Civility shines in Richland Center health care forum
For all the talk nationally about unruly town hall meetings, the folks in Richland Center debated the future of American health care Tuesday night in a civil and thoughtful way.
Their example deserves emulation.
About 300 people crowded into the city’s community center to tell a key congressman — face to face — their views and experiences on this hugely-important issue.
Hosted by U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, the forum was free of the shouting and chronic heckling that have marred similar town hall meetings in other states.
"This is what we’ve been encountering in most of my public forums," Kind told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "I don’t know if it’s homegrown Wisconsin civility. Obviously, passions run deep on both sides of the health care discussions. There was enough respect and courtesy where you can conduct a forum of this nature without degenerating into mob rule."
Kind is a moderate Democrat and potential swing vote on any reform package seeking to make its way through Congress.
Tuesday’s meeting had almost a Norman Rockwell quality, with Kind politely sitting near a basket on the floor of the community center’s basketball court. One citizen after another stepping forward to a microphone near a three-point line on the court to give their take or ask a question.
It was a fine show of engaged citizenry, exercising free speech in a meaningful way. That’s how democracy is supposed to work.
The crowd was roughly divided between those who want more government involvement in health care, and those who want less, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
Kind seems to understand the best points of both camps. He’s stressed the need for more cost-effective health care. Without controlling costs, extending health insurance to virtually all Americans and improving quality will be unaffordable.
Kind also seems to understand legitimate concern about the public insurance option that some of his Democratic colleagues want so badly. Kind said any such option, to truly compete with the private sector, would have to go without public subsidies and live by the same capital requirements as private insurance.
A pragmatic rather than ideological approach is the best way to improve the complicated health care system. And the best way to get to the right prescription for action in Washington is through engaging forums such as Richland Center’s on Tuesday night.