On Wednesday, Senator Harry Reid invited some of Nevada's Clergy and some members of the press to join him on a phone conference to speak on the health care issue.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid hosted a conference call on September 9 with Nevada Faith leaders on the need for health insurance reform. Reid believes we need to preserve the parts of the health care system that work, fix the parts that don’t work and ensure quality, affordable care is available for all Nevadans.
Tom Brede from Senator Reids' office invited Digital Journalist Jay David Murphy to join in with other reporters and clergy in a discussion over the phone covering the topic of insurance reform from the view point of the clergy.
The Senator opened up the phone conversation by sighting a Newsweek magazine from September 7th, page 42 “The Five Biggest Lies of Health Care Reform.” He read through them point-by-point for the audience on the phone conference.
The five points which the Senator quoted from the article include "you’ll have no choice in what health care benefits you receive", "no chemo for older Medicare patients", "Death panels will decide who lives", and "the government will set doctors’ wages."
Senator Reid opened his reading with the opening of the article, “To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth—which makes the misinformation that much more credible. Instead, because opponents demand that everyone within earshot (or e-mail range) look, say, at page 425 of the House bill!, the lies take on a patina of credibility.
Take the claim in one chain e-mail that the government will have electronic access to everyone's bank account, implying that the Feds will rob you blind.”
Several times while reading this the Senator paused and reminded those listening that these were not his words but that of the author of the article from Newsweek.
Senator Reid said of the article, “I think it’s a very concise powerful article, this is Newsweek magazine and I am not paraphrasing a word they are saying.”
Heated rhetoric over health care continues at town hall meetings, talk shows, news reports, and ‘live’ blogs across the country. In this phone conversation the Senator gave an opportunity to Nevada clergy to voice their opinion and relate their faiths’ views on the topic of health care without all the clatter of screaming and yelling that has been portrayed daily in the media.
The clergy that were involve included: Dr. Robert Fowler, Victory Missionary Baptist Church of Las Vegas, Larry Struve, Religious Alliance in Nevada (RAIN) in Reno, Tim O’Callaghan, Pastoral Intern at St. Andrews Catholic Community, Boulder City & Coordinator, Social Action Ministry Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas, Rabbi Yitzchak Wyne, Young Israel Aish of Las Vegas, and Rev. Mike Margerum, Deacon, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Reno, Nevada.
Dr. Fowler was first of the clergy to have time to speak following the opening remarks from Senator Reid.
He had this opening point to make: “What the government is trying to do, what the president is trying to do, what the Senator is trying to do, there is no conflict what so ever morally with the church.”
Dr. Fowler continued, “There is no separation of church and state in this regard, we are trying to collaborate together so that we can do the best for people. It is a moral right that we provide health care for everyone in our country.”
Larry Struve brought these points to the conversation while referring to a national assembly of evangelical Lutherans’: “4.7 million members had a resolution before it this past August, asking the congress to have some comprehensive health care bill because of the churches long-standing commitment to health care as a shared endeavor. The Lutherans’ have always believed that health care is not only an individual responsibility it is a social responsibility, something we owe to one another in a civilized society.”
Struve continued, “There was some debate on this Senator, but in the end it was passed by 84% of the members present. And they represented over 10,000 congregations, 4.7million church members, and I think it speaks pretty strongly about their commitment to health care shared responsibility that they we in society owe to one another.”
Tim O’Callaghan picked up were Struve left off speaking about the Religious Alliance in Nevada (RAIN) and in reference to Bishop Murphys' letter from the Conference of Catholic Bishops, dated 7-17-2009, “Health care is a basic right belonging to all human beings,” he continued quoting from the letter and making a special point, “In reference to reform, that respects human life, from conception to natural death, provides access to quality health care for all, with a special concern to immigrants and the poor.”
Rabbi Wyne followed with, “It’s a no brainer to us, that every person has an obligation to take care of their own physical health.” He went on to say, “If you believe in the Bible, then you believe you are your brothers’ keeper and there is another verse that tells us not to stand by the blood of our brother.”
He expanded on his points, “We can’t stand by while someone else physical or mental safety is in jeopardy. That is a basic human obligation simply because we are all created in the image of God.”
Rabbi Wyne expressed that what ever bill comes forward from congress, “It’s put forth in a very clear way, so that even those not as educated as others can understand the consequences of what we are doing.”
Reverend Mike Margerum had this comment to add to the conversation, “One thing that each layperson subscribes to during Baptism is that we strive for justice and respect the dignity of each person. This is not that when some one next to us cannot not afford health care.”
He continued with, “If we are going to follow Christ in our ministries we have to follow Him helping heal those that are sick.”
Following the comments from the Clergy, Senator Reid took the Bible quote that Rabbi Wyne had used to heart, “Rabbi, what was that term you used about blood?”
Rabbi Wyne, “It’s a verse in the bible, that says don’t stand by the blood of your brother.”
Senator Reid, “Wow that’s amazingly strong.”
Following that last comment from the Senator he asked for questions from the press.
This journalist asked, “Senator Reid, this is Jay Murphy with Digital Journal. What is important to you in health care?”
Senator Reid, “My first elected job, many years ago, was to the Southern Nevada Board of Memorial Trusties that’s now University Medical Center, that is were I started my political career elected wise, with the hospital board. So I saw what happened when I first came to office on the board, 40 percent of old people including members of the hospital had no insurance and what did we do? We went after the husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, neighbors, we had a large collection department.
During that time I was there, Medicare came into being, so my last part of the time I was there was much different than the first part of the time, because after Medicare everyone had it.
I want to make sure that patients and doctors make decisions about their medical care. I want to keep the insurance companies honest, I believe in a public option myself because I think the insurance industry generally is not subject to anti-trust laws, the only business in America, accept Baseball, that are not subject to anti-trust laws, needs a way to keep them honest! So I am in favor of that.
I want this law to be finished, and say you can’t deny care because of previous conditions."
Senator Reid continued with, “I went to Nye County, Parhump,” and the Senator began to relate a personal story about how a detective couldn't be there for the meeting because “his wife had a baby less than a month ago and his baby has a congenital heart defect.” From there Senator explained the fears of not having health insurance for the detective's family, the issue of losing a job and previous health conditions of his wife.
“I want to prevent health insurance companies from dropping coverage from a person who loses a job. We tried something called ‘Cobra’ it allows to get coverage for a short period of time, but the problem is the cost is so punitive, it costs so much money, somebody should not loose their coverage if they change jobs or become ill.
And I think we have to lower the cost of planning health care, we have to save money, we are spending to much money, by the year 2020 if we don’t do something we will be spending 35 cents of every dollar on health care. We have to cut down on fraud, waste, and abuse. So those are a few of the high points I wanted to make."
I asked, “Can I do a quick follow up on that? In the Constitution we are supposed to have 'domestic tranquility', so would you think that would kind of fall under the health care issue we have?”
Senator Reid replied, “I think if anybody raises the question of that, we don’t have the right to give people health care, was Medicare, was that in the Constitution, of course not.
Anybody that raises the constitutional issue, even if you go back and read the ‘Wealth of Nations’ by Adam Smith written in 1776, which is the bible of the free enterprise system. Adam Smith said there are certain things that people can’t do for themselves and government in those situations have to step in, obvious ones are national defense, infrastructure and things of that nature, and I think in this modern day-and-age, Adam Smith would have a big chapter in making sure that people could go to the doctor once their sick.
The Senator concluded the phone conference after taking those two questions from the press presented by Digital Journal.