On Sept. 9, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to assert his vision for health-care reform and to address the sharp tenor of the national debate.
The same night, a panel of health experts and more than 150 citizens gathered in a large meeting room at St. Luke's in Boise to watch the speech and discuss a way forward.
Obama laid out the historic precedent for reforming America's health-care system going back to Teddy Roosevelt, offered widely agreed upon evidence the system is not working now and put forth a moderate vision of reform for which he claimed broad support.
The crowd, including many doctors and hospital workers, reform activists and other members of the public, hung on Obama's every word and then proceeded to debate his ideas in an orderly and respectful fashion, a far cry from the vitriolic shouting matches displayed at other public meetings and rallies this past summer.
Just a week prior, a liberal small-business group called the Main Street Alliance gathered at the Capitol Annex in Boise to advocate for a vague concept of reform. The group of some 100 reform proponents was met by another group of some 50 detractors, shouting down speakers and yelling about Communism and socialism, in the "Obama lies, grandma dies," vein.
Public Forum on Health Care Reform / Filmed by BW Video Intern Blair Davison
Obama addressed the shouting directly in his speech to the nation: "If you misrepresent what is in this plan, we will call you out," he said.
Then he slipped into his preacher cadence, acknowledging that the protesters were correct that the American character is built on rugged individualism and individual liberty. But Obama added that our national character also includes large-heartedness and concern for the plight of others.
"The danger of too much government is matched by the peril of too little," he said.
At the close of the speech, the change in the tone of the debate was palpable, though moderator Stephanie Witt, director of Boise State's Public Policy Center failed to capitalize on the moment by allowing conventional intros by the five panelists.
Still, Dr. Lou Schlickman (see Citizen, Page 9), on behalf of Idaho Health Care for All, which organized the panel, argued that Obama was naive to think that reform could be achieved by leaving the private health insurance industry in place.
Dr. Gary Krouth, chief medical officer at St. Luke's, listed seven areas of reform that he felt Obama was ignoring, including the way doctors are paid, the uneven application of procedures and uneven access to doctors and hospitals across the country.
And then Dr. Karl Watts, medical director at the Garden City Community Clinic, put it most bluntly: "In all actuality, it is not a system. It's an industry. It's an industry of distinct groups of productive enterprises that are independent, fragmented, inefficient, perversely incented and unorganized."
BWwent to press, the Boise City Council was poised to adopt a resolution asking Congress for health-care reform along the lines of Obama's proposal. Including a public option.
Watch the panel and read the City Council decision on boiseweekly.com.
war in Iraq
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Monday, Sept. 14, 2009, 4,346 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,473 in combat and 873 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,494. In the last week, five U.S. soldiers died.
Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 117 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 93,096 and 101,596 .
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $682,807,738,704