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Pioneer Editorial: Asking for civil forum on health

Bemidji area citizens will be fortunate to have the opportunity to weigh in on the current debate on health care reform with a health care forum Monday, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, DFL-7th District.

The 1 p.m. public roundtable discussion on how to control health care spending while improving access to quality care is slated for the Beltrami County Board Room in the County Administration Building. It will begin with a panel of local stakeholders and experts who will make brief statements that will be followed by a moderated panel discussion, with questions from the audience.

The opportunity to tell Rep. Peterson what Bemidjians think about health should offer earnest and frank discussion, but not demonstrations of shouting and sign-waving as seen across the country in other congressional health care meetings. We're hopeful that Rep. Peterson walks away with insight from all points of view, based on facts.

Opponents to health care reform are floating serious misinformation about the proposed bills which only cause to divert attention from the core issues of controlling rising health care costs while maintaining access to quality health care.

For instance, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin started the story that a provision allowing Medicare to pay doctors for optional end-of-life counseling amounts to a "death panel," suggesting euthanasia. Medicare already covers such counseling in a new patient's first Medicare visit. Such discussions are normal in making the patient's wishes known when death approaches, much like a living will.

There is also concern that a government-run health plan will emerge, but that has yet to be determined. At any rate, if a government plan is created, it would compete with insurance in an effort to bring prices down, not to supplant private insurance. Nothing in the proposed legislation even comes close to labeling the plan as "socialism."

The proposals do not eliminate Medicare, but rather seek savings from Medicare that are unrela6td to patient care.

There are a lot of good questions to ask, such as how we will pay for the massive proposed health care reform plan. But we should not question the need for reform by giving it misinformed labels and using scare tactics to worry seniors on Medicare.

Monday should bring a good civil discourse on the topic of health care reform -- pro and con -- but please leave the shouting and signs at home.