It appears that 2009 has become the year of our most intense public debates about health care in America, eclipsing even the legislative battles of the early Clinton years. Not a day goes by without some development or change in this complex legislative effort and public discussion. As citizens, it’s our job at times like this to set aside our assumptions, to be willing to listen to those with whom we think we disagree, and to actively seek solutions everyone can live with.
My impression recently is that this debate is more about our capacity to govern ourselves than it is about health care. There’s more at stake in this debate than political success by one faction or the other. It’s when our issues are the most divisive that we need to have the courage to discuss our differences with the greatest deliberate care. This is one of those times. That’s why I believe it’s critical that citizens gather to learn about the issue from and with each other in order to be a better informed public.
Most polls during this whole debate have shown consistently that a majority of voters nationwide agree that health care in America needs significant reform, but there continues to be deep disagreements as to how this reform might be legislated for the greatest benefit at the least cost with a governmental involvement everyone can live with. With many competing proposals flying around, a small group of local citizens decided to call their neighbors together for a conversation about where we are now in health care reform…and where we eventually want to be at the end of the day.
National Issues Forums (NIF) has provided citizens an opportunity to purposefully and carefully deal with our most challenging public problems for over 25 years. Many have been conducted in Solano County during the past 15 years. Today, people gather for NIF-style conversations across the country and around the world to respectfully deliberative on our most troubling public dilemmas where reasonable citizens disagree strongly and deeply, and to actively seek long-term, sustainable solutions.
This NIF-style, public conversation will consider three unique priorities in the health care debate, weighing the benefits and trade-offs of each. Our primary focus, of course, will be on pending and future legislation at the national level, but our conversation will include state, local and lifestyle options. In complex issues like health care, responsibility will fall ultimately somewhere…as citizens it’s our job to actively decide where we want it to fall.We need to talk about health care availability. While emergency care is technically available to all, primary care is currently limited by insurance company policies and the financial resources of the patient. What kinds of health care services need to be available for our culture and our economy to flourish? What would it take to provide these services for everyone?
We need to talk about health care costs. Very few people believe the dramatic increases in health care costs are reasonable, but change is very difficult in the midst of an economic crisis. What ‘best practices’ can be encouraged to trim costs? How can our current expenditures be spent to provide more and better health care?
We need to talk about competition. Much of our American health care is provided by effective monopolies for a variety of reasons. How can effective monopolies be broken up to make health care markets more competitive? How can health care providers, health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies adapt to more competitive practices?
Conversations like this are happening in many communities across the country…this is an opportunity for Solano County residents to gather for a respectful discussion of what’s most important in health care reform…and why. This conversation will be held on Tuesday, November 10 at 7:00 p.m. at the McBride Senior Center, 91 Town Square Place, Vacaville. Everyone is welcome. For more information on NIF-style conversations, visit www.nifica.org.