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Guest column | Dr. Rao Musunuru

More than health care at stake

White House formally invites GOP to health care summit, read a Feb. 13 headline in the St. Petersburg Times. I would hope to think that this is good news. It might have been if it happened a year ago.

It is obvious that the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act has been hanging by a thread since January, when voters of Massachusetts busted the filibuster-proof majority for Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

It is safe to say that the hope and the scope of the health care reform will be scaled down, when and if it finally passes.

Americans, once again, managed to demonstrate their contradictory behavior. The majority of the people wanted health care reform, but the majority also were happy with what they had. I guess most of the people are in favor of affordable and available health care for everybody, as long as they did not have to pitch in.

Young people (the invincible) got upset because they might be forced to subsidize the sick and the elderly. The wage-earners (the productive) got upset as the employers might offer inferior, less expensive options than their current private plans. The elderly got upset as their benefits (after paying Social Security and Medicare taxes most of their life) might be cut to subsidize the uninsured and unemployed. The Republicans were upset about the imaginary death panels, unimaginable future deficits and unintended higher taxes. The Democrats were upset about the protracted delays and debates, in spite of their political strength. Some of the financial beneficiaries of the health care delivery system were upset as they might not stand to make as much profit.

By the year end, almost everybody seemed upset, for one reason or the other, stemming from either frustration or fear fueled by of misconceptions, mass confusion, inconsistencies, uncertainty, mismanagement and misunderstandings. It led to anxiety and anger.

The public option turned out to be no option. Medicare buy-in was bought out before it was ever put on the market. Tort reform was aborted even before its first heartbeat. Abortion coverage was partly in and then was partly out. Endless federal dollars proposed to be used for Medicaid expansion ended up contracting to select few states with "60th vote Senators." Exceptions to unions, protections for pharmaceuticals and all other back-room deals did not sit well with the public.

Even if the health care reform actually delivers what it promises for the needy, it will take years before any benefits can be realized in any meaningful form. Also, if the current trends in economy and education continue, there could be plenty of homeless and helpless citizens in our country, for awhile, at least, until we can see changes.

One of the definitions of democracy is "a social condition of equality and respect for the individual within the community." People who are fortunate and blessed carry the responsibility on their shoulders and in their hearts to help the unfortunate and the needy. Charity should begin at home.

The able can and should help personally and through various local charitable organizations like the Good Samaritan Free Health Clinic of Pasco, CARES Senior Health Clinic in New Port Richey, Healing Hands in Hudson, West Pasco Pregnancy Center, Premier Community Healthcare Group of Pasco just to name a few. Help is also available through the county Health Department.

A lot of people have other basic needs, beyond health care, that are not being met. Assistance is delivered by various organizations all of whom need help from private donors and volunteers.

Don't you want to be the one? Caring, sharing, giving and changing? Everybody has something they can offer.

Meanwhile, for the country's sake, let us hope that Feb. 25 marks a breakthrough for bipartisanship. There is more than health care at stake.

Dr. Rao Musunuru, a practicing cardiologist, serves on the boards for Good Samaritan Free Health Clinic and Community Aging and Retirement Services (CARES).

More than health care at stake 02/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 6:30pm]

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