To POTUS: We Are ALL Afraid

05/25/2011 01:50 pm ET
  • Deane Waldman Physician, systems theorist and award-winning author


Dear Mr. President:
There are 'signs' everywhere: from violent town hall meetings to the passionate print media and fiery blogs. Your people are angry and as Spider Robinson wisely quipped, "Anger is always fear in disguise." The people are afraid ... of your plans for healthcare.

Please note. The anger is coming from both sides: for and against your health care bill. Reformers say that it does not go nearly far enough and those against it see it as ill conceived and a government take-over. BOTH are scared.

The people are not stupid. We know that the government cannot reduce true costs. We also know that the government cannot reduce expenditures at the same time that it expands insurance coverage to cover 46 million uninsured. You cannot spend and reduce spending at the same time.

Speaking of the uninsured: ten of that 46 million are eligible for already existing government insurance programs. They chose not to enroll. How are you going to deal with them?

The people are not stupid but we are scared. We are all acutely aware of our severe economic recession. Yet you promise to make it worse by increasing taxes, reducing payments, and pushing the deficit even higher. No wonder we are scared -- scared we will have no money for food, rent, gas or for the healthcare insurance premiums the public option will charge.

We are not stupid but we are confused. We hear that the uninsured will be covered "for free." We also hear that the public option will compete with private insurance. This means it will charge premiums. Otherwise how can one compete against "for free?" Must we remind you that millions of people could not afford the premiums in the first place? Which is it: premiums or for free? If health care is free, what incentive will people have to economize?

We are not stupid but we are dizzy. First you say that we must reduce healthcare costs; then you focus on the need to provide health insurance to the uninsured; and now we hear from Secretary of HHS Sebelius that the public option -- covering all the uninsured -- is "not the essential element" and may not even be in the final Bill. This merry-go-round of words is making our heads spin.

We are especially scared that what you are doing will reduce both our health and our health CARE. There is nothing in AAHCA about personal responsibility; you do not reconnect us with our money; nothing addresses the reasons for out-of-control healthcare costs; there are no incentives for a healthy lifestyle. There are, however, powerful incentives for hospitals to close and providers to quit.

Steal (okay borrow) a line from the film American President and announce, "I'm throwing AAHCA out and writing a bill that makes sense." Start an extended ground level national dialogue. Our country was founded on principles. Health care does not have any, certainly none on which we all agree. Help us create a consensus of principles upon which a new "uniquely American" health care system will be developed: one that we own and that we can accept without fear because WE will create it.

Pretty much everyone outside the Beltway.

PS. If we sound angry, it is because we are scared.