I recently attended what was misrepresented by Nancy Nathanson in her invitation postcard to be a “health care town hall” meeting at North Eugene High School on August 29. I attended with my father, who is a Korean War Veteran, and who proudly wore his “Korean War Veteran” Hat. We sat in the front row. My experience at that so-called “public meeting” is emblematic of the fundamental problem citizens have with government in Oregon.
First, a “townhall” is the name given to the form of government utilized by local governments in the northeast, and historically has constituted a meeting designed to provide a give-and-take between citizens and their representatives, who are deemed equal participants in the process. I am a person with a serious disability and have a deep personal and professional interest in the subject of healthcare. As a lawyer who has served as Counsel to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (nationwide) I also deem myself to be well-versed in the subject professionally. I am also concerned that the legislation enacted in Oregon – especially the bill setting up the health insurance exchange -- will make health coverage options worse – not better. My biggest fear is that even those of us with private coverage now will eventually be subject to rationing because of the designed economic failure of the private insurance market inherent in the exchange bill. If my coverage ceases to be defined by a private contract with my insurance company and instead I become forced to undertake the coverage defined by the regulatory limitations of Obamacare, then the political end-point is well-documented. In sum, all health funding will be politically driven, and families, individuals, and doctors will no longer have final say about the care they receive. Instead, under Obamacare, people like me will inevitably meet the same terminal fate that those like us already meet in Canada. Unfortunately, we won’t have a United States border just south of us to escape the tyranny, like the Canadians had. How easy it was for Canada to put its collective nose in the air, pretending to provide universal healthcare while all the while its citizens fled to the United States for the care their own government actually denied them.
So, I decided to attend the townhall to talk to my legislator about the subject. However, when I arrived, it was clear that this meeting contained no real townhall dynamic. Instead, the meeting was set up as a sort of political campaign event comprising a panel of government spokespersons setting forward their propagandistic political talking points describing in glowing terms the benefits of their recent legislative agenda in “lecture” format. Only two of the panelists were elected; the rest were bureaucrats recruited by the elected officials to help them “sell” their legislation to the masses. Only at the “end” of the “lecture” was any “citizen” input deemed acceptable by the government “elites” -- who were all set up at a separate dais with cards bearing their names and titles in the front of the room.
So, the very framework of the meeting disrespected the primary notion of a true “townhall” where citizens and their elected officials are deemed “equals.” Instead, this meeting was very much set up as a set of “betters” lecturing to their uneducated masses who were expected to quietly sit and lap up the propaganda; only at the end when it is likely that others might leave could any of the supplicants make anything remotely resembling a challenge. In sum, this meeting was merely campaign propaganda in a political season designed to garner votes from a dependent public anxious to hear what their government betters have delivered them this legislative season.
However, given that citizens are rarely given an opportunity to actually challenge the PERS crowd’s agenda this day and age, I decided that I would not be dissuaded and politely challenged the format at the outset. Nancy Nathanson admitted that the meeting was not designed as a give-and-take, but finished her explanation with “this is the way we have always done these.” Oh, I see. Citizens have always been subjects in Lane County.
Still not convinced that I should surrender my citizenship rights as an equal, I listened as the lecture proceeded until I could no longer contain my silence at the clearly false information being provided. I broke in with a counterpoint – careful not to engage in any personal attacks and instead only engaged on the subject matter itself. For example, I openly challenged the panel’s assertion that they could improve health care by basing legislative funding formulas on health outcomes. The reason is quite simply that health outcomes cannot be measured with any statistical validity due to the lack of any existing sound measuring tool. Quite simply, none will ever exist without a fundamental alteration of our relationship to government in America. Here’s why: whereas a health state can be measured objectively, the quality of life attributed to any particular health state is purely subjective to an individual.
Thus, in order to derive an objective measure of an individual’s quality of life, a fundamental change would have to occur in the nature of the relationship between government and its citizens whereby the citizens would have to relinquish control of autonomy to the state. Only when government can “dictate” happiness levels can they “measure” happiness. As long as the word “subjective” implies some form of autonomy, and as long as scientists remain intellectually honest about the subjective nature of quality of life, no objective government measure could be possible of a subjective state of mind. Here is how that line gets crossed with Obamacare: imagine, for instance, a bureaucrat deciding that the quality of life of an elderly person is simply too low to authorize the expenditure of funds for expensive equipment such as a pacemaker. When did we knowingly delegate that authority to our state? The answer is that the federal independent payments advisory board built into Obamacare will exercise that exact function: determining dollar values for specific health states, and then presuming that that health state is the equivalent of a subjective quality of life measure. In Oregon we must resist that temptation and that is a core ethical issue.
The panel acknowledged that that absence of a valid metric was true. However, according to the panel, their entire legislative agenda was based on the notion that funding would follow such outcomes, and they skated right by and continued on with their talking points despite the gaping hole in their own logic.
So, with the courage of my convictions, as the propaganda continued, so did my polite but firm challenge. To my dismay, I was met with typical Saul Alinsky tactics by Val Hoyle, who tried her best to label the mere interruption of the talking points as “disrespectful” and then when I would not back down to her heckler’s veto, she further tried to engage the crowd to exercise the heckler’s veto for her by complaining that others in the room wanted the propaganda the panel was providing. Her plants in the room took their cue and disrespectfully demanded that I leave; instead, I challenged Val Hoyle’s tactic and told her I thought her engaging the audience in that manner was itself disrespectful. Val complained about the amount of time this was taking, and I retorted that if she would stop trying to lecture me that her own panelists could have moved on.
As the propaganda – and my challenges continued, Val Hoyle finally set forth an ultimatum: remain quiet or leave the room. Well, there we have it. This was not a town hall at all; it was a campaign event, and I was the fly in the ointment. At that point, one of the unelected panelists grumbled openly about my father muttering comments under his breath (which he did because it was clear that he was not welcome to speak!). The inescapable logical flaws had not passed him by. My father stood up and explained that he had earned the right to his opinion by serving this County in Korea; tempers were obviously flaring and now my father was being shouted at.
While still not convinced that we should succumb to a heckler’s veto engendered by Val Hoyle herself, I nevertheless deemed it the better course to accompany my father out of the room. On the way out, Mark Callahan – candidate for Nancy Nathanson’s seat in House District 13 -- stopped us and encouraged us not to leave – that we had as much right to be there as anybody else. I said that yes, that was true, but that this meeting was not fundamentally designed to hear anything from citizens of different opinions and it was clear I would be wasting my time and upsetting my father. So, we left.
Welcome to Lane County, where citizens are subjects and elected leftists are thin-skinned and openly intolerant of any views other than their own.
Of Note: Only a few years ago I had extensive and rare neurosurgery at OHSU in Portland covered by my own multiple layers of private insurance. The resident who worked with my surgeon and who was from the UK stated that had I been in Canada, Britain, or most of Europe that I would never have been allowed to have that life-saving surgery simply because it took too long for somebody with my level of disability. In fact, he came here for his training because he couldn’t get enough of the right technical experience in Britain. People with my state of health are offered only limited health care options both there and in Canada, and 8-hour neurosurgery – even though life-saving – is simply not on the list.