Virtually everyone agrees that the health care system in this country is broken. Health care costs have risen 4 times faster than wages in recent years. About 47 million people in the U.S. do not have health insurance. The underinsured comprise an even larger number. Health care costs are the biggest driver of the federal deficit.
Why, then, has the discussion about health care reform become so antagonistic? Why are people so angry about the health care proposals currently being considered in both chambers of Congress?
We had expected vigorous debate and thoughtful dialogue this summer on the merits of the various components of health care reform in Congress and across the nation. That’s how we develop consensus or compromise in a democracy.
However, as August draws to a close, we find ourselves immersed in a public debate characterized by misinformation, name-calling, and disruption of town hall meetings. The tone and content of the debate has turned ugly, very ugly. Legitimate questions are being drowned out by vocal, often rude, opponents, and advocates have not been consistently effective in articulating the “case” for reform. It seems that the discussion of health care reform is out of control.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, from FactCheck, pointed out in an interview on the Bill Moyers Journal on August 14, 2009 that the media has focused primarily on the protestors in its coverage of the reform debate. Therefore, much of the public’s knowledge about health care reform is coming from news stories about protests and polls taken about the news coverage, not from factual information or rebuttals by reform proponents.
This is not the way to develop good public policy. We need to listen to the fears and concerns of our neighbors—and the protestors. We must learn about the various proposals currently being considered in Congress, and we need to communicate our opinions to our elected officials in Washington. We must get involved in the dialogue and debate and remind everyone to focus on what all people need.
Truth-telling is a vocation in every faith tradition. We need to get the facts about the reform proposals to our families, congregations, neighborhoods, and the general public. It’s time for us to be vocal in our support for health care reform, based on what we’ve learned on our own and in dialogue with others.
The next 40 days are critical. Our hope for a health care future that includes everyone and works well for all of us is at risk. Each of us must do our part!
Please take action now. Sign on to “A Faith-Inspired Vision of Health Care,” and encourage others to sign. Visit the Campaign for Better Health Care web site and use its letter-to-the-editor tool to send a letter to your local newspaper. Write to or call your representative and senators to voice support for reform. Talk to your family and friends about taking action on this issue. Encourage your congregation to observe a Health Care Sabbath.
And, above all, challenge the negative messages out there by learning and telling the truth about this rare opportunity to create meaningful health care reform for all.