Seeking Leadership at Yarmuth’s Town Hall

by John LaFollette
The ‘Ville Voice Correspondent

Tonight, Congressman John Yarmuth will become the first and only member of Kentucky’s congressional delegation to host an open public meeting to talk about health care reform.

Reps. Guthrie and Whitfield have hosted a total of five conference calls to talk about the issue.  Rep. Chandler has only participated in private events.  Rep. Davis has been reading letters and e-mails from his recovery bed after surgery.  Rep. Rogers did nothing and talked to no one (publicly, anyway).

And—if we weren’t talking about the most significant piece of national interest in years—who could blame them?  If what awaits Yarmuth (6:30 p.m. at Central High School) is anything like the town halls we’ve seen from the rest of the country, he should have some antacid handy.

Odds are, Yarmuth will want to talk about how the current method of health care delivery is unsustainable, about why the final legislation should include a public option, and about the reform he supports will benefit small business owners and employees, which make up the majority of the American workforce (more on that tomorrow).

His opponents, including Marilyn Parker, the Louisville Tea Party’s vice-president and a potential candidate for Yarmuth’s seat, want to talk about more expensive premiums, higher taxes, and rationing.  Parker said that health care legislation is complex, and that most people have fundamental concerns with the House bill.

“Citizens that have worked hard all their life do not understand why under this bill their taxes will go up, their premiums will go up, and their healthcare will be rationed to support a minority of society, when there are other solutions available,” she said.  Parker didn’t elaborate on those alternatives, but described them as “free market solutions” including tort reform.

Both sides can rightfully be accused of being vague when it comes to talking about the issue.  Problems arise when vaguery morphs into inference, and inference into misinformation.  And indeed, various misinformation campaigns—and the invective with which they have been spread—have largely, in their fervor, drowned out the voices of the calm, solution-minded folks who should be participating in this national conversation the most.

Dr. Adewale Troutman, the director of Metro Louisville’s Department of Public Health and Wellness, says quite simply that “health care is a right.”  With that as a basis, the tone of the conversation shifts toward everyone being healthy, instead of everyone being able to afford having an illness.  “A strong public
health system focused on prevention with attention paid to the social determinants of health and the elimination of health inequities must be at the center of the nation’s health strategy,” Troutman says.

The danger of the current debate, Troutman says, lies in “making a broken, fragmented, wasteful and inefficient system of sick care available to a broader spectrum of the American population.”

What the conversation needs is some encouragement—née, leadership—that helps everyone to be a little more pragmatic.  Let’s hope Francene, the hostess of the shindig, can keep the conversation at the town hall topical.

NOTE: If you can’t go, but want to see it, the C-J and WLKY-TV, and probably others, will be streaming the event live online.