Health care talks without docs, and without you

From the Lewiston Tribune

Aug- 20,2007 – Jim Fisher

Holding invitation-only talks on health care policy without inviting someone representing physicians, as Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is doing, is screwy. It’s like holding talks on education policy without inviting someone representing teachers.

And holding those talks behind closed doors, as Otter is also doing, is plain dumb. It’s like the sessions former first lady Hillary Clinton conducted while preparing her plan for overhauling the nation’s health insurance system.

Members of Otter’s party criticized President Clinton’s wife -justly – for refusing to open the discussions of her 1993 health care group to public view. The proposal resulting from the talks went nowhere, partly because Americans had no understanding of the reasoning behind it and were therefore vulnerable to the distortions in television advertising the health insurance industry broadcast against it.

Can Otter really expect anything of substance resulting from his health care summit Tuesday and Wednesday to fare any better?

To begin with, the governor has snubbed 75 percent of the state’s doctors who belong to the Idaho Medical Association. And apparently, it was no accident. When the association’s executive director, Bob Seehusen, learned of the event, he asked to be permitted to attend, but was rebuffed.

As a result, “there’s no one representing the providers there,” Seehusen says.

The insurance industry is represented, however, as is the hospital industry, employers and of course the Idaho Legislature.

Among those legislators invited to attend is state Sen. Diane Bilyeu. But the Pocatello Democrat says she doesn’t know why. Neither does Bilyeu know why the sessions should be conducted outside of public view.

As a former member of the State Board of Education, Bilyeu is accustomed to arguing in public – the board has a praiseworthy record of that – and she says, “You need the light of day on any issue.”

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian says the sessions of the health care summit are closed because the governor “wants to ensure that these issues aren’t politicized.” How’s that again? An elected governor is going to sit down with elected legislators and representatives of various interest groups to talk about issues of vital importance to those interests in hopes of making proposals to an elected Legislature, but the issues won’t be polticized?

Come on. Shut the people out of these talks if you like, but don’t play them for fools while you’re at it.

From the Lewiston Tribune

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