Health Reform Isn't Dead

Our View: Despite The Best Efforts Of Those Who Would Stop Any Change To Our Health Care System, People Aren't Joining The Angry Mob But Are Seeking Rational Debate

August 16, 2009

Watching the news during the past week became a daily exercise in rubbernecking at the train wreck that was town hall democracy. At a certain point, it beame impossible to determine, and maybe immaterial, who came to meetings congressmen and senators held to discuss health care reform out of genuine concern and who came as part of an orchestrated show of force by one side or the other. Supporters and opponents of the Democratic reform plans said they felt insulted and misunderstood by the other side, and it was clear that little real debate or dialogue was going on.

That's what happened Monday night when Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin held a town hall meeting at Towson University. People on both sides who attended said they were disgusted by what went on.

But there was at least a glimmer of hope for the future of America's debate about health care reform at Mr. Cardin's second town hall on the topic in Hagerstown on Wednesday. It didn't come inside the meeting Mr. Cardin held in an effort to explain the proposals and his support for them to his constituents. That, like the earlier meeting in Towson, was dominated by angry protesters who repeated misinformation about the bills, attempted to shout down anything the senator said and generally stymied any substantive discussion.

Instead, the most productive debate, according to a report by The Sun's Paul West, came among the hundreds of people who showed up for the meeting but weren't allowed inside the over-capacity hall. Away from the television cameras, supporters talked to opponents and, even if they didn't change any minds, at least they were able to recognize each other as fellow human beings.

That's no small thing. Those who want to destroy any chance for reform to the nation's health care system were banking on the month of August to build public momentum against change. That seems not to be happening. Rather than joining the mob, many are expressing disgust with it and a desire to focus instead on the facts and on the crucial issues that need to be resolved, such as how the country will pay for the reform plans, whether coverage can be made affordable for all and how we can improve both the efficiency and quality of our system. Even those who harbor the greatest misgivings about the plans under consideration in Congress - and who cling to the most insidious misinformation about them - profess a desire to change the status quo.

Let's hope that August isn't the month when health reform dies, but rather the time when Americans vented their steam and got down to the business of creating a system that is sustainable and fair for all.

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