Sunday, August 17, 2008

Meet the DNC delegates: Jason Bloomberg

Cowboy hats and ballcaps outnumber yarmulkes as the headgear of choice in Cheyenne.

Wyoming's Jewish population probably falls somewhere between the numbers for Alaskan natives and New York Yankees fans. However, Judaism has a long history in Cheyenne, according to the Wyoming State Historical Society.

German Jewish merchants came to Cheyenne starting in 1867.... The first Permanent Jewish Synagogue in Wyoming was erected in 1915 by Cheyenne’s Mt. Sinai Congregation. Jewish settlement in Wyoming has been called the furthermost reaches of the Jewish Diaspora since it represented settlement far removed from the limitations that had been placed on Judaism in Germany and Russia. Jewish participation in the life of Cheyenne and Wyoming has made the slogan “The Equality State” more meaningful.

Dr. Jason Bloomberg wears a yarmulke and also speaks out, another factor that increases his visibility among normally taciturn Wyomingites. The first time I encountered the activist physician was at the Democratic Party caucus in March. He was adamant about the country's crying need for a sensible health care plan. His passionate speech in support of Hillary Clinton's health plan over that of Barack Obama's likely clinched Bloomberg a slot as a Clinton delegate to the Wyoming Democratic convention in Jackson. While there, he was elected as a Clinton delegate to the Dem shindig in Denver.

It's tough to pin down this busy citizen for an interview. But he did talk to reporter Lindsey Erin Kroskob for a story in today's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. No mention is made of Democratic Party politics or the upcoming convention. It's possible he wasn't asked. It's also possible he was asked and replied and the reporter and/or editor chose not to include that in the story. Who knows?

Dr. Bloomberg runs Access Health Clinic, a one-man operation that caters to low-income and uninsured patients.

He told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle:

"I look at health care and access to health care to be as much a basic human right as food, housing, heat in winter and cool in the extremes of summer."

National statistics show that from 17-20 percent of the population is uninsured, according to Bloomberg. If you apply that to Cheyenne with its population of around 55,000, that means up to 11,000 of your friends and neighbors and their kids could be uninsured. Statewide, that number is close to 100,000. Shameful statistics.

Bloomberg doesn't accept insurance to cut down on processing costs demanded by insurers. He does accept Medicare and Medicaid. Office visits are inexpensive, and the doctor offers a 5 percent discount to those patients who keep healthy by eating right, quitting smoking, exercising, and kicking drug or alcohol habits. Here's how he summed up his approach:

"What I'm trying to convey is that their health is worth it for me to receive a smaller amount of fees for the services I provide.... If you are serious about taking care of yourself, I'm serious about helping you."

Dr. Bloomberg stresses personal responsibility when it comes to health. That sounds like a Wyoming trait to me. I'll bet you can find Republicans who agree with that approach.

But he also knows that health care is a "basic human right" and that insurance companies are a big part of the problem. But Republicans keep insisting that we should put our trust in the same insurance conglomerates that made this mess. Wyoming has a Republican U.S. Senator, John Barrasso, that also is a physician. He's a supporter of Wyo. Sen. Enzi's ten-point health care plan, which touts private health savings plans and other crapola. And, in a recent Wyoming Public Radio forum featuring three of the Republican U.S. House candidates, they all used the term "single-payer health plan" with the same tone Wyomingites reserve for venomous snakes and PETA activists. It's more of the same for these Republicans....

That attitude is reflected on a bumper sticker I saw on a pick-up with Colorado plates driving down a Cheyenne street: "No Thanks, Keep the Change." The "o" is "No" was the distinctive red, white and blue Obama logo.

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