08/14/09 — Do no harm: Haste on health legislation a prescription for disaster

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Do no harm: Haste on health legislation a prescription for disaster

There are a lot of people who are really worried about what the debate about changes in the health care system will really mean to them.

They are worried, in part, because the government is involved -- and that is not usually ever good news.

So, many of them are not sitting still. They are not just waiting for their congressman or senator to make a decision. They are speaking out, protesting and doing anything else they can to send the debate in the direction they suspect will best protect the availability and quality of the health care they will receive.

This past weekend, hundreds of North Carolinians peacefully protested outside 13th district U.S. Rep. Brad Miller's office -- suggesting that he take another look at health care reform and the plan proposed by President Barack Obama, which he supports.

They were letting him know that they, at least, were watching.

But that is one protest in one district.

What about the rest of the country?

What is the next step for those who are concerned that this issue could have far-reaching effects that cannot be undone?

The 1,018-page bill contains good news and bad news, possible solutions and unrealistic expectations. It is full of proposals that sound good and others that are suspect.

It is not a document that many congressmen or senators are likely to have read, let alone the average American.

The extreme reaction many Americans have had to the proposed health care reform relates specifically to the fact that it has been rushed through and that an early fall date has been set as a goal for its passage.

That is too soon for anyone to be comfortable with the reforms as proposed.

So, what do you do if you are concerned?

Reading the bill is a start, but that could take a while.

But what can be done now is to insist -- like some North Carolinians have -- that there be much more open debate, with constituents, health care experts and others who can offer real perspective that is untainted by political expediency and sunshine and rainbow proposals.

We want to have town meetings and to really discuss what the bill will mean to our lives, our parents, our children, our families.

We want to know what we will give up to accomplish what the bill proposes -- and then to make a judgment on whether the price is worth the gain.

And, for many of us, this is a critical issue -- and one that will be a key factor in whom we vote for next time around.

The trick now is to make sure someone knows how we feel. We need to speak up, to be the squeaky wheels, to insist that our leaders do their homework and represent our views -- after all, that is what we hired them for.

And in the end, perhaps health care reform can be a reality -- at least as far as making sure health insurance is available to all families and that the sickest and most needy among us receive the care they need without facing bankruptcy.

A reasoned plan is the right course here -- not a rush to a vote.

That is how you make reforms that really make a difference.

Published in Editorials on August 14, 2009 11:17 AM