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King must focus on big trees to win seat
By JEFF WEBB, Editor of Editorials
Published January 9, 2008
Some unsolicited advice for Jim King: The next time you want to discredit U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, don't let the trees block your view of the forest.
Or, at least stay focused on the big trees.
King, a Land O' Lakes Republican, is the underdog candidate running against Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, in the 5th Congressional District. King filed a complaint last week alleging the federal law aimed at keeping patients' medical information confidential, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, was violated during the preparation and presentation of an informational hearing about veterans' health care at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa.
Specifically, King alleges that members of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, of which Brown-Waite is the ranking member, did not obtain a signed release from patients whose records were reviewed to determine if their psychological care was properly supervised.
Technically speaking, it very well may have been a violation of the patient privacy law, commonly known as HIPPA. One subcommittee staffer even said so. But if King is looking for ways to trip up Brown-Waite, he ought to skip the petty stuff and find more meaningful issues. There certainly are more chinks in Brown-Waite's political armor than the seemingly careless handling of records at a much-needed forum she organized. In fact, she and other members of Congress should do more of that type of grass roots information gathering.
Don't get me wrong: Patient privacy is an important issue, especially for veterans who are forced to seek care from a federal agency that has had a recent history of not adequately safeguarding records. But let's acknowledge that violations of patients' privacy, including HIPPA, are a daily occurrence.
I have to grin every time I go for routine blood work and the desk clerk makes a big deal about making sure the people behind me stay several feet back so as to protect my identity and paperwork, and so my name can be blacked out on the sign-in sheet before anyone else approaches the counter. Then, a lady in a lab coat pops into the waiting room 15-or-so minutes later and yells my full name.
At any rate, as we return our gaze to the forest, there are plenty of bigger trees King could use to cut down Brown-Waite, who is seeking her fourth term in the House.
For instance, he could ask her about her strident views on immigration, or her reasons for opposing a bill that would have increased funding for a health insurance program for children from low-income families who cannot afford private coverage.
Or, King might call into question Brown-Waite's support of the so-called fair tax, more funding for national security, and her continued support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He could even claim that Brown-Waite should do more to help veterans.
But wait. There's a problem with King attacking her on any of those issues. It seems his platform is even more conservative than Brown-Waite's. Other than billing himself as the "true" conservative," his issues are her issues.
So, perhaps it will be up to King to point out where Brown-Waite has not toed the party's conservative line. In that case, he'll have to bring up her support of embryonic stem cell research and her opposition to the House's intervention in the Terri Schiavo controversy. Heck, he even might need to pin her down on abortion, an issue that has been a moving target for her over the years.
But, if all else fails, King can clobber her on being one of the biggest users of the Congressional franking privilege. The Times recently reported that in 2007 taxpayers spent $129,428 for Brown-Waite to mail 657,951 pieces of mail, making her one of the top users - make that abusers - of that perk in the House.
That's a lot of free advertising - and more than a few trees.
Jeff Webb, editor of editorials for the Hernando Times, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352 754-6123.