Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Real Discussion on Health Care

The US Congress is currently on recess. This is traditionally a time when federal lawmakers return home to hear from constituents and be seen in all the right places. A common vehicle for hearing from constituents is the town hall meeting. These are usually moderately attended affairs where federal representatives can have policy conversations with common citizens; opportunities for more than soundbites.

However, this recess has been different in that town hall meetings across the nation have been hijacked by groups of loud protesters. This has particularly been true of meetings with the agenda to discuss health care reform. The activity is far from spontaneous, a number of health industry lobbying firms have sponsored advocacy groups to encourage and coordinate the disruptions. And "disruptions" is the accurate word. In most of these encounters the Congress Person and anyone else who wanted to speak has been shouted down. This isn't discourse, it is bully boy tactics.

By contrast, an opportunity for real learning and discussion around health care reform will be offered next week in Newark, Delaware.

On Monday, August 10th at 6:30PM in the Unitarian Fellowship, 420 Willa Road, Newark, DE 19711 a health care training will be offered by Kathleen Stoll, Deputy Director of Families USA.

Families USA has been a nationally recognized source of expertise and advocacy around health care for decades.

Why should a blog primarily devoted to the politics around education and education employees concern itself about health care? Why should the DSEA parent organization, the National Education Association be a key member of Health Care for America Now?

Here in Delaware, as in other parts of the country, health benefits for education employees are under attack. This year, employees had a 50% premium hike imposed on them. Even if your contract makes the school district pick up the premium, that is money that could be used for salaries. It is also subject to tough negotiations the next time your contract opens up. Moreover, if you follow this blog, you know that the state is likely to go after more employee health costs in the next budget.

In the United States we are spending 17% of Gross Domestic Product on health care.
Last year health care spending rose 6.9%, twice the inflation rate. It is predicted that health care spending will be 20% of GDP by 2017. No economy can withstand this type of onslaught for long.

In state budgets health care spending and education are always the two big ticket items. The more health care spending rises, the more pressure is put on the rest of the budget, particularly the next biggest cost, education.

Finally, educators deal with the health care crisis everyday. For example, one in three US children lack dental insurance. How many are coming to school everyday with discomfort? How much of your mission to teach is made more difficult by untreated medical problems?

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