Healthcare debate gets loud

August 7, 2009 3:24:36 PM PDT
As lawmakers return from Washington to meet with constituents, many are finding themselves confronted with shouting mobs that drown out all discussion about President Obama's health care proposals.Some Democrats have accused Republicans of secretly organizing the "grassroots" opposition - saying they're scaring people with "big government" threats to gain cheap political advantage.

"These folks are not interested in trying to reduce the costs of health care. Their sole purpose is to scare regular people and to kill health insurance reform. If they get their way our health care costs will continue to spiral out of control" said Lynice Williams, Executive Director of NC Fair Share.

The often raucous shouting matches at town hall meeting have many lawmakers - like North Carolina Congressman Brad Miller - rethinking large public meetings. Instead, he's holding smaller one-on-one meetings where he says opinions can be better expressed.

Click for photos of a protest Friday outside Miller's Raleigh office

"Most people like their [insurance] policy well enough when they're healthy. It's when they get sick that they really figure out what they had in the first place," offered Miller.

Miller - who supports many of the President's proposals - has gotten death threats from constituents. While he's avoiding large meetings - saying they're not constructive - other lawmakers are going ahead with town hall style events.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield's office said Friday he will host a two-hour public town hall meeting on health care reform on Tuesday, August 11 at J. W. Parker Middle School in Rocky Mount.

"It is clear that people want their opinions heard," Butterfield said. "I want to help people to understand why these changes are needed and exactly how they would benefit."

North Carolina reform opponents will wrap up a 30 city bus tour in Raleigh on Saturday. The "Patients First" tour is organized by Americans for Prosperity.

"Americans are fired up about health care, and the bus tour gives more people the opportunity to come out and get involved," said Dallas Woodhouse, state director of Americans for Prosperity. "They've heard enough proposals from Washington that give government all the decision-making power. It is time for citizens to tell their legislators to stop, turn around, and pursue real reforms that put patients first."

Critics counter that the President's plan would mean lower prices by encouraging real market competition.

"It is time for North Carolinians to know the real truth - the President’s plan will not put the insurance companies out of business. You will get to keep your current insurance if you like it. But there will be other options – real choices that force the insurance industries to compete for your business," said Pat McCoy of NC ACORN.

While the debate gets louder and the rhetoric more angry, many in the middle say they're concerned that the public will become polarized and nothing will get done.

Physician Anthony Titus - who supports some of the President's proposals - says many people don’t realize that they pay higher insurance premiums to cover medical costs that are inflated by hospitals that are forced to care for the uninsured.

"I see it in the emergency department all the time. I see folks that come in that are uninsured and what gets offset - for them - is that somebody else who could be on the same bed beside them - come in - they have insurance. Well, their insurance indirectly offsets," he explained.


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