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Attend Town Hall Meetings—Support
Real Health Care Reform!
By International President Edwin D. Hill

August 7, 2009

As Congress considers whether to make major reforms in America’s health care insurance system, media attention has focused on town hall meetings where elected representatives, Democrat and Republican, have been shouted down and disrupted even before they can explain their positions on proposed legislation.  Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) was even hung in effigy for supporting health care reform.

With hundreds more meetings planned across the nation during the August congressional recess it is important for level-headed trade unionists to attend and support true dialogue about real health care reform.  I urge all locals and members to make immediate plans to mobilize our co-workers, families and neighbors to attend these town hall meetings.

Most Americans agree that our nation’s health care insurance system is in need of repair.  Costs are too high.  Too many citizens are denied insurance by private carriers because of preexisting health conditions, raising the premiums both on employers who offer insurance and individuals who are fortunate enough to still have health coverage.  At the bargaining table, local unions are under increasing pressure to agree to higher deductibles and co-pays.

Solving these problems will not be easy.  There is certainly room for disagreement.  But real democracy cannot thrive unless citizens on all sides of an issue are willing to listen to and debate each other based upon solid factual evidence. 
That kind of civil dialogue was promoted when town meeting-style government was established in many of the original colonies. 

Unfortunately, some wealthy and powerful opponents of health care reform are promoting an entirely different model of citizen “involvement.” They are spreading untruths about proposed legislation and trying to rally Americans against what they call a “government takeover” of health care.  They are encouraging citizens to disrupt town hall meetings and shut down intelligent discussion of alternatives. 

One of the groups sponsoring protests at town hall meetings is called Conservatives for Patient’s Rights.  The group is headed by Rick Scott, the founder of Columbia/HCA, a huge hospital chain.  Scott was ousted by the corporation’s board of directors and the company was fined $1.7 billion for overbilling state and federal health plans.

Shutting down health care reform would hurt a lot of working families.  But it just might help guys like Rick Scott and the big insurance companies who profit by denying medical coverage to millions of Americans.  We can’t let that happen.
Amid all of the talk about “socialized medicine,” I thought it was interesting to watch a town hall meeting that was called by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas).  Nearly all of the attendees said they oppose “socialized, government-run health care.”  But when Green asked how many of them collect benefits from Medicare, a government-run program, nearly one-half raised their hands. 

We need to support labor-friendly members of Congress who want to see government play a constructive role in helping solve the health care crisis.  And the town hall meetings scheduled during the congressional recess are the best place to do just that.

Visit www.healthcareforamericanow.org to find the nearest town hall meeting. 
No matter what kind of health care insurance we now have, every IBEW member can find some personal benefit in the health care reform bills under consideration. Let’s make sure that the needs of America’s working families for quality, affordable health care are not drowned out by those who are misinformed, or even worse, those who have a vested interest in the current system.