As lawmakers begin their month-long recess this week, conservatives are making a concerted effort to derail town hall meetings being held by Democrats on health care reform across the country, according to the Center for American Progress.
Last week, The Progress Report obtained a leaked memo from a volunteer with Tea Party Patriots, a website sponsored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) (led by a former associate of Jack Abramoff) and FreedomWorks (led by former Republican Majority Leader and current lobbyist Dick Armey). The memo detailed how town hall goers should infiltrate meetings and harass Democratic members of Congress. The memo said activists should “stand up and shout out and sit right back down” so the representative is “made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.” The overall goal, said the memo, is to “rattle” the elected official.
The published memos are similar to talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks that push an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by AFP, is busing people all over the country to protest health care reform. America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry, is also sending staffers to monitor town halls in 30 states. Meanwhile, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR), led by disgraced hospital executive Rick Scott, is running a national campaign against a public health care option.
Two nights ago, Reps. Steve Kagen (D-WI) and Steve Driehaus (D-OH) had to face down angry mobs. Kagen, whose town hall was targeted by the Wisconsin chapter of AFP, was “repeatedly disrupted” by “incomprehensible” shrieks and shouts from conservatives.
I personally don’t have any problem with conservatives protesting policies that they do not agree with. What I do take issue with however is the fact that these demonstrations are being to at least some extent orchestrated and pushed by the insurance industry and other health care lobbyists that have a strong financial stake in maintaining the despicable status quo.
Also, being on the right side of the issue is important. While these conservative protesters may be genuinely concerned about greater government involvment in health care, I think they are either incredibly selfish (in not wanting to help those who are unnecessarily suffering and dying due to the failings of our current system) or more likely simply ill-informed on this issue.
Even a brief look at the dismal state of the health care system in the U.S. should make the need for a far more massive overhaul than the Democrats are currently proposing obvious. Here are just a few statistics that was I able to quickly throw together:
- Leaving health care to the market has left 47 million Americans without coverage and tens of millions more underinsured.
- Since the economic crisis began, and estimated 14,000 Americans are loosing their insurance every day.
- The Urban Institute estimates that the lack of insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in the U.S. every year.
- Medical bills are behind more than 60 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S.
- We spend more per person on health care than any other country in the world, but lag behind many other industrialized countries in virtually every health statistic you can think of. For example, according to an article in the Washington Post: “Infant mortality in the United States is 6.8 per 1,000 births, more than twice as high as in Japan, Norway and Sweden and worse than in Poland and Hungary.”
Visit Healthcare-NOW! or Physicians for a National Health Program to learn more about what I think is truly needed in this country: Single-payer national health insurance. And if you care about real reform, make your voice heard at these meetings as well. A calendar of these events can be found here.