With the vote on health care reform looming this weekend in the U.S. House, our own Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann brought her “Hands Off Our Health Care” rally to Washington, D.C., Thursday to protest the Democratic proposal.
She promoted the rally on Fox television and talk radio to rail against what she and her supporters consider a government takeover of health care leading to socialized medicine. One of her conservative colleagues, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who was at the rally, recently said she found the health care proposal more frightening to her than terrorists.
And House Minority Leader John Boehner told the rally that the health reform measure “is the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen in 19 years.”
I have no problem with a good old-fashioned political protest. That’s what America is all about. But the overheated, and false, rhetoric from Bachmann and her political and media cronies is a bit much.
Their position on health reform is premised on the belief that there isn’t much wrong with our current system that a few tinkers here and there can’t fix.
But 46 million uninsured is more than a little problem. And spending that is thousands of dollars per patient higher than any other country is not a small issue. Nor is out of control growth of health care spending. Nor is the problem that people with preexisting conditions have getting covered. Nor is the fact that America ranks 37th in health care outcomes.
And as anyone who is an independent contractor or between jobs can tell you, it’s not easy to obtain reasonably priced health insurance. Unlike our counterparts in Europe, Japan, Canada and Israel, we have yet to reach the consensus in this country that access to health care is a right. Just this afternoon, I heard one of our local talk radio hosts refer to health care reform as just another unnecessary entitlement.
We have great doctors and nurses and research centers, but we have a defective health care delivery system and a problematic coverage system. No amount of shouting about socialized medicine and how “they” are going to take our freedom away will change those facts. And neither will the status quo. The reason that insurance companies, which haven’t fixed the system all these years, are willing to go along with many reforms this year is because they will have millions of new customers to spread the cost and the risk.
Not wanting to be labeled as obstructionists or the party of “no,” Rep. Bachmann’s House Republicans this week put forth their own minimalist reform proposal which would not explicitly prohibit insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It would also not require employers to offer health insurance or require people to obtain it. Thus, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it would have little impact extending coverage to millions of uninsured.
As for socialized medicine, one recent news report said that despite the controversy over the so-called public option in the House reform bill, it might only affect a few million people. Some of the protesters today complaining about socialized medicine and government control of health care were on Medicare, the highly successful government-run health care coverage for seniors, according to news reports.
Health care reform efforts in the House and Senate are neither perfect nor cheap. We can argue about details. But it’s past time to delay attempting to solve our health care crisis. Supporters need to make their views known. This is the year to make changes. It would be a shame if Bachmann and her noisy allies were able to shout down the most important health reform effort in a generation.