John C. Doolittle: John Salazar should have held a town hall meeting | SteamboatToday.com

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John C. Doolittle: John Salazar should have held a town hall meeting

I would like to publicly thank Lynn Abbott for participating in a public debate (via this paper’s letters to the editor) with me on the issue of nationalizing health care. I also would like to thank this paper’s editor for publishing these letters.

Why is this important? We recently had 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat, visit Steamboat Springs. He did a photo-op on an alternative fuel city bus, a tour of Yampa Valley Regional Airport and a presentation to the Colorado Water Convention at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel (which cost $175 to attend). But he would not hold a town hall meeting with his Routt County constituents because, as he stated, he was afraid the participants would be too rowdy and disruptive. In other words, Routt County citizens are too inscrutable to discuss national issues, particularly health care, with him.

Salazar follows in a long line of recent Democrats – some have not held town hall meetings, some have charged fees to attend their town hall meetings and some, like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, held meetings but only with constituents he personally screened. This is the Democrats’ version of participative democracy. Harry Truman once said that if it gets too hot in the kitchen, “it’s time to get out.” It would be appropriate, following Truman’s advice, that the citizens of the 3rd Congressional District send Salazar back to his ranch come November 2010 as we should not reward a politician who is afraid to face his constituents with re-election.

It was printed in this paper that the U.S. has a poor health care system that reflects our rank of 30th in the world in life expectancy. Such a claim equates life expectancy with health care. This is faulty logic. For example, if a teenager dies in a car accident, this reflects as a lower life expectancy in the national statistics but has no relationship to health care. The U.S. homicide rate is about 2 1/2 times higher than in other industrial nations. Because we drive more, our auto fatality rate is 14.2 deaths per 100,000 people. Other countries’ death rates are much lower – 9.2 in Canada, 6.1 in Germany and 7.4 in France. The U.S. has a larger military involved in more war deaths than other countries. Regrettably, we eat considerably more than people in other countries, which is reflected in more heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. When these factors are properly accounted for, as multiple researchers have shown, Americans actually live longer than people in other countries.

A lot has been said recently about the fact health insurance companies charge higher premiums making their policies unaffordable to many people. The implication is that these companies are making exorbitant profits. During the past 12 months, the after-tax profit margin of large health insurers was 8.6 percent for Unum, 5 percent for Wellpoint, 4.4 percent for United Health Group, 4 percent for Cigna and 12.3 percent for Aflac. Profit margins for large U.S. industrial firms normally average about 11.5 percent.

These two conclusions are substantiated by recent national opinion surveys where about 80 percent of Americans state that they like their health insurance and the quality of their health care.

These are two of the points I would have liked to discuss with Rep. Salazar in a give-and-take public town hall forum. Instead, Salazar chose to have a scratchy telephone town hall discussion lasting only about 45 minutes. Salazar’s contemporaneous telephone survey showed more than 42 percent of the respondents rejected nationalizing health care. Notwithstanding, of the approximately 12 questions asked, all were softball questions indicating the questions appeared to be prescreened. Salazar’s answers weren’t any more illuminating than the questions.