Spent a pleasant Wednesday afternoon. at a Town Hall meeting on health care reform. The event was sponsored by California Congressman Mike Thompson. The sun was shining for a change and by the time I pulled the last hill into Redwood Acres I was a bit on the sweaty side.
There was quite a line when I arrived about an hour before the scheduled start time. Most of the signs were pro-reform, actually the greatest number of signs were for some kind of single payer system but the congressmen made sure everyone knew that single payer was not even on the table when he began his remarks. This was not received warmly. There were no outrageous or even witty signs for either position. 10 people pushing Michael Moore’s film, “Sicko” on one side and Reform Health care on the other created a little levity in line when it was pointed out that they had misspelled Helth care. A quick laugh and a felt pen, problem solved. Signs were not allowed in the building but I did not see any of the radical posters prevalent at other Town Halls.
In fact the entire proceeding was pretty civil. One individual could not let a particularly odd speaker get his message out and was removed. Representative Thompson made a concerted effort that everyone have their chance be heard for about an hour and a half. In order to let as many people speak as possible demonstrations were discouraged so gauging the crowd’s position was sometimes difficult. I would put it at about a 60 40 split, single payer /pro reform being the 60. The other forty were a combination of concerned about the government taking over healthcare with a smaller percentage of, “healthcare violates the constitution “ way out types. One was wearing a , “Comrade Obama” bumper sticker on his T-shirt but there was not a lot of that type hyperbole. I went mostly to listen as for me the battle was lost when our fearless leader took single payer off the table with, “If we were starting from scratch of course single payer is better but we are not starting from scratch.”
The crowd chatted amiably waiting for the start. I spent a few minutes correcting a Reagan lover on the subject of deficits and selling arms to terrorists but all very polite. When Rep. Thompson began he laid out a few items then went right to questions. He stressed that we were not getting single payer socialized medicine and that the Government was not taking over health care. He gave his support to the public option again explaining that the public option was a premium supported alternative to private insurance and would not replace private insurance. He stressed that the reform would be paid for up front. As questions were raised he stated over and over that those happy with their Insurance could keep what they had.
The crowd laughed off the Republican woman that tried to bring up, “Death Panels” in the form of quality life year projections and the one nut yelling socialism periodically was met with derision. Of course it wouldn’t be Humboldt county without at least one person brining up legalizing cannabis. Tonight it was a young Marine that was discharged for using pot to treat his PTSD. His position was dismissed with laughter and Thompson made a bit of an ass of himself about it. There was also the obligatory protect the fetus cult member. I am sorry to say that all the house bills have the same defect in that none will cover the reproductive health of women.
Many people had nightmare stories about denied care, bankrupting deductibles and co-payments, and getting preexisting conditioned almost to death. A few had complaints about government care either the VA or military medicine but most were about insurance companies. Everyone on it was thrilled with Medicare. Mike was explaining to one individual that wanted the government completely out of health care that when it was put to a vote not one representative could be found to vote for the repeal of Medicare.
I am glad my Rep supports a public option. I am glad that my local community can have a productive dialog without the fringe hijacking the venue. That being said I am not confident that what I am hearing will go very far to solving the problems in our health care reimbursement system.