The Real News documentary report on the Reston town hall with Dr. Howard Dean and Rep. Jim
Moran and 2000 pro- and anti-health-care reform participants
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: The class struggle over health-care reform in America heats up, and we’re here in Reston, Virginia, for one of their famous health-care town halls.
DIANE LEWIS: There must have been 2,000 or 3,000 people in line, maybe more, and I came here at six o’clock, and the line was a couple of times around the building. I could hear people who weren’t from the district talking about faking their little forms, making up fake addresses and putting them on the forms. We came out in big numbers to support, to listen, maybe we wanted to ask questions, but we weren’t even able to get in.
ANDREA PEARSON: I strongly am against the health-care reform. I’m against socialized medicine.
LEWIS: I’m for single-payer, basically.
PEARSON: I’m not arguing that health care needs to be changed, but don’t dismantle it, don’t take it apart.
JAY: Howard Dean is making his way to the podium. Cheers, boos. It’s an indication of how fierce this struggle has become—a struggle of interest, a struggle of class, and also a struggle of culture and ideology. Join us for the Reston town hall.
REP. JIM MORAN (D-VA), 8TH DISTRICT: Governor Howard Dean.
DR. HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR (D): Thank you [inaudible] Thank you. The reason that I believe that we need health-care reform in this country—. [crowd shouting]
MORAN: I’m sorry, but I can’t even hear the governor, and I’m sitting next to him. These folks are not from the 8th District, they really don’t belong here, and I’m going to ask them to leave. The guy that is making the most noise, for those of you who are not aware, his name is Randall Terry. He’s an abortion-rights activist, and he announced yesterday in the press that he was coming here for the purpose of disrupting this meeting. That’s why I’m asking him to leave.
CROWD: Get him out! Get him out! Get him out!
MORAN: Governor Dean, if you would, please.
DEAN: There are three problems that we have to fix, and regardless of whether you’re a conservative or liberal or a Democrat or a Republican, I think you’ll agree we have to fix them. One is that health insurance is 70 percent more expensive in this country than it is in the next three most expensive countries. That’s harming our economy and it’s harming our businesses. Two, there are a large number of people in this country that have no health insurance, and I don’t know anybody, wherever you are on the political spectrum, that thinks that’s okay. One thing that I think Republicans and Democrats agree about in the Congress is that we need some kind of health-care reform and that we ought to cover everybody. Three, the way that we pay for health care in this country leads us to do a lot of things that aren’t necessary. And in many systems of health care around the world, they have a different kind of payment system which leads that country to develop what we call a "wellness model", instead of an "illness model", which is what we have in this country. The last thing I’m going to say—which will undoubtedly send me out the way I came in—was that I support President Obama’s health-care plan, including the public option.
MORAN: Alright, Governor. Now the fun begins.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Congressman, my question is: do you think that a system involving co-ops is an acceptable compromise on health-care reform?
MORAN: Well, I personally don’t, and I’ll explain why. There’s nothing wrong with health-care cooperatives. In fact, many states allow them, and some states have them. But they’re certainly not a substitute for a public option. Very difficult for enough people to get together to put it together themselves. For one thing, you’d need about 500,000 people to be competitive with the private insurance industry, and you need a lot of startup money. The problem is, there’s no real profit incentive for anybody to invest a substantial amount of capital in setting it up, because they’re not going to get repaid in the form of dividends or profits.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s $200 billion over ten years in savings if we had tort reform, and nobody loses but the lawyers. Why have we not even considered that tonight in the discussion, sir? Tell the American people that.
DEAN: This is the answer from a doctor and a politician. Here’s why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that, the more stuff you put in it, the more enemies you make. Now [snip] reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth. Now, I think comparative-effectiveness research is going to be a great help in reforming tort. How about that? And I’ll tell you why: because comparative-effectiveness research is ultimately going to study what works and what doesn’t, and it is going to create a national standard of practice. And a national standard of practice is an absolute defense in a court of law. If you’ve done the things that you’re supposed to have done, then you cannot be sued, and any reasonable judge is going to say that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I’m very concerned about the quality of the debate, you know, not only the screaming of misrepresentations, but also the fact that the press really doesn’t seem to want to cover policy, you know, they want to cover gossip. And I’m very disappointed. And I would like all of you press to start covering the policy. But I would also like to hear my Democrats, my beloved Democratic Party, also arguing some basic things. Number one, I don’t understand why philosophically you don’t say that the problem of health care cannot be solved by free enterprise. Many of the kids here at South Lakes High School couldn’t go here if this were private. They just wouldn’t have education. And the same is true for health-care. The government has to be involved if we’re going to have universal health care.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Friends of ours that live in France have a medical card, and there is a chip on it that has all of their medical information from birth to whatever age they are. That scared me, frankly, because I said to them, well, do you want the government knowing all of your business from cradle to grave? I believe our country was founded on independence. And I think we can all agree on this, whether you’re Democrat or Republican. I think it’s important that we have privacy between our doctor and our health records, and it shouldn’t be shared with the government.
DEAN: This is a huge issue, and it’s much more than about just this health-care bill, because this isn’t just about health care. You don’t want the government knowing all your health information. You’re not so crazy about having the insurance industry or your bank knowing all your information either. So there is no really good answer to this.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There’s Representative Weiner’s amendment that will be offered on the floor that offers a single-payer option, and I’m wondering if you might support that. [inaudible] health care should be a right.
MORAN: I don’t know. It’s going to depend upon what it takes to get the best bill that we can out of the House. I used to be a sponsor of Chairman John—John Conyers, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I used to be a co-sponsor of his bill. But now that we have a bill that the White House has endorsed, my inclination is to support that bill.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Why should I trust Congress and the government to run a national health-care plan and be able to control the costs?
MORAN: Well, first of all, the military is a government program. When we tried to privatize, the last administration, we found that there were as many government contractors in Iraq as there were military and civilian employees. It cost us a lot more, and most of the abuses were committed by contractors. Firms like Blackwater and Halliburton and so on ripped off the government. Now, the VA [Department of Vetarans Affairs] is not perfect, but it provides good medical care for our veterans, and that is a socialized medicine system.
DEAN: Let me thank all of you on both sides. I happen to think—I think everybody actually behaved pretty well. This is kind of a spirited American tradition, and I appreciate it, and I thank you very, very much, all of you.
JAY: How much of this opposition to health-care reform isn’t so much really about health-care reform, it’s about a fundamental distrust about the government and the lack of democracy?
MARK WILKINSON, RESTON, VA: We’re losing more freedoms today, right, and this one is the big freedom loss. So it’s not about health care, ’cause this is not about true health-care reform; this is about control. And me, as a Republican, I don’t trust this. I don’t trust it, because it’s not all getting due consideration.
JAY: Do you have any more faith in big corporations than big government?
WILKINSON: No, but the difference is with big corporations I can determine what I want to do, and that information’s my information. So I don’t trust government. The more they know, the more they can control you.
JAY: But don’t you think this is a bit of a false dichotomy? Big government and big corporations work very closely together. But if the real issue is freedom and democracy, why are you more comfortable with these big corporations having all this information? And the reason I’m asking is why isn’t it a broader issue about democratization of the whole society, instead of government [inaudible] ’cause what happens is you guys wind up being "big corporations good", even though I don’t even think you really believe—you don’t really believe it.
WILKINSON: No, no, I don’t believe that.
JAY: But you end up doing that.
WILKINSON: No. Well, I mean, that’s—.
JAY: ‘Cause you end up agreeing with big insurance companies here.
WILKINSON: No, I am not saying I agree with big insurance companies. I’m just saying that’s a better alternative than the government program. In health care, that is such a private thing. Consider this. You’re now under government health-care. Your wife gets pregnant. Alright? I’m pro-life, okay, but I’ll just use this as an example. Your wife gets pregnant, and they say, "Oh my gosh, you’re going to have a Down syndrome child. You have a decision to make, because we’re not going to cover it."
JAY: Where does it say they’re not going to cover it?
WILKINSON: It doesn’t, but that’s a scenario that you can easily come up with.
JAY: The scenario you just described doesn’t exist in Canada.
WILKINSON: Alright. Well, let me bring something up in Canada. Here’s a good example. What’s the highest rate of brain surgeons and heart surgeons per capita in the United States? What state is it?
JAY: I don’t know.
WILKINSON: Alright, it’s Michigan. Why is it Michigan? Because the Canadians come over to Michigan to get their brain surgery, get their heart surgery, when they can’t get in Canada because they have to stand in lines.
JAY: What you’re saying is true: the high end of medicine in the US, the high-end specialties, is the most advanced in the world, and the specialists get paid the most. But when you look at the overall mortality rates and health rates across the whole population, Canada beats the US in virtually every category.
WILKINSON: Well, you know why? Because we’re fat. Look at me—I’m 20 or 30 pounds overweight. No, no, true. True.
JAY: Canadians don’t eat—we’re no different.
WILKINSON: Well, your beer is better, damnit. You know, I—.
JAY: That much is true.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.