Sunday, September 06, 2009

Health Care Event in Bristol

Yesterday (Saturday) at Lions Park in Bristol Congressman Patrick Murphy appeared at an event sponsored by Penn Action and Bucks Voices for Health Care Reform. The Bucks County Courier Times has an article on the subject, "Few minds changed at health care rally," by: Jo Ciavaglia

Comments categorized below.

Most important: Congressman Murphy arrived after the event was underway and a few other people had spoken. He had his young daughter with him. He explained this was because his wife, seven months pregnant, went to the ER Friday night. I hope all goes well with them.

Murphy’s remarks (either at the podium or when he was talking with people in the crowd): He will only support a health care bill that is deficit neutral, closes the donut hole, and helps small businesses. He wants to do what is necessary to meet this national challenge. In response to shouted questions he said that tort reform is in the Gordon amendment. Someone else commented on government regulation, Murphy replied that the stock market crisis happened because of dropped regulations. A local hospital, Lower Bucks, gave $10 million in uncompensated care last year. Each day 510 Pennsylvanians are kicked off of their health insurance every day. He supports a public option and would go on the public option.

I’ve heard Patrick Murphy speak a number of times over the past four years and his voice was uncharacteristically strained and hoarse. That is probably due to the family situation. After he spoke he moved though the crowd, talking with people and taking more questions. Several people expressed their support for him, most, but not all, were civil – more on this later.

Other speakers:

The program opened with chanting. [blogger’s note: I stopped doing “what do we want / when do we want it” chants when I was 20. These days the only chanting I do is Gregorian.] The first speaker was a minister who gave an invocation.

Second up was a nurse practitioner at a local clinic. A fourth of her patients have diabetes, 2% have cancer. Some have to quit their job to get treatment. Murphy has steered money towards the clinic.

Third was a man who has owned a small business for 30 years. Due to the recession he has had to lay off workers. They are in COBRA but when it runs out what will they do? One has a diabetic wife. The worker took $10K from his retirement to cover medical bills. There is a steep financial penalty for that unless you pay it back within a year. The owner and his wife pay $1500 / month just for their own health care. He wants a public option.

Next was a woman who lives with her husband in a retirement home. HB 3200, the proposed health care bill, closes the Medicare donut hole. Her husband has to pay $900 a month for one prescription.

Murphy spoke at his point.

After he spoke and left the microphone there were a few other speakers. I only caught part of what two of them said. One spoke about the death of her niece who had lost her health insurance when she lost her job. The niece had been too embarrassed to tell her family and didn’t seek treatment as soon as she would have had she had insurance. I wandered off at that point to follow Murphy and the crowd.

Those attending: Most of those who came out were well-behaved. There were several people sitting on benches scattered around the edges of the gazebo where speakers stood. A number of people had signs that said various things. One man was carrying a sign that said Matthew 25 31 46. He walked up to someone with a camera and said something about sheep and goats. It’s not a lottery number but refers to the 31st through 46th verse of the 25th chapter of the Biblical Matthew. That passage contains the “when did we see you sick?” phrase. It is hard to put it in context without including the entire passage. If it isn’t familiar to you it’s worth the read. And there are sheep and goats in it.

The sound system was not powerful enough and it was sometimes difficult to hear the speakers with soft voices. I had to keep moving up to catch what people were saying over the background chatter. As the pastor was giving the opening prayer some people were talking loudly, a few started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Someone went around telling people to be quiet during the prayer.

When the small businessman spoke he mentioned that feelings were running hot and that maybe when the speakers were finished we could all jump in the river and cool off. Someone shouted “you first!”

At one point when a speaker was mentioning the proposed legislation some shouted “Apollo wrote it!” (In case you don’t keep up with conspiracy theories this is one of the latest). Then the same person shouted “ACORN wrote it.” I’m not sure if she was suggesting it was a group effort from both organizations or if she was voicing more than one theory. Someone else repeated “ACORN wrote it.” Another person in the crowd shouted back “You don’t know what ACORN is.”

When Murphy was talking informally to people after leaving the podium and said that Lower Bucks Hospital had spent $10 million in uncompensated care, a woman said “on illegal aliens!” Then she got very close to Murphy and yelled “Read the bill!” He said he had and there was a tabbed up copy in his car. She just shouted “Read the bill!” again. How does one respond to that? What kind of proof would she require to stop shouting that in his face? And when did that become acceptable behavior anyway?

One woman was being particularly noisome when an older, woman behind her said “I love my socialized health care.” I could read all of sign but presume she is on Medicare. The first woman said “Go to Canada. Lazy bum!” The woman protested that she had worked for 35 years. The man in front of them started a “Liars be quiet!” chant which did not help matters. Shortly after that a man with a sign reading “What would Jesus do?” The woman who had made the ”lazy bum” comment shouted “What would Jesus do? Throw you out.” Her friends and family must consider her a treasure.

A man in a tie dyed t-shirt and a red bandana on his head told Murphy that both Republicans and Democrats were the same; they were all working for the same special interests. After Murphy left he shouted the same thing to anyone who would listen.

I overheard part of one interesting exchange between a man and a woman. He said he hoped we didn’t end up with a system like England, where women had to have babies in elevators because they couldn’t see a doctor. The woman said she had never heard that. The man said if she had a computer she should look online because it was all there. The conversation went on a little longer and the man told the woman he hoped her health stayed good until she could go on Medicare. The disconnect there is somewhat startling.

There were a lot of suggestions on reading material. Besides the passage from Matthew and health care bill someone recommended Robert Reich and there were a few others I didn’t write down. Almost everyone with a deeply held viewpoint seemed to back it up with a source that would explain everything.

Even after reading about health care meetings and seeing snippets on tv I was really shocked by the reprehensible behavior. Surely these people must be able to go about their daily business without shouting things at people. Hopefully none of them teach or operate heavy machinery. Do people really believe that every dollar in uncompensated care at a local hospital goes to illegal aliens? Can anyone who has read the New Testament say “Jesus would throw you out!”?

My suggestion for townhall meetings on this topic, and any other than brings out this kind of behavior is to require questions in writing or give everyone who wants it one minute to expound on their heartfelt and passionate beliefs but they then must sit quietly for the rest of the meeting.

The Setting: The park is along the river and on such a temperate day it was beautiful. Parking was easy to find and there is a really interesting mural on a building near the park.

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