Standing room only at town hall meeting

   President Barack Obama says the difficulty in passing a health reform bill is the tenacity and fear mongering of right-wing conservatives.  

   Not so, said many in the standing-room only crowd filling Ramona Mainstage for a town hall meeting Saturday afternoon. Obama, they said, is playing a blame card, trying to take the focus off the bill itself while attempting to railroad it through Congress.

   A staggering amount of media coverage about Obamanomics is coming from the Democratic point of view, Ramona residents Dan and Susan Summers said, and they wanted to know “Where are the statements from the other party representatives?”  

   In an effort to be heard, people are contacting their political representatives and gathering at town hall meetings.  One such meeting took place in downtown Ramona on Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Ramona Mainstage.    

   According to the Associated Press, protestors at town hall meetings across the nation are lashing out at what one called the “astoundingly incompetent” beginnings of Obama’s administration. The administration is being criticized for inaccurate predictions of future budget deficits,  unsustainable handouts and massive overspending. Dan Summers decided to do something.

    “We have to fight back,” said Summers, “and throw an event in order to try and educate the public.  Let me talk to you about Social Security.  Let me talk to you about Medicare and budget deficits. I have to believe reason will prevail.  We cannot sustain spending this kind of money, America will be bankrupt.

   “We are less than eight months into the Obama administration and in that time every man woman and child in America is $43,000 in debt, a debt they did not have prior to Obama coming into office.  We need to stand up to the administration and say, ‘You are mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren and it has to stop.’ That is what we are talking about.”

   Orrin and Cheryl Day, owners of the Ramona Mainstage, donated the building for the use of Saturday’s town hall meeting.  “We were talking about the direction the economy is going and thought it would be a good idea to have a town hall meeting.”  

Congressman Duncan Hunter and Assemblyman Joel Anderson cleared their schedules to make it to the meeting to speak about various topics, but the focus was on the healthcare bill. According to watchdog groups, support has been lagging even from the “Blue Dog Democratic congressmen” and independent voters. This waning support shows there are major flaws in the bill itself, said Summers.  

   “If it was such a great thing, it would have passed already,” he said.

   Saturday’s event packed Ramona Mainstage to capacity. When 450 people were in the doors, newcomers were held outside until space opened up.  Richard Rider, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association choice for 2009 Taxfighter of the Year, remained outside to speak with the crowd about the very issues being discussed inside.  

   While some comments were made in regards to the war and defense spending, a few hecklers called out criticisms. The talk ultimately rested with a primary focus on Obamanomics and the current healthcare proposal.

   Because there is not a single bill to refer to, the term “Obama-care” is used. Obama doesn’t actually have a single health care plan, but rather a bunch of bills competing for selection by Congress, said Hunter. It is this lack of a single, concrete plan that is so utterly scary to opponents of the proposed healthcare initiative, some in the audience said. Obama’s attempt to steamroll the bill through the system “before the August congressional break” adds yet a greater sense of urgency by opponents to stop the “confusing” bill before it gathers more momentum, said Summers.  

   The American public cannot make an informed decision if all the details are not being given to them, those at the meeting said.  The current administration, according to radio talk show host and meeting moderator Rick Roberts, is bankrupting this nation by implementing programs this government and the American taxpayers cannot sustain.

   “There are other, more effective ways to fix the system (true reform) rather than taking on such a massive amount of government control,” said Hunter.

At the same time the president denies Medicare benefits will be cut, Democratic advisers in Congress believe otherwise. Obama claims “nobody is talking about reducing Medicare benefits, Medicare benefits are there because people contributed into a system.  It works.  We don’t want to change it,” said Summers.

   To finance healthcare reform, the administration has proposed cutting $500 billion from Medicare over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This cut will come just as Medicare enrollment increases by 30 percent, the office reported.

   Less money and more patients will necessitate rationing, many believe.  Doctors can do what the bureaucracy can’t—see patients as human beings, no matter what the age, Hunter said. Treatments, according to Hunter, will be based upon the “greater good” of what is best for everyone.  

   New drugs for cancer, Parkinson’s or other diseases may take a back seat to other preventive care projects that are being presented under the House and Senate versions of the health bill.  

   The Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan number-crunching organization that evaluates the actual costs of proposed government bills and amendments, claims the Senate version of the healthcare legislation “would result in a net increase in federal deficits of about $1 trillion for fiscal years 2010 through 2019.”  

   With a government already teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, opponents to these programs condemn the administration for ignoring a fiscal responsibility to the American people.

   First and foremost, according to Hunter, the administration is trying to rush the universal healthcare plan through Congress without careful scrutiny.  No one can make an informed decision on a thousand-page document the majority has not even read, he added.

   Hunter believes a universal healthcare system monopolized by the federal government would ultimately limit the competitive market, not help the consumer.  It is a basic, fiscal fact that monopolies do not create competition, but inhibit it, he said.  Opponents to the president’s plan stress that, if the government wants to be a part of regulating health care, the people might be better served by regulating the medical insurance companies—not the American people.

   Implementing a universal healthcare plan, according to some attendees, would increase big government and America would continue on the slippery slope toward socialism.  Hunter, Roberts and Summers agreed that the government already provides two medical coverage programs: Medicare for senior citizens and Medicaid for low-income patients. Perhaps Obama’s claim of a skyrocketing deficit problem because of these programs should be taken a step further to directly scrutinize the programs already in place, said Hunter.  

   The improvement of existing programs, according to Hunter, will cost less than creating yet another medical program in an already stressed system.

Instead of fast tracking an extremely faulty bill, Hunter believes that what is needed in the administration is a group not affected by politics.  A truly bipartisan group when given sufficient time to work on a compromise to the proposed bill will be more cost-effective while remaining in the best interest of America, he said.  A program is needed that will not raise taxes for anyone, not take away the choice of medical care options and not turn to healthcare rationing as a solution, he s said.

According to several watchdog groups, the devil is in the details. The title of the document is 111TH Congress, 1st Session, H. R. 3200. The proposal states: “To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes.”  

   One participant said it is additionally all of those “other purposes” that make it a bad bill.  “Did you know there is a section buried in the document on gun control?” she said.

   Former lieutenant governor of New York and health policy expert Dr. Betsy McCaughey has a Web site to help the public wade through the bill.  McCaughey has read the entire Senate bill on universal health care and reports on what she calls hidden details within the bill not being discussed with the public.

   According to McCaughey,  “Obama says: ‘But keep in mind— I mean this is something that I can’t emphasize enough—you don’t have to participate.  If you are happy with the health care that you’ve got, then keep it.” The health bills now before Congress would force people to switch to a managed-care plan with limits on their access to specialists and tests, people at the town hall meeting said.

   Hunter representative and Ramona resident Michael Harrison said Hunter is a co-sponsor of a resolution that would require members of Congress and government employees to be under the same plan the administration is trying to fast-track through the system. Democratic leaders are the ones not letting it get through, said Harrison.  

   “Mr. Hunter is on a House resolution introduced by Congressman Fleming stating that if you vote for a public option to be created, you need to be a part of that public option once instituted ... the interesting thing is when the healthcare bill went to three different committees, with amendments offered requiring members of congress and their office staff to accept the government-run plan once instituted, it was defeated by the democrats each time it went before committee,”  said Harrison. “The obvious question here is, if it is such a wonderful plan, why are the very people trying to pass it not willing to be part of it?”

   According to 77th District Assemblyman Joel Anderson, citizens wishing for a voice in this ongoing controversy should write letters—lots of them.

   “If people will sit down and write letters to their congressman and representatives but send them to my office, there will be a greater effect,” said Anderson. “ I will collect these letters en masse and present the voice of the people in one massive pile.”  

According to Anderson, there is a greater effectiveness in providing a community forum from hundreds and thousands of people.  

   “Your letters might go unnoticed individually—or even pushed aside—but if I take all of them at once and open a box to show the powers that be the public interest and involvement as one, now that is something,” said Anderson.  “They will know the public is in fact paying attention to what is going on.  It is the voice of the people that will ultimately make the difference.”

   Letters may be addressed to: Assemblyman Joel Anderson, District Office, 500 Fessler Street, Suite 201, El Cajon, CA 92020.

   Letters to Hunter may be sent to: 1870 Cordell Court, No. 206, El Cajon, CA  92020-0916.

   The 1,000-page bill is on McCaughey’s Web site at www.DefendYourHealthCare.us.

   
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