At issue: Aug. 28 Herald-Leader article, "Business owners voice fear; crowd is rowdy; two conservative groups call on McConnell to block implementation"
Hearing biased against new law
On Aug. 27, a U.S. House hearing was held at the Central Library on the Affordable Care Act. According to the pre-event press release, our representatives only wanted to hear about "obstacles" and "difficulties" business owners face because of the new health-care law. Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth from Louisville showed up anyway and spoke eloquently about the new health care law's benefits.
Curiously, Yarmuth's comments are nowhere to be found on the final congressional report on the hearing, nor on the press release the subcommittee published right after the hearing.
Also not quoted in that release is the testimony of Debbie Basham, a 17-year cancer survivor and founder of the Southwest Breast Cancer Awareness Group. If you heard her testimony, you'd be moved to tears by the plight of so many women she's known over the years who have lost their lives — or their families, their homes and all of their assets — over not having the right kind of health insurance or any at all.
In a little over a month, hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians will be eligible to enroll in an affordable health-care plan that will begin Jan. 1. Folks now earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford health insurance, will be able to receive much-needed surgeries and other treatments that will extend their lives. That's good news. Hundreds of thousands more are already being treated for what used to be called "pre-existing conditions."
Hundreds of thousands of adult children up to age 26 are now covered on their parents' insurance. That's good news, apparently even for Republicans, as an article in the Wall Street Journal recently noted that more Republican than Democratic parents are taking advantage of this provision.
Don't let opponets of the law scare you. If you have questions about how to enroll and how you might benefit, go to www.kynect.kygov and see for yourself. You might just find some good news.
Propaganda not helpful
I attended what was billed as "The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Field Hearing in Lexington — Health Care Challenges Facing Kentucky's Workers and Job Creators."
What a joke. Of the 12 people who spoke to the audience, three were Republican congressmen and six were business owners who were friends or acquaintances of these congressmen. Talk about one-sided.
All nine of them gave their bellicose opinions full of falsehoods of why the Affordable Care Act should not come to fruition even though it is the law and parts of it have already been enacted.
Nothing they said was truthful or useful.
Thankfully, there were three knowledgeable people also included. Congressman John Yarmuth challenged some of the lies told by the Tea Party contingency.
Carrie Banahan, who is the executive director of the Kentucky Health Benefits Exchange, offered a few facts on how the new website: kynect.ky.gov will work to help the citizens of the commonwealth.
And Debbie Basham, from the Southwest Breast Cancer Awareness Group, gave a very moving account of how lousy insurance or lack of insurance had affected several women's survival outcomes.
In the future, I'd welcome a more balanced approach to these hearings. This one was nothing shy of right-wing propaganda.
Where was the diversity?
When the U.S. House hearing on health care ended, I left wondering exactly what I had witnessed. First, the "rowdy crowd" that was given headline mention mainly seemed to consist of three or four individuals. The rest of the assembly packed into Farish Theater was polite, attentive and quiet and the two sessions proceeded unhindered.
Second, there seemed to be a formula for the panels' makeup. The congressmen included one who was pro-implementation of the Affordable Care Act and three who were anti-implementation. Both panels of witnesses appeared to have that same makeup. Of the eight witnesses, Carrie Banahan, the director of the newly formed Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, appeared to be the only person with an understanding of the legislation.
So, where was any minority representation? How about gender equity? When so much of the business testimony specified difficulties caused by the recent economic downturn, how can that be recorded as evidence of hardship of a yet-to-be implemented law?
When a business owner suggests his grandparents got along without insurance does he really believe all Americans in 2013 do not need nor have a right to quality, affordable health care? What value was this assembly, which simply reinforced previously held beliefs? More importantly, what meaningful insights did its testimony provide the already-polarized legislators collecting it?