Rural America--The Forgotten Folks in the Healthcare Debate

Thursday, August 20, 2009
by Patrick Dorinson

President Obama came to Montana and Colorado for a visit last weekend to push his healthcare plan. As he was speaking I heard little if anything about one of the biggest healthcare problems in the West-- the availability of healthcare of any kind in rural areas which is a problem not just in the West but in other rural areas of America.

His visit reminded me of a piece I recently read by liberal, err excuse me, “progressive” columnist David Sirota. Mr. Sirota supports a government run healthcare system. He is a transplanted Easterner originally from Connecticut via Washington D.C. and now resides in Denver.

After the obligatory Bush bashing that seems to be part of the liberal dogma when discussing any issue, he goes on to viciously attack six Senators, members of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrats and Republicans for announcing that they would reject any public option in their version of a healthcare bill. These six are trying to craft a plan that will draw bipartisan support. He also goes after seven “mostly Southern Democrats” who have also threatened to vote for their constituents interests. He spits out the word “Southerner” with venom possibly because he did not want to use the term “redneck” and offend anyone.

He goes on to bemoan the fact that they hail from “small states and rural areas” and walks right up to the line before getting libelous in accusing them of having been bribed by the evil “healthcare industry” to pay for their campaigns.

I know you are new to the West Mr. Sirota but if you are going to throw around accusations as outrageous as these, you better be ready to back them up with facts not innuendo.

He talks about how these members only represent only 4% of the population and how dare they hold up healthcare for the 96% of the rest of the nation. While he doesn’t use the exact words he speaks of a tyranny of the minority.

In his website bio it states that Mr. Sirota went to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I don’t know if they teach American history at Northwestern but I think Mr. Sirota missed that class.

If he had read the history of America particularly the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he would know that at the time the small states were worried about the tyranny of the majority. The great compromise of that convention and which was later added to the Constitution, allowed for two houses of government. One would be the House of Representatives that would be decided on the population of each state. And to protect the smaller states from being bullied and overrun by the larger states they created the upper house, the Senate which would have two Senators for each state regardless of size.

It’s bad enough that he seems to have forgotten his country’s history but it’s not the worst of it.

 He goes on to display his complete ignorance of rural healthcare and its needs when he says...

“Census figures show that the poverty rates are far higher and per-capita incomes far lower in the 13 legislators' specific districts than in the nation as a whole. Put another way, these politicians represent exactly the kinds of districts whose constituents would most benefit from universal healthcare”. 

Perhaps Mr. Sirota should pay attention to something happening in his own adopted state of Colorado.

In Colorado, 80% of the people live in 20% of the state with the remaining 80% considered rural or frontier. Boy when was the last time you heard the word frontier in describing any state in the lower 48. Frontier areas are defined as “sparsely populated places far removed from population centers”.

About the same time Mr. Sirota’s piece appeared in the media, the Associated Press ran a story about folks in Walsenburg, Colorado whose real problem isn’t whether the final plan has a public option or not but the availability of care at all. They can’t hop on a city bus and go to their doctor or a clinic for those too poor to afford basic care.

Lou Ann Wilroy of the Colorado Rural Health Center said it in the simple language that even an Easterner like Mr. Sirota can understand when she told the AP, “We keep hearing about universal coverage. From a rural perspective that solves nothing. You can have an insurance card in your wallet, and that doesn’t mean you’re going to have care”.

As the nation has become more urbanized and suburbanized, rural America seems to be an afterthought. Maybe these 13 Senators and Congressmen are just trying to ensure that any plan that finally emerges ensures that everyone rural or not have access to healthcare.

Because for any plan to work it must help all Americans…rural or urban, east or west, north or south.

As for Mr. Sirota, I suggest he read up on the Constitution and he might want to visit the Colorado Rural Health Center right there in Aurora a suburb of Denver before he spouts off on rural healthcare needs.

And if he is going to stay in the West, he might want to learn some manners before he accuses someone of taking a bribe.