Saturday, August 22, 2009

Health Care Town Meeting NM01

The inside photos above and immediately below are from What's the Word's flickr pics of today's event. Thanks to the photographer (who may or may not be the Peter who put the link on the live blog).

On Saturday afternoon NMI hosted a live blog of Heinrich’s health care reform town hall meeting at the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education Building in Albuquerque. Click [here then click in the box indicated] to read a transcript of the conversation.
--New Mexico Independent

I had four small signs with me. The above graphic is one of them. No signs or placards were permitted inside the auditorium but I never made it in. The auditorium seats 600 and they put 300 in an overflow rooms with screens to watch it. Hundreds of us were turned away. I drove home and caught the second half online.

Heinrich was joined by Michael Richards, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UNM’s School of Medicine; John R. Vigil, CEO and medical director of Doctor on Call; and Paul J. Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation.
--New Mexico Independent

The two panelists who spoke the most, besides Heinrich, were Dr. Vigil and Mr. Gessing. Since I missed the beginning, it was not until later that I found out who these people are. I easily figured Gessing for a Libertarian by his comments and, sure enough, the Rio Grande Foundation is a libertarian-leaning group.

If you wish to see the detail and read the signs in any of the photos below, you may click on them to enlarge them.

Here is one view of the line just after I arrived. As I comment on these photos I am also scrolling through the live blog to see what others perceived. When Rep. Heinrich entered there were boos but they say those were drowned out. The MC was totally awesome, laying out ground rules at the beginning and being very clear about expected and demanded behavior, frequently breaking in to remind people to let people speak and act civilized.

Near the beginning Heinrich said, "Democracy is messy, but it sure beats the alternative." I heard him say it again in his closing remarks. He and legislators were accused by one speaker near the end of ignoring the Constitution and other laws. While I am sure none are perfect, I find it rather puerile to make such an accusation today after the blatant lawlessness on a grand scale of the previous White House administration/thugs.

It is evident in some signs and some remarks that some folks are really angry. Well, come to think of it, anyone who reads this blog knows that I am often furious, so fair enough. At least we care.

Just in case of emergency, we had the AFD present. The truck had just driven up right next to where I was standing in line. I was thinking, "Hmm, things could get hot." It was a warm sunny day. A good day to have a water bottle and avoid heat stroke.

The telly folks arrived just after the fire truck.

Marjorie Childress commented on NMI's live blog:
18 percent of GDP is spent on Health Care, Heinrich just said.
Some context: Gallup just came out last week with a report that 25.6 percent of New Mexicans have no private insurance.
Someone commented that there were over 100 viewers on the live stream; when I watched it was around 180. Not bad for a local event on a Saturday afternoon.

There was huge applause for the public option as well as boos. Most of the folks I saw in line were in favor of reform now. Some of the PRO signs were a bit snarky but most were simple and rational. ANTI signs were a bit heavier on the outrageous (and sometimes misleading). I saw at least two signs about not paying for abortions with government funds. Well, folks, that is not in any of the versions of bills under consideration, so you win: we won't include that. Now, wasn't that easy?

One commenter on the live blog asked: "Is this just going to be a debate between Heinrich and Gessing?" Based on what I heard online the answer is mostly, Yes. Gessing was a consistent naysayer but aside from his general anti-government stance I did not hear him offer solutions to our dilemma. But don't get me started on free-market fundamentalists.

Childress of NMI records: Dr. Richards: We pay for the care of uninsured in many ways. Long waits, uncompensated physician care--in my emergency department it results in lower wages, longer hours, they're in the lower-quartile of physicians. this health care is mandated now--at the E.R. So we do mandate it--but its incredibly expensive. 3 to 4 times more expensive than care in other nonacute venues

Someone challenged Heinrich about being in the elite of Congress with their health care. He responded (per the blog): "Heinrich: I'll take your bet and raise you one. First, I kept what I had before because [it's] better than what I got as a congressman, and if we get the bill in the house, I'd be happy to sign onto it. I think other folks for whom the answer is different, they ought to be able to pursue that also"

Heinrich: if we can't succeed in pulling all Americans into the pull, we won't succeed. If this doesn't pass, we won't stop. We can't wait another 20 years. We'll get everything we can, but we won't quit just because the President signs a bill.

Q: What about tort reform? Doctors have to raise their prices because of the insurance. Heinrich: The nonpartisan CBO under Bush said they thought it was about one percent. Texas has probably been as aggressive as anyone on that issue, and they still have out of control costs.

I think Heinrich is pointing out, in a genteel manner, that the fuss over tort reform is not an answer to health care costs. Tort reform is a big conservative thing and one that Dubya was very fond of. While we all know horror stories about outrageous legal action, most measures for "tort reform" take away one of the few tools that people have to defend themselves against damage, especially damage they suffer from the careless or outright evil actions of corporations. Thus tort reform becomes a method the powerful can use to insulate themselves from retribution for their wrongdoing, sold to the populace as something noble.

As I scroll through the live blog I learn the Gessing's group is one of those organizing teabaggers. As irritating as I found Gessing, it was clever of Heinrich to include him so no one can cry that they were excluded.

Gessing trots out the tired old canard about a massive federal system of health care being unconstitutional. I had my answer for that ready in one of my signs, shown immediately below.

If health care is not part of the general welfare, then WTF is?

Heinrich: there's nothing in the bill that I'm aware of thats unconstitutional. And there are plenty of attorney's to keep us honest. America is one of the best at innovation, and we need to foster that environment, we need the kind of R&D that drives advances. This is why you see this pragmatic careful approach to reform

This poll was included in the live blog. I am in the second category. I pay 100 percent of my premiums. That is just over $9600 a year (including dental and life insurance). For one person. Then I have my copays. Anyone wonder why I favor health care reform?

Just in case you came to this late, the event took place in New Mexico. Love the tat.

On why such a rush?
Heinrich: We started that discussion in 1992, thats hardly a rush. (Massive outcry from audience--boos and yeas)

On "death panel" (Gawd, what crock-of-shit framing!)
From's discussion of the death panel issue:
The fact remains that the bill wouldn’t require patients to receive counseling sessions, nor would it require a doctor to offer one. Rather, it modifies Section 1861(s)2 of the Social Security Act, defining what services Medicare will pay for. So if a patient receives a counseling session from a doctor or health care practitioner, he or she doesn’t have to pay for it – Medicare will. As we pointed out in our earlier story, Medicare will also pay for prosthetic limbs, but that doesn’t mean that every recipient gets those, too.

--Gwyneth Doland (NMI)

Heinrich: but we do need to get it right, which is why we said we need to take a month to talk to our constituent. On the death panel, this is the most disappointing tactic, at least if we read the bill we can look at where we agree and disagree. there is nothing in there that takes choice away. my dad is on medicare, if i subjected him to a death panel, i wouldn't be able to visit. I do think its important if someone wants to consult with their doctor in advance planning they should be able to (that last bit was a paraphrase--there's a woman constantly yelling in my ear. )

Heinrich: if we want to talk about rationing, lets talk about the rationing thats happening today. Health insurance companies push costs downstream, in a market where everything turns over every few years, there isn't enough stability in the system. We need a system where a health care pro is making the decision, not the government or a health care insurance company.

One of the most vocal hecklers just got his name called.

Q: I liked you on CIty Council, glad you went to WAshington, but you seem to have forgotten the mandate of the people, we sent you to DC to take care of business, not to socialize the medical system. We have spent over 80 billion dollars to bail out the auto companies, they still had to declare bankruptcies, (audience says ASK YOUR QUESTION! he says SHOW ME COURTESY). THis country is in econ. chaos, if you can't run the economy (in a nutshell) you expect us to give you our money to run socialized medicine?

Heinrich: I'll keep it short since that was for your benefit rather than mine. If I wanted to socialize medicine, we'd do single payer. We'd eliminate insurance companies, and that woudl be that. I dont' think it would pass, I don't even think its a good idea. But at least we can have an honest conversation and let people have the options. Medicare is a subsidized system, but if you look at the public option its a system that people pay into.

Augusta Meyer is the name of the woman who moderated this and she was awesome!

Well, there you have it folks: democracy in action here in Albuquerque.

Comments have been made over the course of the town hall meetings across the country that some protesters are merely voicing an anti-Obama stance. I would hazard a guess that this is true for the chap pictured here. His poster says nothing about health care, really, just expresses a muddled dislike. (OK, probably hatred.) It strikes me, though I cannot read his mind, that there is an element of lumping the non-pink people together, i.e., racism. He juxtaposes a "biracial" president with some other group he possibly despises (Muslims, who are not a racial grouping at all but are predominantly non-European). Then it gets jumbled with a political system presumably intended to fire up our remembered history of red-baiting. Sigh.

Now this is snarky, but I like it.

Ahem. May we discuss the trillions involved in Bush's optional invasion and occupation of Iraq that has shattered a nation and fucked our economy in order to enrich his cronies? Because if you are not going to go there then you really need to STFU on taking actions to salvage the American economy and the well-being of the American people. Just saying.

This woman was a few folks ahead of me in line. I slipped around to get this photo when it was obvious we were far from getting in to the event.

People just hanging in front after the doors were closed.

OK, peeps, there's my report. Keep on fighting for the general welfare!

--the BB


Jane R said...

Great post, Paul, thanks! A real slice of life. I think I will send the link to my family members overseas so they can get a feel for things.

I was going to write a post about our forum in Greensboro but haven't gotten to it yet - and I don't have photos. There was far less drama at our forum, though we did have two police officers in the back of the hall. (The forum was held at a union hall and was organized by another union, and boy were they well organized. Go union! And they were very good about allowing just two minutes for people's question.

Paul said...

Questions were also limited to two minutes at ours. Since it was on UNM property we had UNM police and ABQ police both keeping an eye on things. I saw your post about the union forum. Good on them.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

I shall have to come back to this post after church...

Fran said...

Wow- I am overwhelmed just reading and looking at your pictures.

There is so much misinformation and anger out there.

Nero fiddles, Rome burns and no one can get to the doctor for their burns because they have no health coverage.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

On the whole your report sounds OK. Let's hope for the best!

Paul said...

I believe Martin will vote appropriately. He knows what he believes. I think he could also see that while the anti faction was louder there were actually more people in favor of reform present inside and outside. I have nothing substantial to uphold this but my gut perception was 2 to 1 in favor.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Good reporting, Paul. Nice pics, too. You could be a photographer/reporter.

Our weenie rep, Charlie Melancon, won't have town meetings, because he fears rowdiness. This meeting shows that with a few simple rules and good enforcement of the rules, the meetings don't need to turn into near riots.