You. At a Town Hall Meeting. 5 Questions You Should Ask
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If you lived nowhere but in front of your television set, you'd never know that a majority of the American people favor substantial health-care reforms -- and you'd certainly never know that most want to see a public health-care plan offered as part of a mix of options in any overhaul of the system.
In fact, were you a truly dedicated couch potato, you just might think that most of the “regular people” in this country just hate, hate the idea of health-care reform. And then you just might start thinking that maybe you should, too.
Thankfully, you, oh well-informed reader, are not that kind of tuber. No, you are ready for action, ready to show another face of regular America to the media — and to your fellow citizens. And what better place to do that than at a town-hall meeting dedicated to the topic of health-care reform?
Where You Come In
Just as opponents of reform have shown up in force at town-hall meetings conducted by members of Congress who support meaningful change, so, too, can you make your presence known at the town halls of those who oppose it. And when you do, awesome things can occur.
Look at what happened to Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley -- the man who's been holding up the finalization of a health-care bill in the Senate Finance Committee while trying to scare his older constituents into thinking that reimbursing doctors for counseling patients on end-of-life care is really a ruse for "pulling the plug on Grandma."
Watch this video from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, starting at around 2:43, and you'll see one grandma who all but pulled the metaphorical plug on Grassley:
The brilliance of this woman's question was that it was particular to Grassley, her senator,who had been using as his rationale for opposing the public option a study by the Lewin Group. Not only did the quesitoner helpfully point out that the Lewin Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of United Health Care, one of the largest health insurance companies; she also calculated how much the United Health Care CEO made per hour: $102,000 by her math.
Luckily, Sen. Grassley has a week full of town hall meetings still ahead of him -- meetings at which you could be the star!
Town Halls Galore
Don't live in Iowa? There's still room for your powers of good, as congressional opponents (and supporters) of health-care reform are convening public meetings and teleconferences in a number of states, on dates ranging from now until the end of the year.
Tonight, for instance, Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, will convene a meeting in Tallahassee. Later this week, alpha Dog Mike Ross of Arkansas will meet with constituents via teleconference, and next month, Pennsylvania's Kathy Dahlkemper, also of the Blue Dog Coalition, will meet concerned citizens in Emlenton.
And there's plenty more: citizens of Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state all have the opportunity to to discuss health-care reform with those who represent them in our nation's capital. Heck, in Wisconsin, Sen. James Sensenbrenner has a roster of town-hall appearances as jam-packed as a Grateful Dead tour schedule.
Although it's critical for progressives to have a presence at meetings presided over by senators and representatives who pose obstacles to health-care reform, don't forget those who support it: they need your love, and your smart questions. For instance, tonight Virginia's Jim Moran has a meeting scheduled, and it's anticipated that anti-reform enthusiasts will be out in force.
We've compiled the town-hall schedule information here (which wasn't hard to do, thanks to the handy-dandy listing that appears on the Web site of Glenn Beck's 912 Project). Although not every event listed is expressly dedicated to the topic of health-care reform, that's no reason not to bring it up.
Don't Go It Alone
To maximize your presence and point of view, gather a group about you -- your friends and family. Spread out in the room, and get your questions in early, so you can set the tone for the meeting.
Be strategic: If you have a senior citizen in your group, make arrangements with that person to politely ask a pointed question. (If you don't have a senior citizen in your group, recruit one if you can.) For instance, if your representative or senator has been advancing the lie that health-care reform is a scheme to kill old people, have that person ask where in the bill the representive finds that information. Ask for the page number, and which version of the bill. Or have that person discuss, in a personal way, the merits of having a discussion her doctor about end-of-life care.
Do you know a progressive member of the clergy? Would she or he be willing to join you to raise the moral concern of letting millions of people go without health care in the richest nation on earth? (Even better if the clergy member wears something symbolic of his ministry.)
Bring your personal stories. Do you or a member of your group have a heart-rending tale about something a heartless insurer did to a loved one, or how lack of coverage created a devastating outcome? Use that story as a lead-in to a question about how the kind of reform your representative says he or she supports would make things different.
For camera impact, have a few hand-crafted signs at the ready, with slogans like: "My Grandchildren Deserve Health Care" or "Dropped By My Insurance Company" (assuming that you were).
5 Basic Questions
Here are five fundamental questions that should illuminate the need for health-care reform to your town-hall audience: