Ann Leavine: Fear threatens health care reform |

Ann Leavine: Fear threatens health care reform

Ann Leavine

I attended Sen. Bennet’s town hall meeting on health care reform last week in Frisco. While there were clearly opposing views, there was a consensus, or at least a majority view, about a number of issues.

• The current system is not working for many of us

• People should not lose their coverage because they become sick

• People should not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions

• Insurance and other health care costs have sky-rocketed and impose a sometimes crushing burden on families and small business

• Health care reform needs to be implemented in a fiscally responsible manner

It is clear most people favor health care reform.

The most divisive issue was the inclusion of a public insurance option in the reform plan, and many of those who opposed it were clearly Medicare eligible. I struggle to understand how Medicare recipients can in good conscience oppose a public insurance option. I have never met a Medicare beneficiary who would forego their benefits and I know many people who literally count the days until they are Medicare eligible. And yet the same people often leap to the conclusion that a public insurance option will be inferior and yet run all private insurers out of business. I cannot find a single cohesive explanation of why this would be so. Even with Medicare, which is our only U.S. example of the much maligned universal single payer system (which is not what the Obama administration is proposing in this reform bill); the private sector has found its niche in the Medicare supplement market.

I left the meeting with the strong belief that many folks views on health care reform are shaped primarily by fear. Fear that their coverage will change, that their costs will go up, that their care will be rationed or that they will be forced into something that they don’t understand. But we cannot fail to address these critical issues because we are afraid of change. The status quo is not stagnant. Your coverage will change – if you get sick, change jobs, change insurance companies; your costs ARE going up; your care is already rationed by your insurance company; and health care and insurance coverage is already too complex for most Americans to truly understand. When folks say what is the rush, I shake my head. Ask someone with a pre-existing condition, a child with a long-term illness or a change in job status – what’s the rush? This has been a crisis issue in our country for decades and we have put our heads in the sand.

I applaud Sen. Bennet for politely and constructively responding to all speakers at the meeting. I hope that those who are fearful of change will turn off their televisions and take advantage of these opportunities to speak directly with their representatives about this important issue. Challenge them, listen to them and then hold them accountable.

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