By Peter Bauer
On Tuesday, August 18th, I had the pleasure of attending a town hall meeting of my local congressman Peter DeFazzio. For those of you who don't know Peter D, he's a hometown hero, voting against war, the stimulus (too much of a corporate giveaway), and even NAFTA when it was first drafted. Despite his Democratic standing, DeFazzio usually identifies with libertarians such as Ron Paul.
The meeting was surprisingly smooth, with few uproars from a crowd. The first was when an audience member quoted Fox News, the second when a gentleman was concerned with Planned Parenthood's influence in the health care debate (yet he wasn't concerned with the Insurance Industry's influence. Hmmm). Despite the general civility of the meeting, it was enlightening.
The most surprising fact I learned at the meeting was that the Insurance Industry is the exempt from anti-trust laws! According to the 1944 McCarran-Ferguson Act, this industry can legally collude to set prices and determine who gets covered and who doesn't. Insane! DeFazzio has repeatedly tried to create a bill to repeal this act, but is yet to find a Republican free-market capitalist willing to make the insurance giants plan by the rules every other industry follow.
On top of this, many insurance policies have a "Lifetime Benefit" cap, meaning that someone who is insured could find themselves without coverage later in life before they are eligible for Medicare benefits.
Additionally, of the 40-50 uninsured Americans, 70% of them are actually working. Small businesses struggle stay in business will providing adequate benefits- one of the main reasons why reform is necessary.
Health care coverage has double in cost over the last ten years, and it is on pace to double again in the next decade. That means for a family of four to receive coverage, they will have to pay nearly $25,000 per year by 2020.
Many of us know that administrative fees generate nearly 1/3 or $350 billion dollars of the annual cost of health care. DeFazzio explained that at his own doctor's office, there is an equal number of clerical and medical staff. Under HR 3200, many of the insurance forms and medical records would be streamlined using online tools and a uniform insurance form.
Eugene has long been known for it's liberal politics, and this event had no shortage of thought provoking signs and banners displayed by those in attendance. One sign said "Who would Jesus heal? Everyone." Another said "Health Care is a Human Right." My favorite said "If you hate single payer health care, turn in your Medicare card here."
At the end of the meeting, I couldn't help but feel like the health care debate is very much like the anti-war sentiment: despite the will of the people, Democrats are so heavily funded by corporate interest that no real change will take place. I feel fortunate to have elected officials from my state willing to go to bat for their constituents, but part of me feels like I've seen this movie and know how it will end.