Rallying with a purpose
Speakers denounce Obama’s health care bill at Lincoln Park
By MIKE WIGGINS
Buoyed by a boisterous, sign-waving crowd at Lincoln Park, a line of
speakers Saturday denounced
President Obama’s health care reform proposal as an intrusive, overreaching albatross that will saddle future generations of Americans with debt.
The “Hands Off My Health Care Rally” drew an estimated 3,000 people who were eager to counteract the message they expected Obama to deliver at a town-hall meeting at Central High School later in the day.
Legislators, doctors, nurses and political activists all took the stage to attack on various fronts the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. Most agreed that a moderate level of change is needed in how medical care is delivered and subsidized but said Obama’s plan goes too far.
“We do need some improvements in our health care, we need some reform, but this bill is not the way to do it,” said Greg Doyle, a Grand Junction primary care physician who said he has read the entire congressional bill that totals more than 1,000 pages and is still confused about portions of it.
Doyle said some parts of the legislation “aren’t half-bad” but the proposal as a whole “needs a lot of revision and work.”
The Grand Junction native said his primary concerns lay in three areas:
• A health insurance-exchange program would require insurance companies to bid to become government health care providers. Patients, in turn, must then be covered by a government-backed insurance company or they’ll be taxed, according to Doyle.
He said the U.S. surgeon general and a 26-person panel would oversee the program. As it’s currently assembled, only one member of the panel would be a health care provider and none is a doctor, he said.
• The bill penalizes doctors and hospitals who admit patients for certain conditions, Doyle said, a plan that gives them incentive to keep people out of the hospital.
• The legislation will pay primary-care physicians at a rate comparable to what Medicare reimburses them for care, according to the doctor. But it will decrease compensation to those physicians if the government believes certain conditions are being overdiagnosed, which Doyle said could lead to difficulty in recruiting and retaining primary-care physicians.
Doyle said his patients have stopped asking him about their current health care needs and started wondering what their future coverage will look like.
“They don’t feel like they’re getting a straight message,” he said. “People are scared, they’re confused.”
State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said the Mesa County health care system that has been championed as a national model is the “antithesis of the top-down Washington-based health care system” promoted by Obama and congressional Democratic leaders.
“The American people are rejecting government-run health care,” he said. “We do not want Canadian-style socialized medicine today, tomorrow, ever.”
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the sort of system improvements needed are those that encourage tort reform to reduce lawsuits and, as a result, patient costs. He said insurance needs to be portable so Americans can maintain coverage in the event they lose or change jobs. And he said the system should bring patients closer to doctors “rather than putting a government bureaucrat between them.”
“I don’t want the government standing between our doctor and my wife,” Chaffetz said.
Grand Junction registered nurse Karen Culp told the crowd that nothing is more personal than health care “when you have your clothes off.”
“Politicians and the government shouldn’t be telling us what to do with our health care,” she said.
People began filtering into the park hours before the official beginning of the event, filling out sign-up sheets, toting an array of signs and handing out fliers.
The rally was loud but civil, with speakers making a point of emphasizing they and the crowd needed to be polite and respectful but make sure their voices were heard.
Speeches were punctuated with cheers and applause, with a few boos aimed at Democratic lawmakers.
Ted Hansen, a 35-year-old Fruita resident, brought two of his sons to the rally, telling them ahead of time what the event was about and why he and his wife were opposed to a major overhaul of the country’s health care system. Nathan, 9, and Joshua, 6, carried their own signs.
Hansen, who said he’s a Republican but plans to register as an independent for the next election because he’s displeased with both major parties, expressed skepticism about the government taking up the cause for health care. He said it failed to regulate banking and automobile industries that ultimately tanked.
Grand Junction resident Lisa Harmon said she saw the rally as an instructive lesson in free speech, which is why she brought her two children, 9-year-old Ashlea and 7-year-old Denton, to Lincoln Park. The 35-year-old Republican said she came because
“I’m tired of yelling at my television.”
Harmon said reform is needed in certain areas, noting she has friends who were recently in a car accident but own a small business and can’t afford health insurance.
“But spending more money and having government-run health care isn’t the way to go,” Harmon said. “Let’s get to the heart of the problem instead of opening another
government can of worms.”