“Conversation on Healthcare” event encouraging

Thursday, March 21, 2019

“Conversation on Healthcare” event encouraging

Stillwater Rising’s Civil Conversation on Healthcare exceeded organizers’ expectations.

Though the outcome fell short of solving the complex issue of healthcare (is that any surprise?) the dialogue among locals of differing political views remained civil and the discussions revealed more common ground than discord.

Even better, the exchanges sparked new possibilities, new ways to look at the problem and even some commonsense fixes.

All in all, we consider the experiment a solid success.

Most participants agreed that healthcare is both a right – at least to some level – and a person responsibility. One noted that “healthcare should not be determined by economic status,” but beware the government, big pharma and insurance companies. Some recommended that a committee of medical professionals determine the appropriate level of across-the-board care.

One person pointed out we already pay for the uninsured through our insurance rates, so we can pay insurance or we can pay taxes. Another saw our situation – that healthcare in the U.S.costs roughly 40 percent more than in other civilized countries, for poorer outcomes – as an opportunity to do much better.

Some other revelations included:

•Anyone who wants healthcare coverage must participate from the get-go – perhaps via an automatic paycheck deduction, somewhat like social security.

•Schools and healthcare professionals should continue emphasizing preventative care and healthy lifestyles.

•Wellness is a right but there should be penalties for unhealthy choices.

•In rural settings, we expand access to care by helping one another — by checking on neighbors or taking an elderly friend to a doctor’s appointment.

When it comes to the cost of healthcare for all, participants wanted to see accurate figures. Some pointed out that, by shifting costs from ER visits to preventative care, there might be adequate funding to cover basic healthcare for all.

Some other ideas included lower costs due to folks taking care of themselves and making better lifestyle choices.

Another idea is to allow the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the cost of drugs (as is now done for the Veterans Administration) and incorporate tort reform to limit costs.

Participants seemed most divided over the credibility of the information presented to them at the start. Sources deemed reliable by some were considered suspect by others. This suggests that finding information and facts on which all parties can agree might prove the biggest challenge of all.

Though participants wrestled with the very same issues that have stymied our state and federal politicians, they did so with respect and civility.

As organizers wrapped up the meeting, we remarked on the value of talking to different people in a neutral, facilitated format. We also brainstormed topics for future conversation — such as public access, water issues, gun rights and more on healthcare — and welcome feedback.

The talk was sponsored by Humanities Montana and Stillwater Rising. The latter was formed two years ago by Stillwater County citizens who were deeply concerned about the divisions among us.

Linda Halstead-Acharya


Stillwater Rising member