I spent last week in Tampa, yes at the same time as the Republican National Convention was occurring. I brought my sons to be part of the Patients Over Politics bus tour – truthfully they had no choice but to come as it also coincided with my 50th birthday – nothing like a little maternal guilt. The purpose of this tour (still ongoing now at the Democratic National Convention) is to educate. It is a plea to politicians to stop the rhetoric, stop politicizing, and help us to take care of patients.
Dr Cat in the hat with her 2 sons: Thing 1 and Thing 2
The Affordable Care Act was passed by congress. It was then deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. Yet the political discussions continue as though it is still under discussion. And it is patients who are suffering. There is now so much confusion of what the truth is about the ACA that we found people eager to learn. Of course many were further perturbed that they had not heard the facts – and wanted to know why.
While the majority of the people we encountered were open to learning, and hearing facts, we of course had hecklers. There was the guy who ran through, and hearing that we support the ACA told us to move to Canada. The ACA is in no way a government takeover of healthcare. In fact it strengthens the private market and has room for innovation. Tufts University in Massachusetts just received a grant to start a consumer owned health plan (http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/09/01/proof-obamacare-seeks-to-put-control-of-healthcare-in-the-hands-of-the-consumer/).
We hear about $716 billion. Some of the rhetoric claims that it is being “robbed” from Medicare – though Politifact called that a “mostly false” claim (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/15/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-said-barack-obama-first-history-rob-me/). There are savings being built into Medicare – mostly through cuts in payments to private insurers through Medicare Advantage - that over the next 10 years result in $716 billion in savings.
Hecklers aside, it was fascinating watching people learn. Those that stopped by our booths often started out against the ACA – but really had no actual data to back up this opinion. By the time we finished speaking with them many signed a Declaration of Support (http://act.drsforamerica.org/sign/patientsoverpolitics-2). Minimally they took a fact sheet and clearly were interested in knowing the truth.
One of the best moments of the week was during our march on the last day of the RNC. Tampa was filled with police and barriers (the previous RNC in Minnesota had over 10,000 protestors and 300 arrests – including reporters and in 2004 over 1800 were arrested). As we marched we were suddenly surrounded by police in formation – they blocked traffic so we could continue! And as we marched they were behind and to the side of us as a police escort. At the end of the march they handed us all cold bottles of water – yes you read right, the police gave Doctors for America water. Some of them spoke with us at different points over our time in Tampa – clearly they were supportive.
There were many foreign reporters present and universally they could not understand the opposition to expanded access to healthcare. Since they came from Europe, Australia – countries with single payer systems – they were mystified that anyone would want to repeal a law designed to increase basic health care. Frankly so are we.