Health care: an open letter to Senator Amy Klobuchar


by Bruce T. Johnson July 2, 2009 • Yesterday I attended a public forum on solving the health care crisis that was hosted by my Representative Keith Ellison. The forum drew an overflow crowd of people from all parts of the Twin Cities who realize that now is the time to solve our crisis in healthcare. That crisis threatens the lives of many of our citizens, takes the lives of far too many, and also plays a large role in our current economic crisis and undermines our competitiveness in world markets.

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I know that you had staff at the forum who can report to you the story of the man whose wife is dying of cancer because, having lost health insurance after an initial bout with cancer, could not afford regular checkups. They can also report to you on panelists from the provider side who see patients in emergency rooms too late and at too great cost, and on the perspectives of small business owners who struggle to provide healthcare to their workers along with workers compensation coverage and still provide a living wage. I hope that your staff will report to you the commitment of the people in the room to real change, including the older man from Eagan who declared himself ready to go to jail if civil disobedience is necessary to bring about that change. And I hope that they will report to you the outlines of requirements drafted by Physicians for a National Health Plan that would be required for a real public option to bring about change.

I know too that you have declared that ‘we can’t stand where we are’. But I have been very disappointed in your too cautious positioning at this critical moment, your lack of clear support for a robust public option and your lack of communication and leadership to your constituency.

We are in the midst of a profound crisis from which there will be no recovery of the old ‘normal’ – a normal that ill served so many citizens already. If Congress does not deliver a cost effective health care plan driven by a strong public option to provide affordable and accessible health care to all citizens, we will not only have wasted this moment but will pave the road to bankruptcy, reaction and decline of our country. This is not a time for caution or half-measures. The Republicans will seize on failure in order to inflict on all citizens more of the kind of suffering that Governor Pawlenty is now imposing on Minnesotans.

A robust public plan is now the central issue in health care reform and essential to both the claims of Justice and the practical claims of economics. Religious leaders of all faith traditions have given voice to the claims of justice and the evils of health care rationed on the basis of wealth. I hope that your staff has brought to your attention the recent study by the Lewin group, commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund that shows a savings of 1-2 Trillion Dollars over the next decade if a robust public plan is included in reform. Without a public plan, health care reform is doomed to failure. The price of that failure will be paid by all citizens but accounted to the failure of Democrats in a position to do better.

As a panelist declared in the forum, all the data is on our side. The overwhelming majority of citizens too are awaiting a real change, the change we need. Please speak out strongly for a robust public plan.

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