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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear Ms. Jordahl,

by folkbum

We've never met, although I do feel like I kind of know you, as you've been a part of the Cheddarsphere a long time now.

I am sorry to hear about your daughter's condition. I can't imagine what it must be like. My father's experience last year, with his chronic problems since, is probably only a fraction of the challenges you face as a parent of an epileptic child.

However, I hate to see that you've turned your situation into such an ill-conceived and factually challenged attack on the health insurance reforms being pushed by the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress.

You tell your story using the device of an open letter to Obama advisor David Axelrod, whose daughter also has epilepsy. You say to Axelrod,
I don’t believe increasing public awareness and funding for epilepsy research will improve the quality of life for either one of our daughters if the federal government takes over our health care system.

Perhaps it’s wrong for me to impose, after everything [your] family has endured, but imagine for a moment that you are back at the beginning of your quest to find a suitable treatment for your daughter’s seizures. Only this time decisions about which specialists to consult and which tests, medications, and procedures to pursue are no longer made by you in consultation with the doctor of your choice.
And there's more, with cold, impatient government bureaucrats, long waits for specialists, a so-sad-for-you kiss off, and other such dystopian imaginings.

Look, I have no doubt that over the last months, your mind has run the full gamut of nightmarish what-ifs--mine sure did with my father, and I have a hard time thinking anyone in a similar spot wouldn't react the same way. But there's a difference between the nightmares grounded in reality and the nightmares born of spiteful Republican talking points.

I mean, despite conservative hyperbole and bluster, there isn't a plan on, under, or anywhere near the table that lets "government take[] over our health care system." No bill in Congress, no administration talking point, would put one more doctor or nurse on the federal payroll, or deed over one new clinic or hospital to the government. There is government-run health care now--the V.A.--but no one is offering that as a model for universal reform. To attack Axelrod for a plan he hasn't proposed, his boss won't sign, and his party doesn't support in Congress is just an awful thing to do.

In addition, no one is talking about putting anyone new between any patients and their doctors. I imagine you've already dealt with the insurance company bureaucrats, the ones who, depending on your plan, may very well have dictated parts of your daughter's treatment outside of her doctor's best judgment. Don't worry: If the current proposals in Congress pass, those same insurance company bureaucrats will still be there to try to influence your daughter's care.

"How can we possibly improve treatment options," you ask Axelrod, "or make progress toward a cure if patients are no longer evaluated and monitored immediately following their seizures?" This is just one of many such questions you ask without offering even an iota of evidence to suggest that your daughter or his will not be tested and monitored, that a reformed health care system will write off epileptic patients as not worth the bother. This is ridiculous. Even the UK, with fully socialized medicine--that "government-run health care" that you so dread and that no one, again, no one is proposing for the US--beats us in per-capita epilepsy mortality. I'm sure that hasn't happened because the bureaucrats have written off their patients the way you assume will happen after some modest--and in my opinion, weak--insurance industry reforms.

Ms. Jordahl, I think you owe it to your daughter--and to the Daughter Axelrod and my father and the millions of other people in this country with difficult, chronic illnesses--to at least debate the issue honestly, rather than resorting to scare tactics and straw-man arguments. My father was working full-time, in a hospital!, with health and disability insurance, and my parents nearly had to declare bankruptcy to get out of the bills, some of which they're still fighting to get paid more than a year later. No one should have to do that, to go broke or declare bankruptcy because they get sick. And that's all Axelrod wants. It's all Obama wants. Why don't you want that, too?

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