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Debate the healthiest thing of bill
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Congress is scheduled to go back to work today — for what it’s worth.

Over the last several weeks, many lawmakers have held town hall meetings and the topic of discussion has been the health care reform proposals. Across the land, it’s been a long and hot summer as many citizens have taken their 1st Amendment right to heart and questioned just what’s in the bill that’s over 1,000 pages long and likely would have a larger impact on Americans’ lives than any other piece of legislation, probably ever.

Remember when we were promised a new era of transparency and when bills would be made available online to peruse for days before a vote would take place?

So just why the rush to ram through a bill that no one in their right mind, not even a college student during finals week, could read in a span of a few days? Why completely overhaul a system that, despite our president’s protestations to the contrary, really had very little to do with last year’s economic derailment?

There are a lot of questions and it looks like no one even faintly familiar with the bill can answer many of them. How much will this really cost? Who’s going to pay for it? What will happen to my current level of coverage? Are they going to make me have coverage, even if I don’t want it? Why is there all this discussion of end-of-life counseling?

Our current representative in U.S. House, John Barrow, has voted against HR 3200, known as America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009. This is an oxymoron of the highest order. Not that Barrow voted against, but that something that is expected to cost $1 trillion or more can be called affordable.

More than 40 million Americans are estimated to lack any coverage. How many of them opt not to have any? How many are covered and may not know it? How many of that total are illegal immigrants?

The president is scheduled to make a televised address to the nation Wednesday night, perhaps a last-ditch effort to rally his supporters and detractors back to his side in this debate.

My questions for him are thus: When my grandmother was 88 years old, she had triple bypass surgery. Even the doctor told her then that they ordinarily just send people home to die at that age who need such an operation. But she was in such good health, they decided to perform it.

When she passed away in December 2002, she was three months shy of her 100th birthday and was in about a good as health as could be expected for someone 99 years old.

Would she have been able to have that same operation and live another 11 years of a full life under the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009?

The next year, my mother suffered a devastating stroke. She was not supposed to live another three months. She lasted almost 13 years, robbed of many her critical faculties but still able to function and laugh and move around — with great difficulty — and command her many offspring in chores around the house, in spite of the codebreakers we employed to figure out what she was trying to communicate.

Eventually, she suffered what we believe to be another stroke, one that was far too much for her to overcome. She and our father, who had passed away about eight weeks earlier, had both decided against a feeding tube, should they fall into such a condition that one might be under consideration. She went out on her terms — and peacefully so.

Would she have that same opportunity, to dictate as much as she could, how her care in her final days should be handled under America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009?

The August recess, while it may have rankled the president and his grease-the-rails-to-ram-through-the-bill crowd, did the rest of country plenty of good. It gave them an opportunity to delve into the legislation and ask just what in the world it was, before Congress could pass it on an unsuspecting nation.

Remember, a couple of years ago, this was the bunch that was considering raising tobacco taxes to pay for such plans as Georgia’s Peachcare. Fine and dandy, except that to continue to pay for it, you needed people to continue to smoke. And little else drives up health insurance faster than checking off the box on an insurance questionnaire that you’re a smoker. That’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul. That’s killing Peter to pay Paul.

And this is the group we trust to “reform” health care in this country? Really?

There’s a lot of things in the country we could do better when it comes to health care — promoting preventive care, for starters — and some we could a whole lot better, such as coverage for catastrophic illnesses.  

If you want to weigh in, Barrow has a health care survey on his Web site at I filled it out. I encourage you to do the same thing. Might be a healthy exercise for all concerned.