Butterfield holds health care town hall

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Hundreds turned out for the town hall meeting from 6 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. They packed the J.W. Parker Middle School gymnasium to listen to Butterfield.

Click here to view pictures from the meeting

The gymnasium holds 600, but more than 700 turned out. The fire marshal kept the overflow crowd outside.

The debate got heated throughout the night, as Butterfield took a beating from North Carolinians concerned over the president's health care reform plan.

"Let's understand this, this is an attempt to use this issue and this opportunity when you have a black person as President to re-polarize this county," one man said.

Congressman Butterfield didn't let the battlefield knock him down. He pitched the president's plan, trying to convince residents they're paying too much now and without it they'll only pay more.

"The health insurance system in this country is broken," Butterfield said. "The health insurance companies have contributed to the problem and what we want to do is offer a public option to compete with the private plans, hopefully to bring the cost of health insurance down."

The congressman told residents 1.75 million people in the state are uninsured and premiums are predicted to double in the next 10 years without the plan.

"These plans will be required to have no pre-existing illness prevision," he said. "You can be terminally ill with cancel and you will be able to walk in and get an insurance policy as anyone else."

Fans of the plan were equally outspoken about the plan.

"Healthcare shouldn't be for those who can afford it, healthcare should be a basic human right," said Dana Cope with the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

Some said they worried how mass healthcare will affect the quality of care.

"Are you worried the quality of our medical care is deteriorating, the answer to that is no," Butterfield said. "We aren't getting between the doctor and patient, if the doctor says you need a procedure the health plan will have to pay for that procedure ...as the insurance companies now are between you and your doctor."

The congressmen told the crowd he has only read the executive summary to each chapter of the plan, but assured North Carolinians he would read it in its entirety by the time they reconvene.

Conservative critics have used public forums across the country to express their anger about efforts to alter the U.S. health care system.

In Pennsylvania Tuesday, Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter faced a barrage of sometimes hostile questions about health care from wary and frustrated voters.

The senator heard from speaker after speaker who accused him of trampling on their constitutional rights or allowing the government to take over health care.

Specter tried gamely to explain his positions, saying he wouldn't vote for a bill that adds to the deficit. He also said he wouldn't support a bill that extends coverage to illegal immigrants. None of the bill in Congress would provide health insurance to illegal immigrants.

In North Carolina, U.S. Reps. David Price, Brad Miller, and Bob Etheridge held a private discussion of health care Monday. Rep. Heath Shuler holds a telephone news conference on the subject Thursday.

Last week Rep. Miller received a death threat because his support of President Obama's health care proposal.

Miller's spokeswoman said an orchestrated group posing as a grassroots organization called Miller's office and demanded town hall meetings so they could disrupt them. She said the caller wanted a town hall meeting and told a staffer "it could cost him his life."

Meanwhile at an event in New Hampshire Tuesday, President Barack Obama said he's no "big-spending Obama," telling Republicans and other critics that he won't sign a health care bill that adds to the deficit.

Obama said that overhaul legislation will be paid for -- unlike the prescription drug law a few years ago that was backed by a Republican administration and a Republican Congress.

He scoffed at GOP critics who complain about his push to revamp health care, which is expected to cost more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

Obama did not say how he would pay for the overhaul, but said he is working with Congress. He reiterated that he doesn't want it to be a burden on Americans making $250,000 or less.

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