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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

January 5th, 2010 4:12 PM

It’s Our Lives, It’s Our Money: Do Health Reform In the Sunshine

If there is nothing to protect that relates to national security, every bit of the health reform legislation debate and negotiation should be done in public. Period.

We read today that C-SPAN is arguing that the negotiations between the House and the Senate on their healthcare bills need to be done while their cameras are rolling. I agree.

But isn’t it just a sign of our times that no major print media argued that issue on our behalf? The New York Times or Washington Post? Or even the Associated Press that reported on little ol’ C-SPAN? Or how about one of the major news networks? ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN?

When I worked as a journalist in South Dakota, even when small city governments tried to go into executive session to avoid scrutiny of sweetheart deals for local contractors or campaign contributors or to avoid embarrassment for friends of the mayor or city commission members, we in the local press called those bodies to task for not following open meetings laws.

The public’s business needs to be done in public. And this healthcare reform legislation is not only spending our money, it is determining the course of our lives in a very personal and profound way. We may live or die, suffer financial trauma or be fined, have access to doctors or be denied that access, all based on what Congress seeks to finish quickly behind closed doors. This is not an appropriate way to complete this process.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” reads a well-known quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, referring to the benefits of openness and transparency in public policy.

If this healthcare reform legislation has been done in the best interests of the public, no Congressional member ought to fear full and accurate vetting of every inch of the process and detail of the bill in full view of the public and the press.

Now, if we just had an engaged and independent-of-corporate-control press demanding to know all not only on our behalf but on behalf of the nation. Handing over the health of our nation to the for-profit insurance industry is a very large step to take on faith that it will work out well in the end.

Do you hear the insurance industry really fighting any of this? Is the silence deafening to anyone else but me? Where is Karen Ignagni, the industry’s top spokesperson? Perhaps she’s waiting in the wings for the invitation to the Rose Garden bill signing ceremony and then into the front row for the State of the Union address. Safe bet she’s been weighing in all along the way. We’re just not privy to that, and we should be.

And we – the American people -- cannot even get a camera into the Congressional meetings in which our personal fate is being decided and our funds being committed for healthcare? If they have nothing to hide from us, let it all hang out. Let us see it and let us understand all the forces that made this health reform effort what it has been and what it will be. Let the cameras in. Let the reporters in. Let the American people in.

Everybody in, nobody out. It works for lots of arguments, including public policy and healthcare.

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