Obama Transition: Health Care Community Discussions

By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

The Obama transition and Secretary of Health and Human Services-designate Tom Daschle are stimulating a nationwide discussion on the future of health care in America. Hundreds, maybe thousands of such discussions have been held. The purpose is to get input from citizens and feed it back to the health care transition team.

Yesterday I hosted and facilitated such a discussion at my town’s library. I’d invited the 150-some subscribers to the e-mail discussion list my husband founded more than 10 years ago and that I now manage. Despite some rather nasty weather, seven people showed up and we talked for an hour and a half.

Here is the summary portion of the report I sent back to Obama/Daschle.

We agreed, without dissent, that we want a single payer universal health care coverage system independent of employment. We believe that tying health care to a job means more illness in a time when jobs are disappearing, and that requiring US employers to pay for employee health insurance when those in other countries do not puts US businesses at a competitive disadvantage. We agreed that we would be willing to pay more in taxes to cover our health insurance if we didn’t have to pay it out of pocket and suggest that the amount allocated to health insurance should be listed as a separate line item on the IRS Form 1040.

Interestingly, four of the seven introduced themselves by saying they didn’t want “socialized medicine,” and then proceeded to describe the system they wanted. What these people were objecting to is the term, which is the term opponents of single-payer universal health insurance use to make it unpalatable, not the idea of joining the rest of the industrialized world by making health care a universal right.

Some of us told of experience with health care in other countries (Canada, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and Italy) where were treated for free even though we were only visiting. We agreed that we want anyone who needs medical attention in this country to get it, regardless of nationality and immigration status.

I wouldn’t have organized this meeting if I wasn’t confident that our report will be read and our choices considered. I’m not saying we’ll get what we want, but I know we’ll be heard.

I wonder how many other groups went for unrestricted universal single payer health care.

If you took part in one of these discussions, please tell us about it.  If you didn’t, please tell us what you think.  The comment space is yours.

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One Response to “Obama Transition: Health Care Community Discussions”

  1. When people use the emergency room for a sick visit instead of seeing a doctor because they know they can’t be turned away from the hospital, it sort of says it all.  When you are sick you need access to health care, not emergency services. Our current system creates unecessary chaos.  I want nothing less than what Canada has had for years.  I am not denigrating our great nation, but has anyone noticed that Americans have traveled for better prescription prices up north for yrears?  They must be doing something right and smart money says we could learn a thing or two by studying Canada’s health care access experiences.

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