Etheridge attends health care forum

LILLINGTON The town hall meeting lasted over two hours, as hundreds of residents voiced their opinions.

The event took place inside a multipurpose room at Central Community College. Over 200 people packed the meeting, but many more were turned away. Some people even held a protest outside.

The forum was sponsored by the State Employees Association of North Carolina, a group that supports health care reform.

"We want to send a strong, strong message that health care should not be something only people with money can afford," SEANC Director Dana Cope said.

They invited Etheridge to address the group and answer questions.

"I look forward to it, I think it's going to be a good evening," Etheridge said Wednesday before the forum. "Really expect to be a good exchange because there, in addition to me being there, there's going to be a panel of folks who really have done a lot of work in this who will be there to answer questions that people may have and give some good information."

The discussion got a little testy at times, with people on both sides passionate about the issue.

"Why can't we let free market solutions increase instead of having government interference," one resident said.

Many asked questions about the plan, while others made their feelings known.

"For the many in this room that say they will not support you if you vote for health care reform, I can assure you that just as many will support you," another resident said.

Congressman Etheridge told the crowd health care reform was still a work in progress.

He said reform won't increase taxes, will not provide free medical care to illegal residents and isn't socialized medicine.

"If we can find a way to get a dialogue to get to the finish line all of this will benefit in the end," Congressman Etheridge said.

On Tuesday night, the congressman also held a telephone town meeting. He sat in his Raleigh office and took questions over the phone about the president's proposed health care reform plan.

The congressman's office said thousands of people listened in, as he explained the president's plan. The call lasted about an hour.

Click here to read about the tele-town meeting

The same night in Rocky Mount, Congressman G.K. Butterfield took a verbal lashing at a town hall meeting he sponsored. It was as standing room only for that meeting and residents got heated at times.

Click here to read about Butterfield's meeting

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