Monday, August 10, 2009

VIDEO: Blunt's Springfield Healthcare Meeting

Congressman Roy Blunt and healthcare reform advocate Kim Heckman both seem to agree that her daughter with pre-existing conditions should have access to some type of affordable healthcare coverage. But they disagree at the means to achieve that goal.
Last week, Blunt held a healthcare meeting at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. In fairness, (because it didn't get posted online last Thursday), I wanted to share our coverage of that event.
At the forum, Blunt continued to hammer away at his two key points: 1) The Democratic plan is too costly. 2) The Democratic plan allows an unfair government option. These points in themselves, are not really news. It's possible that I'm seeking nuance in a debate filled with hard and fast proclamations on both sides, but Blunt seemed to agree with a principle held by a demonstrator we spoke to outside: That people with pre-existing conditions should have coverage.
Because the meeting was primarily focused on how the Democratic plan would impact businesses, specific details of a Republican alternative were not outlined. But Blunt did indicate that his priority would be to cover the estimated 10 to 12 million people that "really can't get coverage in the system." "That's the priority right there -- the people with pre-existing condition, the people who can't afford to get into the system," Blunt said.
That would seem to include the daughter of Heckman, who suffers from Lupus, a disease that attacks the immune system. Heckman's daughter has a full-time job, but can't qualify for affordable insurance because of her pre-existing condition. Blunt may have a point that there's a way to provide insurance to these people first without exploding the deficit or lumping new taxes onto businesses trying to beat the recession. "I'm for a program that everybody has access to regardless of pre-existing conditions that they can afford," Blunt said. But Heckman may have a point when she says she doesn't see a specific plan to do that, and that Republicans should be clearer about their alternative. "I just don't see Roy Blunt coming up with any options but 'NO,'" Heckman told me. "Currently right now there's no public option for her, so she needs a public option."
For all intensive purposes, the Springfield Chamber forum seemed designed to preach to the choir. While all panelists were distinguished and knowledgeable, all four were also on the same side. Med-Pay's Gordon Kinne, Cox's Steve Edwards, St. John's Donn Sorensen and Congressman Roy Blunt all lead the presentation and criticized a "critically flawed" bill being "rushed to break what is fixed."
A representative from the Missouri Chamber also got to speak in opposition to the Democratic legislation. The proponents of a public option stood out on the street and were permitted to sit and watch the event. But Chamber members were given priority. In all, two local "progressives" got to ask questions. But the "progressive" movement in Springfield is not a well-oiled, sophisticated machine. And it often lacks the vision and clarity to seize on such an opportunity, as it did in this case.
If the liberals wanted to show their strength that day, they should have been armed with clear, direct questions designed to respectfully make their point. If the conservative business leaders wanted a truly open discussion, they should have invited at least one person with a differing view to sit on the stacked panel. Otherwise, it's just people holding signs outside and businesses griping to each other inside.

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