I was invited by Rep. Martin Heinrich (along with two doctors) to be a panelist at the Congressman’s health care town hall on Saturday. First and foremost, I give Heinrich credit not only for inviting someone with a different perspective to take part in the town hall, but for inviting someone like myself who will provide a competent, principled defense of free market health care instead of an executive from a health insurance company of drug company who would merely provide a self-interested opposition to Obamacare, but not a principled argument and no alternative vision.
The town hall room was completely full with 600 folks attending (a slight advantage for the single-payer folks, approximately 60-40 split between supporters and opponents). Another 300 people watched the proceedings on site in a separate room on closed-circuit television.
Surprisingly enough to me, Heinrich did not stack the rest of the panel with supporters of Obamacare. Rather, one of the physicians, John Vigil, wound up agreeing with me more often than not. He concluded the meeting with a strong statement against the third-party payer model for health care. I was of course critical of Obamacare and the left’s real favorite option, single-payer. I had dozens of positive messages from conservative and free market advocates in my email inbox over the weekend. The folks at ABQRally.com have a good re-cap of the event as well. Then, there are the lefty blogs including two from Daily Kos here and here.
The postings at Daily Kos are so amusing that I quote them at length below:
Then there was the conservative lobbyist….
The lobbyist is from one of the most conservative alleged “research institues” in New Mexico. I was absolutely disappointed pissed off that he put Paul Gessing on a panel discussing health care reform. Gessing brought nothing to the table except to rile up those in attendance who were shills for the Heritage Foundation.
He wasn’t a doctor, he wasn’t a nurse, he wasn’t even a health insurance administrator. He was a lobbyist who regurgitating the same talking points I had heard in line, and, while sitting in the auditorium.
Why was Gessing asked to be on the panel? What legitimacy did he bring to the debate? I have heard Heinrich wanted some “balance.” Bad choice. Lobbyists don’t bring balance. They only bring talking points from those that pay them. If balance was needed then put an insurance executive on the panel.
I’ll borrow a question from a blogger friend of mine,
was Heinrich punked?
Why are we continuing to pander to these people? The health care reform we all want, whether it be a single payer system or a strong public option, won’t be accomplished this way. And when Progressive candidates have conservative industry hacks/shills/lobbyists answering questions at a Town Hall meeting, how will we respond?
Hopefully we won’t respond by sitting on our thumbs and biting our lower lips. I saw way too much of that yesterday.
Lots of anger there. Of course, they didn’t take time to find out that Rio Grande Foundation does not lobby. If the left thinks I “punk’d” Heinrich, then I take that as a compliment, but I was invited to take part in the event and I’m sure he was abundantly aware of my positions on the issues.
Some of the comments on the Daily Kos postings are quite amusing as well:
While I agree that Martin Heinrich had some strong points, his choice of Paul Gessing (a local Libertarian tea bagger who represents insurance industry desires) to be on a panel about health care reform was idiotic. Gessing had no business on that panel. He is a shill. I went to hear answers from experts in the field, not from a well known tea bagger.
Anyway, it was a great day. I’m working to get video of the event so we can upload it to the website. Check back often.