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Insurers Charges $22,000 to Have a Baby, Media Covers Fringe Agitators

The loud get noticed. Talking Points Memo reported on a memo sent to right-wing agitators, giving them pointers on how to disrupt town hall meetings and make it appear that the 14 percent of the country which opposes a public option is in fact the majority. It worked, as this weekend the the AP, and its thousands of affiliates, reported on the disruption of a town hall meeting held in suburban Philadelphia.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended this meeting. Many citizens at this meeting favored drastically reforming the system. The Huffington Post reported on what was actually said by the quiet, polite majority of citizens at this town meeting:

"To show their support, the audience stood and applauded Secretary Sebelius and Senator Specter numerous times. There were people in the crowd wearing purple t-shirts with gold and white lettering that said "Health Care Now We Can’t Wait."

Local members of Health Care for America, a non-partisan, nationwide coalition of volunteers were a strong presence at the event. According to Antoinette Kraus, a Pennsylvania Eastern Organizer for the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, one of Health Care for America’s member organizations, "Two people a day die in Pennsylvania from illnesses that could have been prevented if they’d had access to affordable health care.

"We advocate for quality health care for all through a public option," she said, "and we encouraged all advocates of health care to come out today and support Sect. Sebelius and Senator Specter."

In spite of the chaos, questions were asked and answers given. In response to one question, Specter said, "I believe the single-payer system should be on the table," and was enthusiastically applauded. A retired nurse then prefaced her question by saying, "If single-payer passes, I’ll come out of retirement!"

But the media chose to focus on the activities of a few disruptors. The Atlantic declared the meeting a disaster, while citing a blog hosted by the far-right Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The Philadelphia Inquirer displayed solid journalistic skills by declaring that the "boos were louder," and therefore the President had a tough sale on his hands:

"If any political prognosticators wanted proof that President Obama faces a tough sell on his health plan, they merely needed to show up at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia yesterday….

As each side battled for volume ("I think the boos were louder. That’s my opinion," said one in the crowd, Diana Reimer of Lansdale), Sebelius and Specter managed, barely, to impose a tenuous civility on the hour-long meeting titled "Health Insurance Reform – What’s in it for You."

Meanwhile, the 66% of Americans who support the option of being able to enroll in a public insurance plan are struggling with the brutalities of the current system. It is seen in the patient who lands in the Emergency Room because she is uninsured and hasn’t been able to see the doctor in a decade. And it is seen in the pregnant woman, who just wanted to live the American Dream and build a family; after the birth of her child, the new Mother got stuck with $22,000 worth of bills because the insurance company sold her a plan riddled with loopholes. The woman wrote the following:

"Our six-month-old daughter cost over $22,000.

You’d think, with a number like that, we must have used fertility treatments—but she was conceived naturally. You’d think we went through an adoption agency—but she is a biological child. So surely, we were uninsured.

Nope. Birthing our daughter was so expensive precisely because we were insured, on the individual market. Our insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, sold us exactly the type of flawed policy—riddled with holes and exceptions—that the health care reform bills in Congress should try to do away with. The “maternity” coverage we purchased didn’t cover my labor, delivery, or hospital stay. It was a sham. And so we spent the first months of her life getting the kind of hospital bills and increasingly aggressive calls from hospital administrators that I once believed were only possible without insurance.

If the mother was not a journalist with a popular women’s magazine, the conclusion of this story would be sadly familiar to millions of Americans. But it’s a conclusion you will never hear in the mainstream media. This baby’s family will be bankrupted because of her mother’s medical bills. They’ll move from a house to an apartment. The college fund will be used up to pay off what debts that can be paid off. And the baby’s life will be more constricted, just so a bean counter at Blue Cross can take home a five figure bonus at the end of the year".

But the heart-breaking reality of the American medical system doesn’t make for good copy. It’s too depressing for reporters who like to eat quail eggs and caviar at book launches and cocktail parties, to think of the have nots in society. God forbid the conversation turns to the harsh realities of middle class life in America; it’d, like, totally kill the mood.

And so we’re left with a press that covers the 14% of the country who are agitated by the fact that the time for change in our health care system has come. The screams and shouts of a fringe on the right makes for good, easy to read copy, and, more importantly, entertaining cocktail party conversation. "Did you see those loud protestors in Philadelphia?" Or, "Did you see that Kenyan birth certificate the birthers produced?" Followed by an hour of drunken laughs by "professionals" who spend earn six figure salaries "reporting" on the news in their pajamas.

This is the reason we must go to town halls, make phone calls to our elected representatives, and write letters to the editor. If we take action, our views can be heard over the shouts of the 14 percent fringe, and their enablers on the beltway cocktail party circuit.

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