Read the Bill Before You Form an Opinion?

From my posts found in the Wayback Machine, originally published on Aug 31, 2009.

Obamacare, National Healthcare, Healthcare Reform, Socialized Medicine – no matter how you say it, everyone’s talking about it, and almosteveryone has an opinion. On Friday, August 28, 2009, you could have attended either of two simultaneous events in Rolla on the subject.

At Rolla Lion’s Club Park, the “Hands Off My Health Care” bus made an appearance, along with speakers warning of the dangers of government-run healthcare. At the same time, on the other side of town, a public Healthcare Reform Forum was being held at the Phelps County Courthouse, where a panel of local medical professionals talked about needed reform and answered written questions from the public.

Regardless of which “side” you are on, most of us can universally agree that there are things within the American healthcare system that are broken. Where we divide in opinion is how we should go about fixing it, and who should run it: the government, or private industry.

As it turns out, I have some opinions, too.

First, I’m becoming increasingly obsessed with finding out the truth. Because I hear so many people using the same catchphrases and buzzwords, I’m guessing that they’re getting their information from the same place. Give me five minutes with a guy, and I’ll bet I can guess his favorite news channel, no matter what his opinion.

I think the obsession started when I first heard the words “death panels.” Who among you hasn’t heard that phrase? I thought to myself, “Wow. That doesn’t sound very nice at all.” Intuitively, I knew “death panels” wasn’t in the language of HR 3200, but was just used to invoke an emotional reaction. So, I went to the source, downloaded the bill, and began reading.

I’m here to tell you, folks, if you try to read the whole thing, block out some time over several days, and put on a pot of strong coffee. The July 14, 2009 version I downloaded is 1,018 pages!

Could it be true?

The words “death” and “panel” are never found together in the bill. Originally, the phrase was used to imply utilitarian rationing of health care by a government-appointed panel, based on “level of productivity in society” and whether that person was worthy of the expense. More recently, the phrase has also included “end of life” counseling for the elderly, where a government panel or committee would tell you the best way to die.

So, what does that section of the bill actually say? At first glance, it simply appears to be a provision for physicians to discuss options with elderly patients, and get paid for their time. The options include hospice or long-term care, living wills and trusts, who will act as a surrogate for life-sustaining decisions, etc. Currently, if a doctor takes the time to consult on these matters, they can’t bill for their time. Personally, I don’t see the death panel argument in the language of the bill, and I don’t see a loophole where anyone can “unplug Grandma” if her life support gets too expensive.

But I’m going to be honest here. There is so much ambiguous language in the bill, that parts of it are completely open to interpretation. The language also allows for definitions and determinations to be added at a later date. That’s where we have another problem. Even if Congress succumbs to public pressure to read the bill before signing it, they can’t know what later additions they’re agreeing to, because they can’t see the future.

Back to my original point of getting at the truth, by going to the source. As I said, far too many people repeat what they hear, without regard to the facts. They hear a buzzword the media invents, dig a trench, hunker down and start collecting more buzzwords and “data” to support their argument. The problem is that most people don’t try to go directly to the source, using logical thinking and questions to ferret out the truth. They put their trust in the people on their favorite news channel or their favorite website. It’s human nature.

Where do I Stand?

Just to be clear, I’m against this healthcare plan as it currently is. The “death panels” argument came from opponents of the plan. I’m an opponent of the plan, but I think the use of the phrase “death panels” is completely out of line, and is a serious abuse of the media’s power. At least I had the good sense to question it.

How can you know what the truth is? I’ll admit that sometimes it’s impossible because we simply don’t have enough information. But you can start by adopting a new catchphrase of your own: Question everything. When you hear or read something, don’t swallow it whole without chewing on it first. You could choke to death. Ask questions: Does this person have an agenda? What’s the speaker’s source? Did I hear that right? Could he mean it in a different way? Does that buzzword I keep hearing imply something that shouldn’t be implied? Is there a different way of looking at this thing? What is the TRUTH?

Above all, keep an open mind, think clearly and logically, and question yourself before you dig that trench.

Coming soon…What’s Wrong With the Healthcare Bill?, What IS Socialized Medicine?, What Do Deer in My Garden Have to do With National Healthcare?

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