Setting the Record Straight on My Town Hall

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Posted: Aug 31, 2009 4:08 PM
Guest blog by Rep. Pete Olson

Today, the liberal blogosphere chose to run a 2 minute clip of a recent two hour town hall that I held in my district to discuss issues in Washington. Health care was certainly an important component of that dialogue, but the clip being distributed is not a factual representation of my position or the issue that was raised.

The original clip shows me discussing the concerns of a mother (Brittany Kraft) who lives in the 22nd Congressional District of Texas. This mother came to earlier town hall meetings that I held to express her concerns with me that if the proposed government option were in place her son might not have been born.

Once I raised this point, several people responded without allowing me the opportunity to make clear her concerns. The person who made the clip that is being circulated shamelessly accused me of exploiting a child to make a political point.

Aside from this reprehensible accusation, the facts are not made clear in the blogs circulating the story.

Excerpt from a blog posting:

OLSON: Britney is convinced that her son would not have been born if there was a public option. She wouldn’t have had the choices to be able to go find a doctor she wants. […] For those of you who say it’s not true, don’t talk to me, talk to Britney.

ATTENDEE 1: That’s not true!

ATTENDEE 2: The insurance company turned her down, not the government! The private insurance turned her down, not the government! My gosh! … That’s not the government!

I did not claim that her insurance denied care for her child. Nor did I say the government denied her any care. I simply stated that doctors at the time did not feel that her baby could be treated and recommended termination of the pregnancy. Brittany was not willing to accept that as the only option, so she sent fetal echocardiograms to specialists across the country and was able to find a doctor who could assist with the birth and treatment of her son, which included a heart transplant when he was less than three weeks old.

Her private insurance did cover the costs for all of the procedures she needed and she now has a wonderful 7-year-old son who is still under medical care for the immunosuppressive treatments that accompany an organ transplant.

Brittany Kraft’s concern (and she has been reading H.R. 3200 page by page herself) is that a government run plan might take the advice of the doctors in Texas and decide not to cover the care she received.

That was my point and her point as well. It is not only important to me to set the record straight with respect to the truth about my position on a family’s personal story, but also to illustrate the deep concerns that millions of Americans have with respect to who will be making the decisions about our quality of care.

When people engage in this debate it is critically important to be truthful and accurate when relaying the facts.

Below is a direct memo written by Brittany Kraft to my office, outlining her concerns with a government run health care option.

Here's the short of Josh's story as it relates to the current healthcare debate (as told by his mother, Brittany):

When I was 24 weeks pregnant, my unborn child was diagnosed with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. The only options I was given by network (San Antonio) doctors were to go to the hospital when I stopped feeling kicks for 12 hours OR to put the child to sleep in utero (terminating the pregnancy), and go to the hospital for a stillbirth.

I found the 5 best pediatric cardio-thoracic surgeons I could find online & sent videotapes of the fetal echocardiograms. One came back saying what I needed to hear - "if you come here to have him, we'll do everything we can to save him." That was Dr. Ed Bove at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I contacted my insurance company (then United Healthcare) and they offered to cover all costs since there was no care offered for my child in network. Josh received a successful heart transplant when he was 19 days old at the University of Michigan, Mott Hospital

Josh is now 7 years old and FULL of energy, you would never know of any of his setbacks to look at him. President Obama, in addressing concerned senior citizens, said that the government did not want to make health care decisions. The caveat that he did NOT mention, was that while the care the patient WANTS will still be available to them, thus allowing the patient to make the decision, the government may opt NOT to cover it because they do not deem it to be the best path forward. NO bureaucrat would have approved the cost of Joshua's care in Michigan when all network doctors said the child would never be born alive.

While some may say I can stay on my private plan so that government will NOT get involved in Josh's healthcare, they are not considering the far reaching implications of the government plan. If government implements a plan where they can call the shots, private insurers will have to follow suit to remain competitive. Otherwise, healthy people flock to the government plan, which is cheaper, and sick people stay on private plans, putting private insurers out of business.

While Josh has received his heart and is doing well, this issue is still of great concern to me. What do I do when the government or my insurer decides that the medication that has been protecting his heart for the past 7 years is not the most cost effective? What do I do when Josh needs care to bridge him to another surgery or another heart transplant? While I will still have the ABILITY to make the necessary decisions, it will be cost prohibitive if the government or the insurer chooses not to cover it.

I delivered a speech on the House floor that further outlines the issue that can be found here .

What do you say?

Congressman Olson represents Texas' 22nd congressional district.