Mark Zaccaria, on Congressman Langevin’s First Town Hall Meeting
On August 19, I attended the Town Hall Meeting called by Representative James Langevin for what was said to be an opportunity for him to gauge the pulse of his district during the summer recess.
There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that Topic A for the evening’s exchange would be the proposed changes to US healthcare now on the table. Certainly the Congressman thought that, since there was a PowerPoint presentation rolling as folks filed in to take their seats. The slides went back and forth between ideas that were characterized as myths about the healthcare legislation now pending and what were said to be facts that refuted those myths. It would be instructive to know who created that presentation. Whether it was the Congressman’s staff or some other entity in the Administration, the slides established our host’s position beyond any doubt before the meeting even began. This was not an opportunity for the congressman to listen to his constituents but a sales pitch for the legislation known as HR 3200.
The Congressman’s comments were confusing, sometimes contradictory, and at times, frightening. Of particular concern to me, and others was his statement that healthcare was too important a matter to be left to market forces and the private sector and that he did not go to Washington to vote on such important issues.
When asked if he had personally read the text of the pending legislation on healthcare he went great distances to avoid answering. In fact, he has not read any of the five competing healthcare bills now working their way through the federal legislature. But instead of saying there was no single bill on its way to an up or down vote, he used considerable time-consuming detail in his circular answer to avoid coming out with the simple truth. To me, that awkward moment spoke volumes about our current Representative’s shortcomings in the area of leadership, and had me questioning his impact within the chamber. It was abundantly clear that our Representative will do exactly what he is told to do by those in power in Congress, whether or not it’s what his constituents want.
I accept that the Congressman has not read every Whereas and Therefore in every bill to change the name of a post office or bridge in some far off state. But he himself indicated he understands that healthcare is the issue of the day so I think he should have read this one. I accept that his staff may have read all five of the current crops of these bills, but we did not elect his staff to represent us on this or any other issue. Right now Healthcare is too important a topic to delegate to staff, and far too important for our Representative not to have read HR 3200.
In answer to a question on whether or not he would vote in favor of a bill 70% of his constituents opposed I was expecting to hear a statement on how a representative Republic functions. Instead, I listened as my Rep in Congress dodged the question by saying he was actually here on a Fact Finding Mission. My translation: He’ll vote the way Nancy Pelosi tells him to, without regard to what we think.
The Congressman repeated himself over and over as if to emphasize his position and defend it against the contrary opinions that abounded in the room. Clearly he was not there on a fact finding mission and clearly he has already been told how to vote. As if to emphasize that fact, the PowerPoint presentation was left running in an endless loop throughout the meeting.
My fellow citizens, the current national debate has never been about healthcare reform in the United States. Instead it has always been about the reform of healthcare insurance in our country. Without a fundamental restructuring of the costs associated with the business of health care delivery, there will be no change in the charges that health insurance has to cover. That means the cost basis of our current problem will remain the same, even if we find some other funding mechanism. Worse yet, if any new health insurance scheme carries higher overhead costs for delivery — say the cost of the new federal bureaucracy needed — then our pain could easily increase.
It’s high time we took a hard look at Tort Reform. That’s not to give negligent practitioners a pass on egregious errors but rather to cut down on frivolous claims and the abuse-of-process that happens when some start believing that the medical community is made of money. It’s high time to look at the value of alternative therapies and the wider role they could have in better, more cost effective US healthcare options. We need to agree that limited US Healthcare resources should be used to treat US Citizens for whom the US Government exists. We need to also find a path to this point of balance that doesn’t break the bank by triggering price inflation that will harm everyone.
If we don’t, then Rhode Islanders will continue to see their monthly costs for health care insurance equal or even exceed their mortgage payments.
So we need to give up on artificially aggressive schedules under which we propose to make sweeping and broad based cultural and economic changes to our nation. It’s time for our Congressman to say “NO” to any more pork being diverted at Ms. Pelosi’s request. Haste makes waste. My own reading of HR3200, the most widely circulated House Bill currently under consideration, reveals conflicts with our current ideas on how intrusive government should be in all our lives. It contains loopholes and pork opportunities galore, all of which will increase the cost of healthcare in our country.
And who will pay those higher costs? Don’t kid yourself. You will.
And that’s another thing our Congressman failed to mention during his performance last Wednesday evening.
You hired him. You can fire him.
Mark Zaccaria is a resident of North Kingstown, RI, where he runs a small marketing firm. He is a former member of the North Kingstown Town Council. He and his wife, Ruth, have been married for 34 years. They have three grown children who are all residents of the state. Learn more about Mark’s candidacy for congress at the web site: www.markz4ri.org