Rember the Issues

March 9, 2010

The health care reform battle just had its first birthday. We need to look back and remember how this last year unfolded. At the outset we were just trying to understand the issues and we were trying to have a voice in what the bills contained. Much of the original discussion had to do with the public option, but as the discussion continued and as we became more knowledgeable of more aspects of the bills, our discussion broadened and our fears grew. As the summer came we began to have a real voice in the town hall meetings across America. Our approval for both the bill and the President waned to new lows. As the bills in the House and the Senate were formulated, as the backroom deals were made, and the votes finally held, it became evident that the rhetoric had shifted from the issues to the process. The filibuster-proof Senate was going to march this bill into law. Then the unimaginable happened -- the Senate lost its 60 vote majority. In the last three months almost the entire discussion has been about the process -- will the Democrats use reconciliation, will the President be more forceful, and does Pelosi have enough votes in the House? There has been little talk about the issues. The President yesterday was in Pennsylvania campaigning for his health care bill. He sounded more like he was running for office, rather than trying to find the best health care reform legislation that he could. We don't need more campaign rhetoric. We need to focus on the issues. I say to you and to everyone that will listen, please remember the issues!!!

Starting with this message, and continuing for two more, I'm going to talk about the key issues in the President's health care reform bill. We need to remember that it's the impact of this bill on each of our lives that's truly important. I will be asking each of you, both in these messages and through our E-alerts, to talk to those who represent you and tell them that you're not worried about politics or process; you're worried about the issues.

The first big issue that will impact our lives if this bill is not changed is the government's involvement in our lives. The expanded powers given to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) will change how our health care providers interact with us. Have the echoes of the summer faded away enough that we don't remember how egregious the specter was of a government bureaucrat coming between you and your doctor? The provision that gives this unelected, appointed government board the power to tell our providers what they can and cannot do is still in the bill. It gets worse, this board reports to the President not to Congress. Are you starting to remember what made us mad last summer?

Other legislation in this bill will severely limit our choice of hospitals. Don't we remember how terrible it was to think that the government was going to keep us from choosing the best hospitals for our health care? Have we forgotten that this legislation would put many physician-owned hospitals out of business, halt the construction of others, and effectively stop the progress of those still on the drawing board. These are the very hospitals that a Consumer Reports (August 2009) study showed were the top hospitals in 19 states and near the top in other states where they operated. These are the hospitals that, according to a federal study, featured shorter stays anywhere from 17 percent to 31 percent shorter than at their community counterparts. What a unique combination higher quality and shorter stays! And this is what our learned government bureaucrats want to stop? While it’s one thing to decry the inefficiencies of the government in our lives (think obtaining a driver's license), it's quite another thing to think of that inefficient government getting involved in our health care with our very lives on the line.

We need to tell Congress, especially those who represent us in the House, that it is the issues that are important. This legislation has nothing to do with Democrats and Republicans, but it has everything to do with how this legislation will affect each of our lives. We need to take this personal because if we don't, this legislation will get very personal with us and not in a good way. Call, email, fax and visit your Members of Congress now! Tell them that they must listen to you because you are the American people and that you represent the older Americans that this legislation impacts the most. Tell them that you, and your family and friends will not sit silent. Tell them that they better listen, because you intend to be heard!

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