By Mason Votes Correspondent Denise Baken
In the hours before the Health Care Reform debate, long lines snaked around the front and back of South Lakes High School. Support and ppposition forces huddled to strategize tactics in preparation of the Jim Moran- Howard Dean Town Hall on Health Care Reform.
The positions ran the gambit. Rhonda of Alexandria was in favor of reform. “Saving billions in prevention care rather than when paying when people get sick makes sense to me. And its more than just the care, when someone is sick, there are other costs to consider, like child care or missed work. This costs us too. I would rather pay for someone’s mammogram now than wait until they need cancer treatment later. I’m just asking logic”. Mac Cannon disagreed, “ We don’t need bigger government. This is too expensive. What we need is tort review. Our society is too litigious. Whether good idea or not, the economic situation precludes it for now.”
Moses McCall favored reform but wanted information. “I don’t understand all the options but a public option sounds good. The main reason we have problem is that Wall Street is influencing the rising cost of health care. We have the wrong incentives. A public options creates competition for better health care rather than more money for Wall Street.
Small business owners also disagreed on the issue. George and Cynthia Alexa felt that small business needed to know who would pay for the program if it passes. “Who will pay?” Cynthia asked. “Its my taxes. I have read some of the bill. But there are so many versions its hard to know what is really being offered. I don’t see how you can spend your way out of a recession.”
But Molly and Roy Ballard, new small business owners said, “ We just started our business and we can’t afford to offer health care as a benefit right now. We have a lawn care business and full-time employees who work very hard but have no health care. They have families. We are willing to pay a little extra for their right to care.”
Moran said he scheduled the Town Hall to provide his constituents with answers questions to their questions on the Health Care bill. Dean, former governor of Vermont, is also a practicing physician. A former presidential candidate, Dean ran on a platform that emphasized Health Care reform.
Initially only open to District 8 residents, news of the Town Hall apparently moved quickly. Some participants lined up as early as three in the afternoon. By the 7 PM start time, more than 2500 attendees filled Wendell G. Byrd Gymnasium. Chants of “Health care now” were met with responses of “Just say no.” The audience was diverse representing people of a variety of races, backgrounds, dress and age.
Moran and Dean entered to a cacophony of boos and cheers. Cheers of “What do we want? Health care!” “When do we want it? Now!” were countered by “Leave us alone”, “We can’t afford it“ and “Keep your hands off my health care.”
The two hour session opened with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance and closed with both Dean and Moran expressing appreciation for the lively debate
Moran addressed 11 “myths” associated with the bill offering text from the bill to counter.
When Dean was introduced, Randall Terry, a known opponent of health care reform, shouted down the former governor of Vermont.Terry was escorted out of the gymnasium but held an impromptu press conference outside to ensure his opinion on the public option and health care reform in general was heard. Howard Dean spoke briefly and then took questions from the audience. A lively exchange resulted. By the evening’s end, questions from constituents who opposed, those who supported and the undecided were asked.