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Democracy in Action

I did my civic duty on Monday and went to a heath care town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.  I went partly because I thought it was past time that supporters of reform showed support, and stopped letting the trolls turn this from a debate into a rage-filled shouting fest.

It was being held in a Unitarian church, and since I didn’t know where it was I went by early to look for it.  Good thing.  At 6:00 pm the parking lot was filled and people were parked on the streets.  I went in so I actually got a seat.  A lot of people were left outside.  They requested that we submit written questions which I did — Congressman, are you going to support the public option?  Because I can’t buy heath insurance.

I passed the time reading a Jacqueline Carey book, and chatting with a reporter from the Journal.  At 7:00 pm the speakers went up to the podium.  A man began welcoming people, an a couple of trolls… men began bellowing BOO BOO.

Then the minister of the church got up, and asked for 30 seconds of silence to pray or just think or consider the work of governing.  That silenced the trolls.  Then the minister spoke about the Unitarian belief in Head — knowing the facts, Heart — caring for people less fortunate than yourself, and Hands — to help those people.  (As aside, if I was of a mind to believe in fairy tales this looks like a group I could tolerate.)  The minister went on to add that it was the American way to show respect to all people, and anyone who tried to disrupt the meeting and prevent people getting their questions answered would be removed.  Since there were a lot of state police standing against the walls it was not an idle statement.

Next up was a woman who works with the NM Health Alliance an organization that tries to help uninsured people find insurance.  She does this work because her daughter was born with several ailments, and once she graduates from college she will be unable to buy health insurance under our present system.

Next was a general practitioner who practices medicine in Los Alamos.  He was a wonderful speaker and he just laid out the facts in blunt terms — the system is broken.  It cannot continue as is.  He talked of his patients who lose coverage because they get sick or lose their jobs.  He talked about how each doctor’s office spends $68,000 dollars on just filing paperwork and trying to fight with insurance companies.  He talked about tort reform (which we need).  He had a handout that had a grade for the bills currently under consideration — the House bill buries the Senate bill — and attached was a letter from three physicians organizations that represent 650,000 general practitioners across the country.  They have all signed on to health reform because they know it is absolutely essential.  He then added, “I bet you didn’t know about this, did you?  Because the media isn’t covering it.”

Finally the Congressman stood up, and a woman began reading off the questions which anyone of the panel could answer.  Poor Ben Ray isn’t the most articulate of men, but he made it very clear he supports the public option, the passage of regulations that will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, dropping people if they get sick, and placing caps on the amount they will spend on care.

There was a lot of applause over these points from the enormous crowd in the auditorium and not a peep out of the trolls.  They were a tiny, tiny minority.

I stayed until 8:00 pm and once I knew the trolls were silenced, and that the Congressman was going to support I public option I left so someone else could come in from the line waiting outside, and I went in search of dinner.

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