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White House is asking people to report friends and neighbors for "fishy" information concerning health care reform

14 08 09 - 11:57

Reject White House effort to squelch health debate

Just months after Islamic terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon with the deadliest attack on American soil in U.S. history, Attorney General John Ashcroft attempted to establish a “TIPS” program in hopes of catching any future terrorists.

The Terrorism Information & Prevention System would have encouraged cable repair operators, telephone service technicians, meter readers and mail carriers to report suspicious activities to federal authorities. With loud objections by the American Civil Liberties Union and members of both parties, Congress adopted a homeland-security law that prohibited such a snitching program.

Fast forward to 2009 and the health care debate and the tables have turned. American safety isn't the issue but our health, something almost synonymous with our well being. The White House is encouraging an electronic snitching program for the entire country, asking people to report friends and neighbors to if they suspect someone is spreading “fishy” information concerning health care reform.

This time, however, we don't hear a peep out of those champions of free speech, the ACLU. The current administration, which has so proudly defended the rights of terrorists and noncitizens in Guantanamo Bay, shows no remorse in how this policy may be trampling over the Bill of Rights and suppressing the free speech of our honest citizens who have a right to speak their conscience.

The issue of health care ignites passion because it is so personal and determines how long we will live and our quality of life. Without good health, life is just not the same. Ask anyone with disabilities or chronic conditions such as diabetes or arthritis. If you don't feel good, life isn't good.

Medical advances have also taken us to the edge of a personalized health system. With DNA samples, physicians can determine whether someone is predisposed to a variety of diseases such as breast cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. With a government-run health program — as is being pushed in Washington — we will see less personalized treatment and more one-size-fits all medicine that will have fewer success rates.

To ask the country to report friends and neighbors who raise questions about whether they will lose their current health care (the best in the world), be forced into a government program, have their benefits reduced when they reach their golden years or be forced into counseling about end of life issues is the antithesis of the type of individual involvement we need. In addition, it flies in the face of our basic constitutional rights.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, sent a letter with some key questions to the president last week that earned little media coverage. His points included:

• • How do you intend to use the names, e-mail address, IP addresses and identities of citizens who are reported to have engaged in “fishy” speech?

• • What action do you intend to take against citizens who have been reported for engaging in “fishy” speech?

A mere seven years ago this nation almost allowed a snitch program for suspected terrorists in the aftermath of the bloodiest day on our nation's soil but then decided against it. Yet now, little is being said about a program where Americans are encouraged to report their neighbor for raising questions about whether their dialysis will be covered when they are forced into a public plan because high taxes forced their company to drop their private insurance.

Americans need to keep voicing their questions and concerns about health care, and their involvement in the dialogue should be encouraged, not discouraged.

If our goal is better health at lower cost for every American, empowering individual Americans beats government-run, bureaucratic health care every time.

Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is the founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Desmond is president and CEO of the Center.




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