Sunday, August 23, 2009

Liveblog: Senator Amy Klobuchar's Health Care Town Hall

I decided I would make my inaugural post at Fraters Libertas a very special live blog of Senator Amy Klobuchar's Health Care Town Hall. For full disclosure, I have worked in the health insurance industry for two different corporations, including my current employer. However, the opinions I express here are my personal views.

6:52 PM - The way this forum works is that I signed up online before noon on Friday 8/21 and provided a phone number. Early today, I received a conformation that I would be called to be conferenced in around 7 pm tonight.

7:05 - No call yet. I assume the technical issues make lateness a possibility. I won't bail for at least half an hour.

7:10 - Could Amy be having a Brett Favre like change of heart? I wonder how her team feels about this? I wonder how Brett Favre feels about this? Here's the announcement from her web site:

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar will be hosting a live statewide tele-town hall meeting to discuss making health care more affordable and answer questions from her constituents. Joining her will be Dr. Denis Cortese, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Mary Wakefield, the highest ranking nurse in the federal government.

7:15 - In the link above, it suggests that if you're not called by 7:10, you should call her office. I did so and received a message that her voice mail is full. She can't get a town hall meeting started on time, yet she expects us to trust her with our health care?

7:19 - I just got the call. It was a recorded message from Amy. It basically said (not direct quote, but my best shot):

Tonight at 7 pm I hosted a live town hall meeting to discuss health care with Dr. Denis Cortese, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Mary Wakefield, the highest ranking nurse in the federal government. I am sorry that you were unable to join in this discussion. However, I am posting meeting in it's entirety on my website: Thank you for participating in this important discussion.

This stinks! I was unable to join because she refused to have the meeting in person, then refused to let me control my own access. I followed every protocol she required and yet I never got the call. It would be especially bogus if the meeting lasted more than eighteen minutes, as her staff could have connected me into it instead of giving me the 'too bad' phone message.

I signed up for this town hall meeting through my employer's internet connection. I wonder if she screened my IP address to identify me as a potential caller who disagrees with her?

In any event, Senator Klobuchar, if you or your staff is reading this, this is the question that I wanted to ask you:

Senator Klobuchar, as an employee of a large corporate health insurer, I was concerned to read President Obama's statement in the Wall Street Journal (July 7) that we need a public option as a mechanism to 'keep private insurers honest'. My question to you is, do you believe that most of the 1500 or so private insurers in America are not honest, and if you don't believe that then why do we need a public option?

7:30 - I'm still steamed. It's worth noting that in July I sent e-mails to Senators Klobuchar and Franken as well as Rep. Eric Paulson expressing my dismay that health care reform was being fast tracked at the expense of a comprehensive discussion. I was surprised that only Senator Al Franken sent me any reply at all. It was the usual 'Thank you for your input' e-mail, but at least it was something.

This liveblog and my initial Fraters post is over!

The Elder Adds-- The timing of NIGP's inaugural Fraters post and this article in today's WSJ is...ahem...interesting:

The health-insurance industry is sending thousands of its employees to town-hall meetings and other forums during Congress's August recess to try to counter a tide of criticism directed at the insurers and remain a player--and not an outsider --in the debate over the future of the health-care system.

Among the throngs of Americans crowding the sessions across the country, the industry employees come armed with talking points about the need for bipartisan legislation and the unintended consequences of a government-run health plan to compete with private insurers.

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