Tuesday, August 11, 2009

HSLDA Pits Homeschoolers Against HR 3200 and Health Care Reform

Let me first say that I support Obama, I support HR 3200, and I strongly support Health Insurance Reform.

As a liberal homeschooler, I have complex feelings about HSLDA (the Homeschool Legal Defense Association). I believe that a lot of what they do is good, watching legislation and helping families with legal issues. I wish they would do it from a less political, less religious position, but that's who they are.

They've released a memo to members, calling for homeschoolers to call our representatives and senators, asking them to oppose the bill. Here's the memo.

HSDLA gives five reasons why this bill should be opposed. I'd like to respond to those five points, one by one:

  • Spend billions of dollars to allow the federal government to fund home visitation programs, where government officials would enter homes and monitor children and instruct parents in how to raise their children;
This already exists. It's called Head Start, and it's over 40 years old. Trained workers go into the homes of low income or immigrant families, and teach them about nutrition, reading to their kids, playing with their kids, taking them to the doctor, dental hygiene, etc. The program was started in the 60s, yet somehow homeschooling has managed to explode in popularity.
  • Encourage states to pressure families to enroll their children in these home visitation programs;
Here's some murky language. "Encourage states to pressure..." What does that mean? What kind of pressure are they implying? Physical pressure? Financial pressure? When a "state" applies pressure, there are only a few things that can mean: either they're going to hurt you physically or they're going to hurt you financially. So exactly what does HSLDA expect the state to do here, and how is this expectation rationally merited based on 40 years of the Head Start program's history?
  • Put the federal government in the healthcare business, resulting in loss of competition, loss of patient choice, and loss of patient freedom;
The federal government has been in the health insurance business for decades. Medicare was also launched in the 60s, and somehow Medicare and liberty have coexisted for decades. There will be no loss of competition, no loss of patient choice, and no loss of patient freedom. HR 3200 means there will be more competition for the insurance companies, more choices for patients, and more freedom for patients. Anyone who likes their current situation can keep it. Anyone who wants another choice can have it. Anyone who currently has no choice because they're unemployed or have a pre-existing condition or have maxed out their life-time cap or have been determined by insurance companies to be not worth the risk: they now have a choice.
  • Require all health insurance plans, whether offered by a private company or the government, to include controversial “essential benefits,” which courts or the Secretary of Health and Human Services may determine to include medical procedures which businesses and taxpayers may oppose on philosophical and religious grounds; and
Note the use of the word "may" -- as in... "may determine" and "may oppose." Now we're getting hysterical and writing our Congressmen over hypotheticals. Of course, we know what HSDLA is referencing here without saying it: If we pass this bill, your tax dollars will pay for abortions! Well, guess what? Abortions are already covered by tax dollars, have been since 1973. Adopting health care reform won't bring this about, any more than electing three republican presidents put an end to it. Abortions are covered by Medicaid, right now, .
  • Increase the size and power of the federal government.

Well, now we're just fear-mongering, and over-generalizing. Bigger government bad, smaller government good! Really? No exceptions? No grey area?
Welfare makes government bigger. Medicare and Medicaid make it bigger. Social Security makes it bigger. Are we ready to get rid of all of these things? A lot of people like to shake their fists and yell about smaller government, but I don't believe this is a rule we can apply universally. By using this bit of as a final bullet point, HSLDA is trying to join in the popular chorus sung by tea partiers, libertarians, and erstwhile Republicans who have only recently decided that big government is bad, after the guy they most recently elected swelled the government more than anyone since Roosevelt. Increasing the size and power of the federal government has only just become a bullet point for opposing a bill. When considering the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, or the Transportation Security Administration, or No Child Left Behind, this would have been a bullet point on the pro side of the argument.

I'll leave you with Obama's opening statement from his health care town hall today. I hope if you've spent any time reading the email forwards and blog posts frothing about what might happen, what could result, how much homeschoolers have to fear from health insurance reform, that you'll take a few minutes to read Obama's message straight from the horse's mouth:

Let me set record straight:

. If you like your doctor, you can keep them.
. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.
. You won't be waiting in lines.
. Health care choices should be between you and doctor.
. Government bureaucrats shouldn't meddle, but neither should insurance company bureaucrats.
. In the past 3 years, 12 million have been discriminated by insurance companies due to pre-existing conditions.

Under our reform, insurance companies will be prevented from denying or dropping your coverage due to pre-existing condition or when you get sick. They won't be able to water down your coverage. Insurance companies won't be able to put a cap on how much coverage you get in year or lifetime, and we'll put a cap on how much you have to pay out of pocket. We'll do this without adding to deficit by cutting out things that don't help.


  1. I'm opposed to Obama on most issues, opposed to the health care bill in particular and opposed to HSLDA stepping in the middle of it. :)

  2. Why are people all jumping on this panicwagon of "They're going to take away our healthcare...we like it how it is.." I've had people all over me about how they or their child have a chronic condition and how this will jeopardize the care they receive and I just don't understand where that's coming from.

    And I just had the "this will lead to regulation of homeschooling and eventually it will be illegal" thrown at me yesterday.

    And if I hear one more person say, "It is MY money and you can't tell me how to spend MY money" I think I'm going to puke. Or the argument that if people aren't taxed then they will give more money to charity...yeah, maybe like 10% of people. I guess I have no faith in people anymore.... If I read that Davy Crockett piece one more time I'm going to puke, too.

    The frenzy around this potential change is STAGGERING.

  3. Anonymous8:31 PM

    HSLDA is no one to talk. They have convinced the military they must accept a "homeschool Diploma" (available from them, of course) and are now sitting back silently while Barnes & Noble mutters something about requiring a license or certification letter from a 'support group'. Talk about big HOMESCHOOL government!
    Now where DO I get that homeschool license? Oh, right, MY self-appointed fundamentalist lobbying group that took away my right to represent myself. HSLDA IS Big Government. They should stay out of health care, it's not a homeschool issue. Excuse my impatience with HSLDA's hipocracy.

  4. Anonymous2:17 AM

    One of the biggest problems with this bill and the sister bill in the Senate is that no one has bothered to read it. Ah, that would include Obama, according to his press secretary.

    For starters, obviously this blogger has not read the bills because comparing Head Start to the program outlined in the bill is comparing apples and oranges.

    Also, from the comment about pressure it is again obvious that the blogger has neither read the bill nor is familiar with how the government attaches strings. Something a homeschooler should be aware of, ah, p.s. and charters come to mind and the strings that come with money.

    H$LDA has most of it correct. 10 to 1 they've read the bills. I've read the bills. They create several (I quit counting at 20 plus) new layers of bureacracy.

    Plus, some of what is advocated in the bill is pure lunacy! Stop paying Social Workers that assist Medicare patients in hospitals and start paying for marriage counseling for the elderly in convalescent hospitals. Start paying for services that are now offered free (Living Trust). Cut funding to rural and poor hospitals. Cut Medicare. Cut Medicaid. Why? So that there will be money to pay for retirement benefits for union members.

    So, before anyone comments on the bill, how about they go and read it. Reading both versions would be nice but reading just one should be essential!

  5. New commenter here. I fall mostly on the libertarian side of things, but I do understand the need for government to step in sometimes. I don't yet know enough about this bill to have a well-informed opinion, but something jumped out at me when I read President Obama's words. I hope I can accurately communicate the sincerity with which I ask this question...

    He says, "Health care choices should be between you and doctor." Later he says, "We'll do this without adding to deficit by cutting out things that don't help." How do you reconcile those two statements? How will the government be able to cut out things that don't help if my health care choices are left between me and my doctor?

  6. Oh, and to comment on the other issue addressed--My husband and I have refrained from joining HSLDA because of their political stance on issues that are unrelated to homeschooling (and for other reasons). I believe homeschoolers would be better off if HSLDA would stay out of this.

  7. Its political garbage like this that keeps me from having anything to do with HSLDA. I find it amazing that they can actually stretch the truth far enough to claim this bill has anything at all to do with homeschooling. Their agenda becomes more and more obvious with every "call to action" they send out.

    btw, when will blog commenters figure out that no one actually takes anonymous comments seriously?

  8. @Theresa...heh heh...Honestly, if you can't even give a name to stand behind your words, why say them at all?

  9. Hi Jodi!

    I think I get what you're asking, and I am not completely sure how to answer it, but maybe this is an example, as used by Claire McCaskill in her town hall:

    Right now Medicare covers scooters for people -- you may have seen the ads on TV. It's hypothesized that while some people really need these scooters and can't survive without them, maybe some others would be actually better off and more healthy if they were walking. At any rate, they're re-evaluating whether the govt. should pay for these scooters, or whether there are other choices that wouldn't put such an enormous strain on the system.

    So, it might happen that something like a motorized scooter will no longer be paid for by Medicare -- if you want one, you have to buy one on your own. Your doctor might still recommend that you get one, that choice is between you and your doctor. The government will not tell you you *can't* have a scooter, it may just refrain from buying you one.

    I hope that's a good example and that it helps. I realize that in the summary I gave, there were juxtapositions that are kind of confusing.

    Another thing he talked about cutting out that "doesn't help" is having the same expensive test done by multiple doctors as one moves from doctor to specialist to other specialists, etc. Instead of repeating the test, there could be a digital version of the results on file for all the doctors to access remotely. So, that doesn't really mean they're deciding what tests to do on you, but maybe deciding how many times the test is done for different doctors.

  10. My mother has been fighting for a national healthcare system since the 1990's. Mainly because I have a chronic illness and spent some of my early married years paying for prescriptions out of pocket.

    I don't see the President's plan as the ultimate solution, but it is at least a step in the right direction. Whether it passes or not, this is the farthest we have ever gone toward trying to fix a broken system. And yes, it is broken, or there wouldn't be so many people who neglect their health because they can't afford to go to the doctor.

    Now for the shameless self-serving part of my comment: Lydia, I am hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling and would love to see an entry from you. How about it?

    Peace and Laughter,

  11. Thanks for answering, Lydia. That makes sense, and I figured I had to be missing something. My husband works in healthcare, so we see first-hand how much money is spent on very expensive procedures and specialists when a less costly alternative would give similar (and sometimes better) results.

  12. Hi there! This is the first time I have been to your blog. I really like it. I just wanted to comment on this whole thing from a little bit different prospective...

    First, I don't think ANYBODY has read either of the bills proposed in their entireties (sp?). I have looked on-line for copies of it and even the 485 page document provided on the gov't website only "highlights" the bills.

    Lostcheerio wrote: "Another thing he talked about cutting out that "doesn't help" is having the same expensive test done by multiple doctors as one moves from doctor to specialist to other specialists, etc. Instead of repeating the test, there could be a digital version of the results on file for all the doctors to access remotely. So, that doesn't really mean they're deciding what tests to do on you, but maybe deciding how many times the test is done for different doctors."

    As a parent of a child with multiple disabilties, THIS is the part of this bill that, frankly, scares the crap out of me. The reason is because of his multiple medical issues, we go to 3 different hospitals for treatment. None closer to our home and 300 miles. Our local hospital won't even draw blood on my son because he scares them. If he is REALLY bad off, we would have to go to the ER long enough for a helicopter to come get him.

    In the mean time, things like chest x-rays would most likely be done (he has had 2 open heart surgeries so far, with more to come). In this scenario, when we reached the other hospital, they would not be able to give him another chest x-ray unless a NEW symptom occurrs. If you have ever looked at x-rays, there is a HUGE disparity between different machines, operators, radiologists impressions, etc. The newest machines at our local hospital are 15 plus years old. Same with lab equipment, CT's MRI's, etc.

    I understand whole heartedly the premmis behind it - I just think we are putting the cart before the horse. If you are going to require this, you should at least make sure that the capabilities are there - or people are going to die. Plain and simple. If you have never seen the difference between an old-fashioned x-ray scanned in to send digitally and a new digital imagining system - think Kodak Brownie vs new digital cameras.

    The most frustrating thing, for us anyway, is that Michelle Obama was VP at one of the hositals where we took our son for treatment. We met her because we sat in the ER in a broom closet for 36 hours waiting on a room because we needed a second oppinion for our son. The original recommendation was a surgery that would disconnect his esophogus from his stomach to prevent reflux. Had we not gone there and had the testing re-done, our son would have needlessly suffered. It turned out to be a milk protein allergy - a change of formula, and a week long recovery from almost starving to death at another hospital, and we were on our way home. Which do you think was cheaper in the long run?

    Anyway, Mrs. Obama came to our room to apologize for the wait for a room (the hospital was full). She remembered us since that incident and still speaks and remembers our son's name when we see her. I am sure we were not the only example of how re-doing some tests at a more state of the art facility has saved money in the long run.

    The other component of this is getting doctors to actually listen to their patients and order the tests that are really needed, not just because "that's what we always do." A good example of that is that it is policy in most hospitals that when a woman comes in with symptoms of a heart attack, they do a pelvic exam. I can pretty much guarantee you that , health reform or not, I come in to the ER still conscious, adn they do a pelvic - I won't be the only one on a gurnee. ;)

    Not arguing - just giving a different side to the problem that the gov't and the media don't seem to be covering - probably because of all of the idiots yelling at each other instead of talking.



  13. Rachel8:35 AM

    Lydia, first thanks for your thoughtful blog and your views about HSLDA and the healthcare bill. I don't belong to HSLDA because I have mixed feelings about it. My state is very homeschool friendly and families are pretty well left to educate their children as they believe is best for them. I believe what we can agree on is that reform in our healthcare system is needed -- it seems to be in what manner where people disagree and become passionate. This whole model of government-involved healthcare is not a new idea -- we are not blazing any trails here. All we have to do is look at our neighbors in Canada and our friends in Europe to see what this kind of system is like. We hear story after story after story of long lines, denied procedures and waiting lists -- the very things President Obama is promising will not happen under his plan. Let's look at our own Medicare/Medicaid systems, VA hospitals, and Native American communities before we decide we want government-subsidized healthcare. As much as our healthcare system may need to be reformed, it is still the best. Why would we want to take such a risky, pie-in-the sky venture when history and reality show us what would be in store for us -- and the very thing at stake is our quality of life? As the saying goes, "If you don't have your health, ...."

  14. Stacy2:31 PM

    Thank you, Lydia, for having this blog. And, thank you to all who have posted comments. It's nice to see a 'brainstorm' in action and reading variant sides of the issue. Very informative.
    Obama? Yes.
    HSLDA? Presently, a member who is questioning the need to be a member. Yes, I am troubled by their excess involvement in the political debates not concerning home schoolers.
    Bless us all.

  15. Thank you for the comments, and welcome to the blog! :)

    I appreciate your opinions and your stories. I think we can all agree that HSLDA doesn't really belong in the debate. So why are they in it? I truly wonder about that. What does it benefit them to be so partisan?

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  17. Rachel says: "As much as our healthcare system may need to be reformed, it is still the best."

    How does one go about making this judgement? And don't the statistics being quoted suggest that it is true in some ways (cancer survival rates), and not true in a bunch of others (cost/patient, life expectancy)?

  18. Anonymous9:18 PM


    Why is HSLDA so partisan? Why are you so partisan on the liberal side of the aisle? HSLDA is a Christian based organization with strong conservative beliefs and that is who and what they are. Furthermore, they don't try to hide that fact just as you don't hide the fact that you are a liberal as are most of the other folks participating in this blog.

    As an independent Obama's health plan scares the hell out of me because it will cost me an arm and both of my legs. Don't believe it just read this article (Grading Obama's new health care plan) posted on Fortune magazine's website (http://money.cnn.com/).

    Now the thought of Middle Income families shelling out $13,500 per year for health care coverage is a frightening thought. Like most American's, I cannot afford to have my annual income cut by $13,500. I guess I will just have to file bankruptcy and owe it all to Obama and the Democrats.


  19. Anonymous5:05 PM

    oh that's funny. HSLDA opposed to Big Government. Perhaps Mr. Farris thinks no one will notice he's filed a lawsuit to increase the size of the House of Representatives to as many as 1,761 members.

    Yes, that's 1761 House of Representative's salaries, benefits (including health care), travel, junkets, staff, office furnishings, etc.,etc.,etc., But sick folks getting health care? - nah, that's too expensive (she said sarcastically).

    I'm posting as anon because I'm too lazy to wade through creating another id, but I have no problem telling you all that I am Mary McCarthy. Thanks for the forum.

  20. I absolutely agree with this blogger. HSLDA wants to keep homeschoolers cowering so THEY can continue to control them.