Saturday, June 02, 2007

Response to Luke Esser

The article in the PI about Obama's visit last night was great. Wish I could have made it, but I can't be everywhere. One particular set of paragraphs caught my attention, and it opens a door of opportunity.

Obama's health care reform plan, which he announced earlier this week and which would largely be financed by tax increases on the wealthy, drew a jab before his speech from state Republican Party Chairman Luke Esser.

"Barack Obama used his first big policy speech to call for a massive tax increase and a brand new tax on small businesses," Esser said. "It's nothing but the same old tax-and-spend politics we've seen from liberal presidential candidates for decades."

Taxes. What an evil word. How terrible that Democrats are calling on people
to pay their dues to society. How awful that we are calling for a foundation
under everyone's feet, one that supports people as much as they have a need,
paid for by those whose needs are taken care of.

Tell me, Luke. How would you pay for a Health Care system that provides coverage
and treatment for everyone, putting the needs of the sick over the desires of
the wealthy? Oh, that's right! "We oppose a universal government-run health
care system. We support a free-market solution to keep costs down through increasing
consumer choice and information. Health care is a personal issue and informed
individuals can make better decisions about their own health care than government
bureaucracies." "Health care is a personal issue, and informed individuals can
make better decisions about their own care than government. Republicans believe
in free market solutions that reduce health care costs by offering more information
for additional and better choices for consumers."
In other words, the Washington
State Republican Party believes
that Adam Smith will keep costs under control
for them, while letting the pharmaceutical companies, private and for-profit
hospitals and insurance companies, and our "well-educated population" take care
of our own problems, which will work itself out over time. And while it works
itself out, people will get sick, will lose time on the job forcing them to
choose between feeding their family or paying medical bills that just keep coming.
And at the same time we're all supposed to keep up with the Billions of (tax)
dollars of research and development that is happening at the National Institutes
of Health and around the world, so we can help our doctor (who probably has
at least 10 years of high-level medical education) make the decisions about
whether we will live comfortably or die miserably. Nice, Luke. This really shows
the values of the Republican Party well. Primary value: We don't really care
about people, it's just politically expedient to say that we do.

Let's put into perspective the actual position of the Democratic Platform on Health Care. "Healthcare is a basic right, and our government must assure accessible and affordable health care for all." Health care is NOT a personal issue. It's an economics issue. It's an issue for our entire society. When someone is sick, they can't work, which puts extra burden on everyone else who has to do what the sick person cannot. When someone is sick, they can't take care of their children, which puts an extra burden on family members, teachers and our neighborhoods who must give the love and attention that those children deserve.

Establishment of a comprehensive national healthcare plan, (as in HR 676: universal single payer healthcare) similar to Medicare and available to all, regardless of age or employment;

The key words are "available to all". Just like "Leave No Child Behind", we must never leave behind anyone when it comes to health care coverage. Nobody has the right to point at another person and say "you don't deserve coverage".

Development of a state health plan, assuring access to affordable, equitable healthcare for everyone, beginning with children, until a national plan is realized;

The Republican Congress between 1994 and 2006 has done more to deny our basic
rights than any other congress in history. Even given the problems that would
have come out of the plan that was brought forward in 1993 by the Clinton Administration,
it would have started to fix the fundamental problem. The way that Democrats
define the problem is that people don't have health care coverage, and thus
are limited in how close they can get to their potential. The way that Republicans
seem to define the problem is that people want health care coverage in the first
place. So by sitting on their hands over the last 12 years, one sixth of our
population now has no coverage at all. One in six people. That's not good enough
for the Republicans. They want even more people to be denied a healthy body,
mind and spirit.

Coverage including affordable prescription drugs, dental care, physical therapy and medical technology, available according to healthcare needs;

Medical doctors are only part of the picture. Every aspect of what keeps our bodies working right needs to be part of the coverage plan. If not, you tell me which aspect of health can be ignored. How about our eyes? Do we need to be able to see well when we drive, or should only those people who can afford glasses without any help be allowed to get back and forth to work? The Republican Platform has this statement: "All prescription drug purchases and health insurance premiums being fully tax-deductible." What about the crazy idea that purchases and premiums like this shouldn't have to come out of pocket at all?

Patient freedom of choice, including the right to obtain legally prescribed medications from any licensed pharmacy;

My grandmother is 94 years old, and she is suffering from congestive heart problems. As I type, she is in the hospital. Not just any hospital will do, however. It must be a Group Health hospital, which gives her two choices; Redmond or Tacoma. She lives in Kent. It's a half-hour or more travel distance from her home to either of these locations, every minute of which is uncomfortable for her. I'd rather she have the local hospital available, but because we have such a limited system that's not a choice we have. If I'm sick, or I change jobs and move to a different part of town or a different city altogether, I don't want to have to hunt through lists and make a bunch of phone calls to find out how far I have to travel to see a doctor, dentist or vision specialist. I just want to get healthy. The insurance companies spend a lot of money on advertising trying to get doctors and care providers to take their plans. The goal of course is to have every doctor available to every patient, so that the patient has the choice based on word of mouth and reputation which doctor they should go to. With universal coverage, that's not a goal on the horizon, it's a starting assumption. And we wouldn't be paying 30% of our health care dollars paying for that advertising and for paper pushers whose job it is currently to limit the opportunities and choices we have instead of making sure that we have healthy bodies, minds and spirits.

Inclusion of long-term care, home care and hospice, and support for caregivers as benefits;

Our elders have spent their lives in service to their families and their community.
The least we can do near the end of their lives is to make them as comfortable
as possible, without draining every last penny from their hard earned savings.
Right now we all have to plan for the eventuality that we will be laid up in
a nursing home watching our families suffer financially while we suffer physically.
What a terrible future to look forward to. We need to change that future into
one where our family members are shown the respect they deserve for the work
that they have done, and one that supports families by not destroying their
foundation to pay for that kind of care.

Parity for mental and physical healthcare, including treatment and education for drug, alcohol and tobacco problems;

The most healthy mind, with brilliant ideas and dreams, is limited only by
the opportunities that they are given to express and explore those ideas. And
it goes the other way as well. Sickness of mind and heart due to mental illness
is just as debilitating to a person's potential as being in a wheelchair. We
all recognize the need for everyone to have a healthy body, mind and spirit.
We should provide the resources to provide for all of those needs.

Full funding of current veterans and military hospitals and clinics, with expansion of services as needed by our returning troops;

Support our Troops has become a phrase thrown around like a gauntlet in a political
debate. Whenever it is said by a politician, it comes with lots of extra meaning.
I can almost hear the extra words under their breath. "I 'Support
our Troops
', while you don't." Supporting our troops means giving
them a mission that they can understand from beginning to end, top to bottom,
and empowering them to do their best to fulfill that mission with the best planning
and resource support available in the 21st century. Supporting our troops means
taking care of their families while they are away on those missions, making
sure that they are able to return to a healthy and loving home. Supporting our
troops means making sure they have the best training possible to let them avoid
injury while completing those missions. Supporting our troops means that if
they do get injured, they will be able to feel the secure foundation under their
feet. Our country needs to welcome them back with open arms, open hearts, and
open doors for whatever treatment, help and ongoing support they need in order
to feel proud of their service and the job they did serving our nation. Anything
that limits or denies that foundation under their feet should be examined, discussed
and eliminated from our cultural institutions. Full medical coverage for life
should be the least worrisome of that foundation.

Public health policy based on sound scientific guidelines, following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control, and organized plans for an effective response to major epidemics;

We don't employ witch-doctors in the 21st century. Every minute of training
that doctors receive is based in centuries of scientific study of what makes
us sick and what can make us healthy again. Diseases can spread through water
systems, air systems and through our social networks faster than we think they
can, and we need to be ready for whatever comes. This isn't a call to give up
our personal lives and freedom. It's a call to arms against a microscopic enemy
that can kill millions of people unless we respond rapidly and intelligently.
Remember the Black Death, or the 1918 Spanish Flu. This is not Hollywood. It's
life and death.

Restoration of funding and support for medical research, including stem cell research, to be based on scientific merit;

Sitting outside of the House and Senate chambers while the debate rages about
when life begins, in offices, homes and doctors offices, are millions of people
who suffer every day from disease and injury who could be helped. Sanctity of
life either extends from birth to death, or from conception to death. The Republican
Party would want us to believe that the "real debate" is about those first nine
months rather than the entirety of the 90+ years that we are actually alive
on this earth. This is not the abortion issue. This is about
people who are already here who need our help.

Restoration of funding and support of international family planning agencies within the United Nations.

One of the first things that President Bush did, on his first day in office, was to block federal aid to any foreign group that offered counseling or any other assistance to women in obtaining abortions. This wasn't about saving lives, it was about taking control away from the women who live in poverty and want to control how many children they have. It was about taking choices away from societies and cultures whose leaders know that only by giving those choices to their people can those people raise their standard of living and reach their potential. If a family cannot afford more children, they must be free to choose not to have more children. And it wasn't just about abortion. It was about any form of birth control at all. Even talking about family planning became a "sin" in the eyes of our Federal Government. We need to restore the power that women have over their own lives all over the world. We need to eliminate the necessity for abortions, not just forbid women from seeking options and choices.

Health Care is not my primary issue. But it is what got me involved in trying to rout the Conservative Movement and shove them into the history books as the primary example of how not to run a country. In 2003, I was diagnosed with Cancer. It affected my job, it affected my family, and it changed my life.

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