to? I'm not saying you shouldn't, I'm saying that EVERYONE should" . Her fear is that if everyone gets it, she will lose some, or have to wait, or not have choice. And there was no telling her that choice was fundamentally built into the system, that diminishing the waste in the current system will pay for the expense, and that there are even systems in place to help deal with the job losses from the health insurance workers. (which, btw is a pretty lame argument if you ask me, kind of like worrying about if we made cigarettes illegal what would happen to wawa).
And when we went over that ad nauseum, she still came back to being afraid that if everyone had health insurance she might have to give something up.

So what I learned is this: even though I feel I've got nothing to lose, I guess some other people still feel they have something to protect in this system. Misguided, brainwashed, she truly might feel this is the way to protect her family's health. And she is Afraid.

The other thing i learned, which might just save me from going completely insane, is that some conversations aren't worth the time. Everyone wants to win an argument, have the other person finally see the light of day and come to his or her senses. Then everyone wins, right?
But once it reaches "argument" mode, no one is listening, and no one wins. I walked away from Ann furious, that she could be so stubborn and closed minded. But after a brief moment of reflection, I realized that I don't really hate Ann. (i might rescind that if she bashes me in the paper tho, let me know if you see it in the gazette). I do hate the propaganda and fear mongering that she represents to me. She says "how do you know it won't be terrible?" and my answer is "what makes you think it will be?" her fears were answered and addressed in the bill, which she wouldn't answer whether or not she had read it, she said that the single payer plan would make everything worse, but she has NO DATA to back that up. There's horror stories everywhere, but for every "socialized medicine" urban legend I can give you a name of an honest to goodness Canadian that I have met that would gladly go back to Canada to get care. And after that I can give you ten true stories of delay or denial of care by the American system. But people believe the hype. Just like the swine flu and tainted peanut butter. And some people just aren't worth the argument.

But there were lots of people there tonight without an agenda to sell or a gauntlet to throw down, but with honest questions about the difference between single payer and the public/private plan. People who have come out to try to understand the options and make an educated decision. And I almost feel guilty for being so passionate, because I'm sure I might be just as unpleasant to talk to to people who might disagree with me. (maybe). And it's those people that are important. Most people, i think, don't have an agenda, but may be open to hearing arguments on both sides. These people deserve our time and respect.

My favorite moment of the evening was when someone asked what would happen to the thousands of people that would suddenly be jobless if single payer passed and the health insurance companies went away, and someone was saying there would be income protection, and job retraining, etc, and Steve F and I realized at the same time at least they'd have health insurance!

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