Insights and Updates from the Patients First Bus Tour
A year ago, I never imagined that a bill proposing a massive government-run health insurance plan and threatening to dissolve the private insurance market would be making its way through Congress. Just as I never imagined government would ever have the power to mandate health insurance coverage for every individual, that a Washington bureaucrat could ever decide a doctor’s salary, or that the American people would be subsidizing abortions. Yet even more unexpectedly than this sudden threat of unchecked government expansion, I find myself a year later standing in front of hundreds of people in strong opposition.
I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to join Americans For Prosperity on the first leg of the Patients First Bus Tour of North Carolina. A recent college graduate, I have spent most of the past year working in health care policy research, writing articles and blogs, and driven mostly by my own belief in free-markets and limited government. The two days I spent on the tour were unlike any experience I’ve ever had, giving me a new and humbling perspective on the work of the policy analyst.
In two days we visited nine cities: Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Hickory, and Asheville on Monday, and Hendersonville, Shelby, Lincolnton, Gastonia, and Charlotte on Tuesday. At each stop the bus was met by hundreds of people who gathered in the hot Carolina sun to demonstrate their opposition to the current Obama health care plan. The astoundingly large turnouts provided a concrete representation of what the polls have already demonstrated – a great majority of North Carolinians are strongly opposed to the Obama health care reform plan and want the government’s hands off their health care.
The people signed petitions, proudly held up signs, and shared their concerns and stories with others. Many had read the thousand-plus page bill, and even brought excerpts of the text with them outlining some of the most shocking regulations and mandates. There were several guest speakers at the event, including Mayor Pat McCrory in Charlotte, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, as well as other state representatives and medical professionals. The discussion began with an overview of the inefficiencies and unsound economic basis of the government plan, the expected long term cost of the reform proposal, and the anticipated reduction in quality and availability of care.
One fundamental concern was the government proposal to fund the new plan by making deep cuts to programs like Medicare – unwelcome news to seniors who will likely be the first to feel the immediate and negative effects of the new plan. Many were taken aback by the story of a 57 year old man in Canada who was denied a hip replacement because he was deemed too old to justify the cost; or the story of Barbara Wagner, a resident of Oregon – which functions on a government run health system. She was denied chemotherapy treatment for her cancer by the state, but was offered drugs to end her life.
Those who believe the opposition is satisfied with the status quo are mistaken; the reality is we have even more radical reforms to contribute. The purpose of the bus tour was not only to question the merits of the proposed government plan, but also to offer alternative free-market solutions. The fact is many of the problems facing the health care industry, including rising costs and lack of competition are the direct result of too much government involvement, not too little. Some of the proposed alternatives included tort reform, allowing people to choose from a wider option of private plans by making it legal to buy insurance across state lines, and repealing certificate of need laws and coverage mandates.
The message was clear – the government plan will further limit choice, reduce the quality of care, and raise costs for everyone. It will also raise costs to small businesses thereby increasing the already soaring level of unemployment. The government is attempting to apply the same broken mechanism we have already seen fail time and time again. They are not proposing a plan of health care but of health control.
When faced with the facts of the new government plan, it is easy to become disheartened and overwhelmed by the uncertainty that lies ahead. Yet at each rally, there was a profound and renewed sense of urgency – not simply through petitions and speeches, but from the knowledge that no person is alone in the fight to reclaim our liberty and freedom. For me the rally was an opportunity to connect the issue to those it will directly affect – every individual, and strengthened me with new determination and resolve. The government may have taken over the banks, the insurance companies, the housing market, and the auto industry, but they won’t take our health care!