Nothing is Going to Change Until We’re in the Room

White guy, white guy, white guy, white guy, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, white guy, white guy, white guy who looks like he just ate a sour pickle.

That’s my one line description of the health care summit the president called last week to try one more time in the spirit of harmony and peace to meet with Republicans to fix a very broken health care system.  Or, should I say, it was a genius photo-op event to portray the President as the calm voice of reason while at the same time making the GOP sweat about how this was playing back at home with the constituents?

Aside from whether the summit was more serious policy discussion or brilliant political stagecraft, I have to put the obvious question out there — where were the women? You know, the women who make the bulk of the health care decisions for their families?  The ones who make sure all the insurance paperwork gets submitted?  The ones who fight to find health coverage for their families when a few ear infections and a broken bone get a whole family labeled uninsurable because of “pre-existing conditions?”

Sure, there were some staffers in the background and an expert or two wearing skirts.  But other than that — not so many women lawmakers, at least compared to the sea of older white guys.  Of course, when women only make up about 17 percent of Congress, it is sort of hard to have them represented at the table on anything — there just aren’t enough of us!

I’m sort of surprised that the media noticed at all.  Dan Rather commented in a back-handed sort of way:

“If more women were in the room, might the debate have been different? If there were more women in Congress … might our politics be less rancorous and might our elected officials get more accomplished? There’s a school of thought that is emerging that suggests the answer is yes.”

A school of thought?  An emerging suggestion?  The funny thing about that remark is this — no one is screaming at Dan Rather for making such a wild, crazy suggestion that women might run things differently and get us different results!  Yet, when Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter essentially suggested the same thing recently, she was crucified by the  far right for being a sexist!

Fortunately, one Congresswoman spoke up at the summit.  Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) reminded us that when women aren’t included, how an entire issue is viewed becomes skewed.  And she wasn’t just talking about politics — she was also referring to medical studies that are relied upon in treating women that don’t include women in the studies!

Unless we’re willing to do something about it, though, neither of these phenomena — lack of inclusion of women in medical studies and too few women in Congress — will change.  I know it’s hard to step up to the plate on that one, but surely there are more women out there with the intestinal fortitude to go “woman a mano” with the guys.

As for the substance of the discussion at the health care summit, can anyone confirm that this is what the Republicans proposed?   It wouldn’t surprise me — this idea costs the government nothing, supports the business lobbies and would stimulate certain aspects of the economy!

Photo, Getty Images

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27 Responses to “Nothing is Going to Change Until We’re in the Room”

  1. Joie Says:

    As usual, you are absolutely right. The thing that struck me the most about the Summit was how many came to speak without listening. Seemed like there should have been a flashing sign with a buzzer that said “Asked and Answered, Move Along!”

  2. Lafftur Says:

    Spot on, Joie. And not just in that room. Nobody seems to listen to one another…they are too busy coming up with their next sound byte. Crazy me, I thought the President was the only person in the room listening at all…

  3. Kevin Says:

    As usual, you’re wrong.

    First off, your argument is based on a false premise: that the health care system is broken. Anyone who says the #1 health care system in the world is broken needs to re-evaluate their political bias. What is broken is the health care market (due to over regulation by the government).

    Second, what does the color of the representatives have to do with anything? Statists are always talking about “racism”, yet you feel the need to point out that most people on the panel are white. I assume this is because you don’t have a legitimate point to make.

    Third, your point about limited women in attendance has nothing to do with the issue. Thanks, Mrs. Red Herring, for your observation. Unfortunately, men and women can equally fix this problem. Women are not more advantaged at fixing a health care cost problem than men.

    Your analysis and commentary is as empty as Obama’s promise to televise the entire health care reform process. Your article aims to look good without accomplishing anything. Smile for the camera.

  4. Emily Says:

    Wow – Kevin your commentary is so obviously missing the forest for the trees. Health care is driven by market forces (including lack of competition) by the insurance companies. Can you imagine health insurance without regulation (sort of what happened to other industries that have gotten deregulated). The truth is that women are often the primary caretakers in their family. While men sometimes are too that is not the general rule. The point about having women there is they might have a different perspective.

  5. David Wescott Says:

    Kinda curious how Kevin concludes we have the #1 health system in the world because it clearly isn’t based on health outcomes. There are dozens of important health indicators where we’re not in the top ten. I’ve worked as a hospital administrator and I know there isn’t a doctor alive who doesn’t think there are plenty of ways health care could be better without even getting into the issues of the market.

    I think the point Joanne tries to make about the “white guy, white guy” stuff is that the people who are making decisions for the rest of us don’t have the perspectives of the rest of us. Kevin says “women are not more advantaged at fixing a health care cost problem than men,” and he may be right in general, but the simple truth is women have perspectives that men don’t. If men and women are about the same at fixing health care cost problems, and there are about the same number of men and women in this country (actually there are slightly more women), we’d expect there to be roughly the same number of men and women on the panel. But we don’t see that. Minority groups have health challenges that white guys don’t, and because they see those challenges from a more personal perspective they bring something to the table that white guys don’t. It’s not a racism thing, it’s about bringing as many perspectives to the table as you can to solve problems for all of us.

    The health care “market” has serious problems, and we need smarter regulation, like a comprehensive look at things like reimportation of medicines, busting local monopolies and/or collusion among companies, better safeguards for privacy, clearer communication about what policyholders get and don’t get from their coverage plans, and so on. All of these issues are pro-market and pro-competition, yet they all require new regulation.

    Then there are other things like ending the practice of denial based on pre-existing conditions, changing your policy terms without being clear you’re doing so, and making sure everyone who wants coverage can find some. Those are all pro-consumer, and it’s my opinion you have to do better than tell people they’re on their own.

  6. PunditMom Says:

    Kevin, I won’t make the same points that others already have, other than to ask if you watched the video with Congresswoman Slaughter? Her example makes the points I was trying to make, perhaps more succinctly — if health care treatment and issues are only ever viewed through the lens of how it would impact men, and mostly white men, treatments and responses to other are skewed. Everyone of a different background brings a different important experiences and perspectives to the table that have an impact on the kind of health care we get, as well as the kind of regulation and legislation we get.

    I suspect if there had been any women or people of color among the “Founding Fathers” that our Constitution would look a lot different.

  7. Kevin Says:

    First off, PunditMom replied to me by email with the following:

    “As always, thank you for the kind words. Of course, all your arguments are wrong … as long as there are mostly white men in the room, issues important to women and people of color will be ignored.”

    Are my arguments wrong simply because you say so? Please provide something more substantial than that. And your last statement makes you just as racist as the people you attack for being racist. You can’t solve problems by pointing fingers and crying victim. Health care is a non-gender issue.

  8. Kevin Says:

    Emily,

    Health care right now is not driven by market forces, that’s the problem. Right now, health insurance companies are mandated so much that they cannot compete across state lines (due to gov regulation), they cannot provide the types of coverage they want to provide (due to state and federal mandates), and they’re promoting inefficient plans (due to government’s awarding of tax breaks to companies who provide certain types of plans).

    No other industry that was de-regulated has had problems. That’s another statement on your part with a false premise.

    Health care is not a gender specific issue.

    @ David,

    The fix has nothing to do with gender or cultural perspectives. The perspective that will fix the problem is de-regulation, the free market, and constitutionality. The problems that women think they have and minorities think they have regarding health care will not be fixed at the federal level. They can’t be.

    Your “solution” of increasing regulation and mandates has never fixed any sector of the economy. In fact, it’s made every sector exponentially worse. How do you explain that away?

  9. PunditMom Says:

    Health care isn’t gender specific? Maternity coverage? Breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer? Treating women’s heart disease is different than for men.

    You might want to ask others about that, especially Senator John Kyl. He sort of got smacked down on that one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Jj6pqajvB8

  10. Emily Says:

    Wow – no industry that’s been deregulated has had problems?

    Hmmmm – I can think of a few – the airline industry, the banking industry (hence our lovely economic meltdown). Shall I continue? And not just deregulation but lack of oversight which went taken to extremes in the Bush Administration.

  11. Kevin Says:

    @ PunditMom,

    Solving the problem isn’t gender specific. Why would the federal government be talking about maternity coverage, breast cancer, etc.? What’s that have to do with solving the problem? Unless of course, you’re talking about how the government is going to cover you for those things, in which case, you’re already looking the wrong direction.

    @ Emily,

    Your view is so simplistic and non-reality based. You make this too easy. The problems Airlines suffered after de-regulation were caused by the transition from very strict regulation to little regulation. It’s not magic, honey. The strict regulation caused monopolization of the airline industry by a few airlines that caused increased costs not present in real markets. Then you have the problems of unionization (one of the largest destructive forces on the airline industry and the auto industry) and other federal acts that forced increased costs. It’s the transition from strict regulation to little regulation that creates the problems because the market has to work out the issues created by the mandates.

    And the banking industry? Are you serious? So the federal government mandating banks to provide loans to people who can’t afford them and then selling those loans to quasi-government agencies is your version of deregulation?

  12. Kevin Says:

    @ PunditMom,

    You’ve gotta be kidding me with that video. She states “i dont think you can let 60% of insurance companies to not provide maternity care in a new system we’re setting up.”

    1. The system they are supposedly setting up is unconstitutional and will lead to rationing. Do you want your wives and mothers rationed care? Wake up.

    2. Materinity coverage is optional. If you want the service, you pay for it. That’s how insurance works. You mandating that all insurance companies include maternity care to all females is just as restrictive as mandating that they don’t include it. Why can’t patients make the call for themselves. There are women who don’t want to pay for maternity care. Are you going to tell these women too bad? I thought you were for women’s rights. Now you’re forcing women to do things they don’t want to do. Wake up.

    Kyl was damn right in that video. You’re flat out wrong. Stop trying to FORCE AMERICANS (and women) INTO GOVERNMENT CONTROLLED HEALTH CARE.

  13. Ryan Says:

    What you should of said was, waste of space x however many people are there… Nancy gets a dog ugly waste of space.

    Your quote of Dan Rather says, if you changed a variable would you get a different outcome? Good job way to pass the third grade, my dog changes what she’s doing to get better results. Maybe that’s because she’s a female and by your article more efficient, important, or w/e your point is. Maybe she should have been at the Summit.

    One of your comments on the post lists quite a bit of health care issues that are female specific, the same can be done for males, no?

    All the “white men” there were elected or appointed by elected officials, did you vote?

    I make less than $2k/month and don’t have much, if any, left over at the end of the month. I’m glad that I can pay $50 bucks for a doc visit and over $100 bucks for antibiotics to get rid of a sinus infection. I’m glad my doctor drives a Range Rover, b/c every time I look at it I say, I bought her that and she saved my life. Stuff isn’t free.

    Health care is you eating a good diet (as a lifestyle) and exercising regularly. When I eat healthily and exercise regularly, I never get sick. It’s the weekend of Long Island Iced Teas at Applebees and fried foods and those damn (but delicious) Girls Scout cookies that lead to me being sick. I’ve cut back on those and I never get sick now.

    Obama and everyone else has no clue what I want or what I need. What is the last thing in your life that was improved by a group of politicians?

  14. Ryan Says:

    @ David

    David is the smartest of us all with the people in DC don’t have our perspective statement.

  15. BAC Says:

    Kevin — I haven’t laughed this hard in a long time! Keep the jokes coming!

    BAC

  16. Kevin Says:

    @ BAC,

    Is that your way of forfeiting intelligent discussion? That’s pretty sad, but expected.

  17. Elizabeth Says:

    Slaughter: Our business sector competes with international companies who do not have to pay their workers health care because it’s covered by their governments. As a result our exports are not competitively priced, they decline and we lose jobs–downward spiral.

    Pretty basic national bottom-line argument, even apart from the questions of fairness and national health and education. Not exactly a gender-based argument, but it did happen to be a woman making the case. Might that have to do with women, as outsiders, tending to be more open to looking at alternative approaches generally? Certainly makes it worthwhile considering, à la Dan Rather, that the presence of more women in the room would bring new perspectives and new options to the fore.

  18. Kevin Says:

    @ Elizabeth:

    Don’t you think our high corporate income tax rates and the anti-wealth policies of progressives does far more harm to the competitiveness of American businesses in foreign markets than having to pay for health care for employees? Especially since paying for health care for employees is optional? Surely you can see where Slaughter’s stance on the issue is missing the mark.

    Equally interesting is that I assume Slaughter supports the high corporate income tax rate and the soak the rich tax policies, yet makes a contradicting argument when the opportunity to pass another progressive government takeover is presented. It seems to me you’re quoting an opportunist, not someone with values and principles who actually cares.

  19. Tonya Says:

    Kevin: We had 8 years of deregulation, low corporate income tax rates and the policies that benefited only the wealthy, where id this get us?
    I find it very interesting that you do not believe maternity leave and women’s health issues should be a major point of discussion and that women should be much much more represented. If I have my anatomy correct

    I do believe it is WOMEN who give birth to the FUTURE of our nation therefore their rights are first and FUNDAMENTAL.
    In order for America to produce continual healthy, intelligent generations we MUST focus on those who carry that burden: WOMEN.

    I do applaud Kevin’s commentary, however, because he just makes me realize that women must really ban together (regardless of political affiliation or religious views) so that we can have the voice we deserve.

  20. Ryan Says:

    @ Tonya

    It takes both genders to create babies. There are stay at home dads.

    I teach Taekwondo to all ages (mainly 3-12yos). I am in constant contact with parents (Dads as well as moms) about their kid’s development. We have belt levels and if you have a bad attitude or are lacking in a part of your life, you don’t test for next belt.

    I have had moms come to me and ask for help with their child; behavior, motor skills, you name it.

    Your argument for Woman needing to be pampered and put on a pedestal is garbage. Your logic is the same as every other statist (liberal) out there. You take a random fact and associate welfare (your agenda) to it. So because the baby comes out of you, I owe you something?

  21. Kevin Says:

    Tonya:

    Arguing false premises isn’t going to get us anywhere. Your opening statement is vehemently false.

    No, maternity leave and women’s health issues shouldn’t be discussed by our federal government. There are far too many problems with both sexes to be fixed by central planning. If the government fixes one problem for one group, it’ll just create more problems for another. Central planning is a historically failed intellectual strategy that was ditched even by despotic governments. For you to advocate central health care planning shows exactly how illogical and irrational your viewpoint is.

    Additionally, your feminism blinds your reality. While women give birth to the future of our generation, men plant the seed that gives them that power. And the product is a mix of both. For you to advocate that women should come first when it’s the man that initiates your example is passionately misguided. What happened to equality? Your reverse sexism is just as disgusting as the sexism you initially chose to fight against. You’ve become what you initially opposed. I feel sad for you.

  22. Kevin Says:

    Why was my last comment deleted?

  23. PunditMom Says:

    I haven’t deleted any comments. If a comment was made by anyone in this thread and it hasn’t appeared, I can only assume some glitch. No need to get started on any conspiracy theories!

  24. Kevin Says:

    Crickets…

    I guess you guys are out of talking points. The truth is inconvenient isn’t it.

  25. Tonya Says:

    Oh my. I NEVER suggested that anyone put me or any other woman on a pedestal. What I did suggest, however, was that, while men have a role in creating and raising the children, they do NOT carry the child and give birth to it. And, by the way, giving birth to a child is no easy feat. Some require MAJOR surgery, which in turn requires healing time. And don’t get me started on breastfeeding.
    So, to explain more clearly, America needs proper health care, both before and after childbirth. NOT because I think women should be pampered but because a HEALTHY infant requires it. And the fact that you 2 guys believe that I am advocating for some sort of spa treatment just bolsters PunditMom’s point that women MUST be more involved because quite frankly, you will never know what it is like to carry and give birth to a child much less be the only source of their nutrition for, at least, a good 6 months of their life. The day men can give birth will be the day I will hand over my health care to them but today this is not the case! So, please stick to topics that you can fully understand.

  26. Ryan Says:

    So because your creator gave you a responsibility, I have to pay for it?… Having a kid is a choice. If you want health care for that, pay for it, YOURSELF. I’m there for you the 9 months and however long until we die old. I’ll support you financially (by choice) if I want, why should I be FORCED to pay for your health insurance?…

  27. Kevin Says:

    Tonya,

    I understand your emotional battle. I empathize with it. But nothing you said has to do with the healthcare debate. Central planning is a failed strategy as I already explained. For some reason, you did not respond to that section of my response.

    You claim you know what you need to carry and raise a child. Obviously, I believe you. So why would you not want to control your own health care so you can make sure you get exactly what you need? Why would you want to use the government and a failed central planning strategy to try and provide what you need to yourself and other women across the country?

    The only person who can always make sure they find what they need is the individual. When the government tries to get involved, people get left out. There are 300 million people in the United States. Each of those people has massively different individual needs. A handful of Washington intellectuals, regardless of how many women represent the handful, can’t possibly make sure that each person gets what they need efficiently.

    The most efficient method of getting people what they need is the free market. The reason health care is very difficult for some people to adequately acquire and keep is due to government involvement in the marketplace and the consequences of that involvement. The more government you add, the worse it gets.

    You know exactly what you need and we all want you to have what you need. Using the government to blanket females with supposedly needed services instead of seeing millions of individuals with individual needs is going to ensure that your quest to fulfill said needs is an indefinite one.


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