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Dr. Hector Bruce: Tele-town hall call fostered fear, not solutions

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Posted: August 29, 2009 9:37 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Dear Rep. McKeon:

I was terribly disturbed by statements made during your tele-town hall meeting on Monday, Aug. 17.

You tolerated, if not encouraged, behavior in a manner promoting partisanship, anger, fear and confusion about an issue near and dear to the hearts of all Americans and one where we should all have common ground.

You allowed a poor Medicare-fearful gentleman to remain anxious about something you and I both know is not true.

HR 3200 notes that your "practitioner," not the government, will sign any papers designating your wishes with regard to end-of-life issues - just as is currently practiced, except your practitioner will now get paid.

You could have noted that past health care legislation supported by most Republicans contained the same language.

But no, you chose to fuel the fire and say nothing to set the facts straight.

Why do you feel this is necessary?

Can't we all objectively sit back, take a reasoned look at all sides of the issue, identify what we share in common and begin to identify the evidence about the issues we disagree?

I regretfully must say that it appears my representative prefers rancor and argument to sound consideration and logic. It is said that tyrants govern by fear, anger and divisiveness while statesmen do so by patience, reason and consensus building.

The comments below represent the alternative, and I believe more reasoned, perspective raised only once by a caller challenging U.S. versus other nations' health outcomes.

Your guest from Georgia, Rep. Tom Price, poorly dodged that challenge by citing America's favorable international statistics but omitting others like infant mortality, maternal mortality, overall life expectancy and life expectancy at ages 40 and 65.

The appropriate response, in my opinion, would have been to acknowledge that we spend twice as much and still have poor statistics, which is a reflection of why need to address this problem now.

Even Republican strategist Frank Luntz advised you not to say there is no problem.

Instead of identifying areas of commonality, you allowed Dr. Price to distort the truth by fact selection.

I am also a physician and am embarrassed that on my "watch" these last 30 years, this demise in U.S. health care has happened. We need to solve it together - honestly.

1. In response to the question about providing nonemergency care to undocumented immigrants: You should have noted that HR 3200 does not contain any provision to do so.

However, from a cost/compassion/public health perspective, it is better to treat them because it would cost more to try to screen them out and reject them.

More importantly, medical personnel do not want to become policemen.

Like Christ, we choose not to discriminate by race or class among those who need our services.

We believe all who suffer need care.

2. Concerning the question about the impact of the proposed legislation on the small businessman like myself: Most studies - including a recent publication funded by the Lewin Group titled "How to Structure a ‘Play-or-Pay' Requirement on Employers: Lessons from California for Health Care Reform," from Berkeley Labor Center performing industry sponsored research - concluded that overall a "play or pay" insurance system would be good for small business and only be problematic for those employers who achieve an unfair advantage over their competitors by not providing coverage, and to a small degree for those employing only minimum-wage workers.

To the businessman caller concerned about how much to "pay" if you choose not to "play:" You failed to provide the specifics that could ease his anxiety because his income would probably not be overburdened and he would obtain more worker security.

Clearly, there must be a right balance that can be achieved by sincere examination, but many in our democracy including yourself appear to be more interested in polarizing us.

Why would you wish to do so except to promote partisan divisiveness?

3. We readily trust government to provide our security locally and nationally in the police and military as well as the fire department.
What can be more in need of security than our health?

Even the seniors in the tele-town hall trusted their Medicare, a government-run program; so government seems to be doing something well.

Responsible behavior would have called for pointing out that fact.

4. I would enjoy seeing any reference that verifies Congress would be exempt from participating in whatever program is being offered to us, as you alluded.

5. Another senior feared a change in Medicare. You could have noted that Medicare Advantage Plans have failed to provide an advantage for anyone except the insurance carriers.

Before they get more of our seniors' money, shouldn't we make sure it will make a difference in their health?

Rep. McKeon, I would have hoped the oath of office you took would extend to serving all of us, rather than an opportunity to be partisan and self-serving.

My heart goes out to my fellow 25th District members who have been manipulated, confused and made anxious by your failure and the failure of many other politicians to assist, rather than polarize, us as we address this both very personal and very national problem.

I urge my fellow citizens to realize that we are all in this together; the system must serve us all.

We are already paying twice as much for health care as anyone else on planet Earth; most certainly we can do better.

Dr. Bruce Hector is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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