Since Candidate Obama began his Presidential campaign two years ago, one of the many promises of change he made was to reform our nation's healthcare system. Seven months into his first term, President Obama has not wasted time on working to fulfill his promise.
The United States is the only developed nation in the world which does not offer some type of viable healthcare solution to its citizens, and is ranked as 37 th on a list of 191 nations regarding standards of healthcare by the World Health Organization. Concern, criticism, and general uncertainty about an undertaking of this scale affecting more than 300 million people with a purported price tag of $635 billion is valid, but not grounds for dismissal.
One of the Obama administration's goals is to provide some type of public option healthcare insurance to all Americans as well as implement prohibitions for insurers that withhold coverage from people based on pre-existing conditions. In contrast, Republicans fear that the Obama administration's healthcare plan will be costly and would lower quality of care. Furthermore, they fear that employers would opt for the government-sponsored healthcare rather than private insurance companies, which would automatically undercut the industry.
An elementary analysis of the current public discourse on healthcare illustrates a lack of substantive discussion on the topic even at a basic level as described above. The current upheaval, which is being exacerbated through the use of verbal manipulation as well as intimidation, has imposed a negative veil over an endeavor that is intended to fix our broken healthcare system.
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Congressional town hall meetings have historically been a forum for discourse and information sharing and have served as a place for civil discourse between elected officials and their constituents. Recently, these forums have turned into mob style melees where blatantly false accusations and fear inducing tactics have been used to attempt to coerce elected officials. Comparing public officials to Nazis, brandishing firearms at presidential town halls, and scaring seniors into believing that "death-panels" are part of a real plan is not discourse that is beneficial for Americans.
Sadly, such tactics have spread to public discourse on many critical issues facing our nation. Whether it is healthcare, national security, foreign policy or immigration, the conversation on these issues is being held hostage by various groups and individuals whose sole purpose is to use fear and misinformation to further their own agenda.
Our democracy shines when the merit of our ideas are discussed and challenged, and an open and honest debate takes place in the public square. Our challenge as a country and as leaders is to find meaningful solutions to problems by moving away from fact-free and fear-induced discourse to practical problem-solving, which involves both elected officials and their constituents.