09/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Last Story on Reforming Health Care: We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

I just returned from visiting several countries and spoke to citizens from England to India while away. In each country there exists a government run plan, paid for by tax dollars, that co-exists with private insurance plans for those who wish better coverage and who can pay for it. While many told me health care is "free", it really isn't since the taxing structure varies from 20% to a high of 60%. Of course, the lower range here fits into our present taxing structure. What is also of significance is that those who I spoke to from the U.K. really like their NHS (National Health Service) that is supplemented by private insurance on an as-pay basis. While all these chats occurred, I was able to see much of what, and how, Fox TV was reporting on the raucous taking place at town hall meetings in various parts of the country. Blended into this was the lack of intelligence from such pundits as Coulter, Hannity and their minions. Such a juxtaposition left me wondering why, for example, the Fox TV type reporting does not track what I was being told first-hand by citizens of several countries. Of course, I then answered my own inquiry: those who oppose health care reforms do so because it will bring victory next year for those running for public office who support reform. The opposite is equally true -- if health care reform fails, those opposing it now will likely succeed in their bids for elected office then. And all the while, the "poker chip" in the arena in which health care reform sits is the health, safety, and lives of every American. We should all bristle at the thought that the game of politics here uses our lives and very health as if they meant nothing than being elected or defeated for public office. Recall the memorable line in the movie of some years past, Network: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more". Well, the month of August is time for all who support health care reform to stand up and utter the same line, only with respect to telling elected officials to stop using our health and lives as nothing more than poker chips for next year's elections.

I no doubt believe that some who have spoken up at these meetings speak from the heart; others no doubt speak because they are influenced to say what they have said by others, particularly those who oppose what President Obama is trying to achieve. All sides require an audience, but all sides to an issue as well must be respectful of dissenters and their ability to be heard. After all, this is the Democratic way and what the First Amendment provides.

Having listened to the Fox TV channel reporters and pundits, and then those who vociferously were trying to preclude supporters of health care reform from speaking out reminded me of what FDR said decades ago: we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The debate over health care reform has turned to politics of fear and fear-mongering, instead of focusing on facts and reality. What FDR said years and years ago is no less true today when it comes to health care reform than when he put forth those words. Those opposing reform fear it because, well, they fear -- fear. For example, when speaking about the public option, immediately we hear that the government is taking over health care; that we are becoming a socialized nation (like in England and in Canada); that a public plan will be used to fund abortions; or that public finds will be used to advance euthanasia. Each one of these propositions is false, inaccurate and dishonestly stated. They are flat out lies. Add to this list what (Sarah) Palin has said about "death panels" and that we want our doctors to treat us, not some bureaucrat or insurance company. For all those reading this story, let me tell you first hand that Palin knows not of what she speaks! She is a buffoon on these points. Let me refer you to three United States Supreme Court decisions where the issue of managed care companies making decisions on how to treat patients was a focus point: Carle Clinic v. Herdrich, Aetna v. Davila, and Cigna v. Calad. I should know, since I was a legal counsel for one of the amicus (friend of the court) parties who filed a legal brief in these cases. And, let me refer you to government-run programs from which no one runs: Medicare, SCHIP, and coverage for our brave women and men in uniform. When was the last time an opponent of health care reform wanted to eliminate these programs?

Another tidbit. To those of us who are insured, know that the premiums we pay and the services provided by doctors and hospitals have built into them a percentage that will cover those 47 million+ who obtain free health care because they have no insurance or who cannot afford insurance. Do we still want to waste our hard earned income or trust fund accounts in this manner? Surely not.

We have also heard that we need tort reform, since that is driving up health care costs. I have studied this cause and effect relationship for over 20 years, including five years as chair of a committee of a large professional organization that looked into this. There is no meaningful linkage between tort reform and lowering health care costs. Equally specious is that by placing limits on certain damages, there will be lower health care costs. There are states which have such "caps" yet the costs of health care continue to spiral out of control there -- as in those states which do not have any such limits.

Again, Americans are more influenced by those who profit from fear than fact. That is why, I surmise, those individuals and corporate interests and their backers who don't want health care reform just criticize reform without showing the nation what will work.

To sum up, I titled this piece as a last story. It is "last" because when fear takes over for fact and reality, there is nothing new to say over what has been told. Our only recourse is to return to the basics: health care is a right, or basic service, for all Americans or those seeking citizenship in earnest; that without reform, millions more will need health care they can't afford and our system of health care will go bankrupt; that a public option is intended to co-exist with the private market so that there will be sufficient competition to drive down costs of premiums and health care services; that there will be no exclusions for pre-existing conditions; there will be no rescission of health insurance coverage by insurers once medical care has been rendered and received by a patient; that it will be more costly for an employer to provide only a public plan to the exclusion of what they currently offer their employees than a public plan together with the various plans presently offered; that there exists sufficient motivation for those providers to stay as providers as well as incentives for those seeking careers in the health care professions; and that we as Americans take responsibility for our own health -- if that takes some sort of incentive too, then it must be included now in any reform package.