Who Needs Civility in the Health Care Debate?

Civility in Health care Reform

Beltway Insiders fling political jargon such as “dead on arrival” with ease. When applied to the health care reform debate, benign jargon and posturing can sting those with the greatest stake in the fight.

“Dead on arrival,” has its role in political theater. Important voices are upstaged by congressmen hoisting plump babies to make a point, lawmakers congratulating themselves for winning one round and conservative and progressive organizations parading human cause célèbres before the public. In the wings, doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers wait to be heard.

Hard-working public servants and public figures, please consider this plea for civility. For some of us, this is not just a campaign or an opportunity to make history.

Perhaps it’s the recognition of these high stakes that allows my conservative and progressive family and friends to have conversations about health care reform that do not erupt into three ring circuses. Our passions run deep and the chasm between our views is wide. Every conversation is free of sound bite worthy catchphrases. We always both walk away smarter, and with an appreciation of the other side’s point of view.

I wish Beltway Insiders would adopt the same mentality because demonizing the right or the left will not get us the health care reform we seek. And, while seemingly benign, “dead on arrival” is political jargon that is too painful to hear.

Dawn’s First Day in DC

Atlanta feels like a million miles away. Today on Capital Hill, we met with lawmakers and opinion makers about Dawn’s extraordinary experience. Walking through the halls of congressional offices, overhearing conversations in the cafeteria, it’s easy to see why the folks on our journey would feel like their voices aren’t being heard here. The talk is all vote counts and bill language — it seems easy to lose track of why health care reform is needed.

That’s why Dawn is here.  Today I watched her speak with reporters, congressmen and activists, and you could see her impact immediately: as soon as Dawn began to tell her story, people sobered up and paid attention. She forced them to think about health care reform as a matter of real pain and suffering, rather than cloture votes and log rolling.

But at the same time, the reaction of folks in DC didn’t differ all that much from the response of folks in Norfolk, or Asheville, or Atlanta. And that’s probably our greatest source of hope for the creation of a decent health care system: that the people eventually calling the shots remember what it’s like to feel at the mercy of indifferent illness, and do what’s right for people like Dawn.

When Was The Last Time You Roared?


“An Injured Lion Still Wants to Roar”

–       Dr. Randy Pausch

A brain tumor, like any illness, is hell on the body. Fighting insurance companies can test spirits with the strongest faith and constitution. The financial calamity and social isolation that ensue can be downright maddening.

Like so many of you, I know the health care that we seek—the health care I pay to receive—is not a privilege, but a right. My mother and I cling to this belief every time we appeal to CIGNA for testing and treatment. It keeps us going in the face of their callous denials.

This belief makes me want to roar.

No matter which side of health care reform debate you sit, people of good will avow that there are too many health care horror stories. These are not stories of people asking for handouts. Some of you are self-employed like me and working to keep your business and health insurance afloat. You might be one of the millions doing right by your employer and hoping your health care provider does right by you. Then, one diagnosis requires the support of the health insurance companies we work so hard to pay. In return for years of payment, denial letters, price increases and drop notices show up in our mailboxes.

It is time for us to become change agents. You can change my future and those of others who receive the same denial letters. The broken health care system forces us out of our careers, into medical bankruptcy and for the least fortunate of us…death.

It is time for us to roar.