John and Alice Tulley, Margaret and Henry Fulkerson, One View

A panel of physicians active in both practicing medicine and implementing health care policy will discuss the importance of passing health care reform, the most critical medical, ethical and social issue of our time. So went the simple announcement that was the central message and organizing principle for the health care reform forum held at Ascension on Sept. 20. [Another wrinkle in the health care debate, News, Oct. 7] The panel had a group of prominent local physicians, including the CEO of Rush University Medical Center – what could possibly go wrong?

Sadly, after clearly communicating our intent and sponsors in a request to use Ascension as a venue, we were faced with a potential cancellation a few days before the event. After agreeing that the forum could be held in the Ascension Pine Room, the following conditions were placed on the event to blunt its effectiveness:

First, sponsors who agreed to help build attendance and promote the forum were forced to be removed from co-sponsorship.

Second, the press was restricted and uninvited from covering the event.

Third, Rep. Danny Davis was censored from giving an update on the five competing proposals for health care reform.

The Wednesday Journal article revealed that these attempts to restrict the forum occurred because of a complaint from a representative of a group named Respect for Life, from St. Edmund’s Parish. It boggles the mind that an organization calling itself Respect for Life could be opposed to advocating health care reform. Reform that, at its core, is about saving the lives of our fellow citizens.

In our country, 46 million of our fellow citizens are without health care insurance. The consequences of this lack of coverage are scandalous. A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health, by Harvard researchers, calculated that there are 45,000 deaths a year that are attributed to the lack of health insurance. More starkly, an unnecessary death occurs every 12 minutes. An essential moral question is at stake. Can we, as a society that has our abundant wealth and resources, continue to withhold health care from so many of our citizens? Every other industrialized nation in the world has answered this question with a resounding “no,” and provides universal coverage as a fundamental human right.

According to a recent World Health Organization study, the United States spends almost twice as much per capita for health care as the next most expensive system, France. While France ranks first in the world in medical outcomes, our country ranks 37th, lagging in almost every objective measure of health care outcomes.

The models provided by every other industrialized country in the world demonstrate that that there is a way forward to fix our tragically broken health care system. Importantly, a consensus is building for affordable universal coverage for all Americans. A recent New England Journal of Medicine poll showed that more than 70 percent of American doctors support a public option to help drive down medical costs while providing universal coverage. According to recent New York Times poll, 65 percent of all Americans support these same goals.

As Dr. Scheiner stated in his closing remarks at the recent health care forum at Ascension, “Health Care Reform is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” We urge our fellow Oak Parkers to act in support of real health care reform, the single most critical medical, ethical and social issue of our time.

Alice and Dr. John Tulley and Margaret and Henry Fulkerson are Oak Park residents.

Join the discussion on social media!