Dr. Peter Kfoury, chairman of the healthcare committee for the Charleston Continue the Change Action Group (The Good Fight, June 16, 2009) posted the message below on the Charleston County Democratic Party website following Congressman Jim Clyburn’s Healthcare Forum at ILA Hall on Saturday. The message was soon taken down because, as Kfoury was informed, it was too one-sided. Perhaps it is one-sided, but sometime you have to step off the fence and take a side. With that in mind, here is what Dr. Kfoury had to say about the congressman’s appearance:

The Health care Forum with Rep. Jim Clyburn on Saturday yielded a disappointing but not unexpected result. Mr. Clyburn is an impressive man with an easy speaking style. I believe that he is genuinely concerned about this issue but as a politician, the art of compromise often trumps that of leadership.

There were probably about 300 people in attendance, including several of our committee members. Jackie and Steve videotaped the event. Thank you to all who came, handed out flyers, got petitions signed, etc. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. After an intro by his staffer, Mr. Clyburn gave a half hour or so talk on what is happening with health care legislation. Then there were 8 or 10 pre-registered speakers who were limited to 3-4 minutes each. Some represented small businesses unable to afford health care insurance for their employees, or attract good talent due to a lack of benefits. Several related heart rending stories of service to family and community, only to be shut out when their own health deteriorated. This group (which we did not know about in advance) was followed by an open mike session, where 8 or 10 more folks (including Dr. Carolyn Thiedke and myself) were allowed 2 minutes to speak. At the end, Mr. Clyburn answered questions.

There were several questions and comments about single payer. Interestingly, when I got a chance to speak and said that our group represented those in favor of single payer, the whole room broke into applause. This was the only such occurrence, and indicated to me that if a public vote was held tomorrow, single payer would win hands down…and I said this directly to Mr. Clyburn. I also indicated that if the people were calling the shots and not the insurance companies, we would go that route without question. This was definitely reflective of the sentiment in the room. Several other speakers mentioned that if all the European countries took care of their people, why can’t we? I pointed out that the single payer system was the only one that would address every question being asked today.

At the end Mr. Clyburn got up to answer the questions raised during the public forum. Several times, he looked directly at me…especially when he forgot which bill it was exactly that had the most single payer traction (HR 676 of course, of which he was an original sponsor). Although disappointing, at least he was honest and direct, and here’s what he said:

“There is NO chance of single payer passing at this time…maybe a few years down the road…HR 676 has ‘topped out’ at around 100 sponsors, and it would need 218. The House will NOT pass a bill without a public option, and the Senate will not pass a bill WITH one. (he then explained the legislative process that would move the Senate to a situation where only 51 votes would be necessary, but I’m not clear on it exactly) We will have an affordable public option that will create competition in the marketplace”.

Unfortunately, this leaves many questions unanswered. For example, what is “affordable” if you’re unemployed? How does this change pre-existing clauses and the drag of having health care insurance tied to a job? What about cost control? Will it be mandatory to have some coverage and therefore be somewhat close to universal, or will many still be left out?

It doesn’t look good for our side, but I really believe that not only should we stick with this position through the whole process, but that people will look back in a few years as costs continue to rise, and realize that we missed a golden opportunity for true change. See you at the next meeting on July 21.