I was surfing the TV after the News Hour tonight when, from the comfort of my living room, I discovered Congressman Jim Moran introducing former Governor and Dr. Howard Dean to an audience of screaming people. The meeting was a live town hall meeting on health care reform in Reston, Va. on C-Span.
This show was better than any of the other fare on TV tonight. Drama: anti-abortionist Randall Terry and followers were shouting "Dean is a baby killer" and "We won't pay for murder." Moran explained Terry had announced his intent to disrupt the meeting, and that he would be escorted from the meeting unless he wanted an opportunity to ask a question and be part of the process.
Terry obviously opted not to be part of the process, and he was removed. The meeting remained lively, noisy and chaotic -- with a vociferous group vying for attention among the several hundred people there.
Moran persisted, laying out a number of myths about the health care reform bills. (Most of these were covered before I found the meeting but I hope he will publish them on his website.) Howard Dean made three points: Health care in the US is 70% more expensive than it is in other countries; many people have no health care; and the way to pay for health care is to eliminate the unnecessary procedures.
After that, Moran drew names out of three boxes (for, against and undecided about health care reform) to get questions from the audience. A pharmicist asked if the Governor supported medical therapy services, and Dean responded yes, and that using pharmicists and nurse practitioners was one way to reduce costs.
Several people asked Moran if he was willing to go on a public plan. He kept responding that, as a federal employee, he is on a public plan for which he pays about $6,000/year. People seemed miffed at this answer.
One man asked whether a system of medical cooperatives would be an acceptable compromise to a public option. Moran responded that this was not a substitute for a public option although there was nothing wrong with the idea. He said a coop would need 500,000 people and start up monies, and that there would be no private incentives for cooperatives to operate.
A woman saying she was the questioner asked "why don't we take $23 million out of bailout?" and then Moran realized she was not the questioner.
Moran answered a question about Part D saying that the pharmaceutical companies agreed to a deal with the bill negotiators that they would reduce the "donut hole" gap in coverage if the government would not require negotiation with drug companies for coverage. Moran said he preferred negotiation as users of Veterans Administration had been able to pay one third to one half of the drug costs because VA was able to negotiate with the companies.
Another person asked why not have a universal coverage without a public land. The response was that the Netherlands and Switzerland, which has no public plan but universal coverage, treats insurance companies like public utilities governing rates strictly.
Another person asked why is medicare so much in the red. Moran responded that medicare costs are rising slower than privately insured costs even though it is true that over time, medicare will run out of money. Medicare spents only 3% on administrative costs; private companies, 30%.
Tort Reform: The issue is how to stop frivolous lawsuits while still allowing people who have been injured by a doctor or hospitals to redress their grievances in court. Both politicians acknowledged that the congressional bill writers didn't want to take on the anti-tort reformers in this legislation. But they agreed tort reform was needed. Dean suggested a plan whereby people would go to arbitration, and the results of the arbitration - while not binding - could be evidence in a tort trial.
Moran claimed that the public plan would be paid for by the revenues coming in, although he did not explain how Congress would fund the subsidies for those who are unable to pay for the public plan and receive the sliding scale subsidies.
At the end of the meeting, Dean pointed out that this had been a good forum in the "spirited American tradition," and that both sides had behaved "pretty well."
After listening to this I tried to find the C Span feed; at the time of writing there was no feed but an announcement of the next time the event would be re-shown on C Span 1 -- several times on August 26, for example:
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