• WisPolitics


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

 9:14 AM 

Attendees at Kind forum split on health care reform

RICHLAND CENTER -- Compared to many health care reform town hall meetings across the country, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's forum Tuesday at the Community Center was rather tame.

That doesn't mean that the 500 or so people who crammed the building didn't express their opinions.

"I'm wholeheartedly in favor of the public option," said an Elroy man who is fighting cancer. "I underwent chemotherapy, and my only hope now is a stem cell transplant. One month before the transplant was scheduled, my insurance company decided not to pay for it.

"A federal agency finally came to my aid. In my case, the federal government was the good guy and my insurance company the bad guys."

Comments, from people who had their numbers drawn from a hat, split almost equally between support for a public option in reform and opposition.

"The AMA warned against socialized medicine in the '50s," said a Mauston man. "The bills being debated are not constitutional. We are bankrupt. If you think we can pay for it by creating a bigger bureaucracy, I have a couple bridges I can sell you."

Loud ovations followed some of the comments from both sides of the debate, but the tone never got nasty and confrontational, compared to many other forums around the country. Part of that might have been the format.

Comments were limited to two minutes each. No posters and signs were allowed into the hall, and an emphasis was on showing respect even if people differed.

"I think this was a very civil and respectful event," Kind said. "I also think you made some very helpful comments."

Kind has emphasized the need to include quality health care as an element in any bill, and not just pay for quantity of health care. He actually voted against the House bill when it first came out of committee because it did not include provisions to ensure quality care.

He said Tuesday that he favors creating a large "purchasing pool" through which farmers, small business people and others could buy affordable health care insurance. Whether that is through a public option or another alternative remains to be seen.

"Please remember there is no single plan yet," Kind told the crowd. "It is still very much a work in progress. In that regard, these forums are very timely."

Dr. Aaron Dunn, who runs a free clinic in Iowa County, was an invited panelist at the forum and made a strong pitch for reform. "The current system is a sinking ship. The 47 million people without health insurance are already in the water, but many who have insurance are in lifeboats made of sticks," he said.

Dunn said insurance costs will double in the next 10 years if the status quo is maintained, and businesses and health care facilities will go bankrupt.

A public option could help insure more people and drive costs down, but nobody will be required to opt for it, Dunn said. Kind emphasized that he would want a public option to compete on "a level playing field" with private insurance companies and not be perpetually financed by taxpayers.

Kind will hold additional sessions in upcoming weeks, including:

Thursday, Aug. 20, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tomah High School

Friday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Whitehall High School.

Tuesday, Aug. 24, 12:30 to 2 p.m., Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Tuesday, Aug. 25, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., a telephone town hall by calling 1-877-229-8493, code 13433.

Check Kind's web site for any possible changes in venue because of anticipated large crowds: http://www.kind.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=95§iontree=95

-- By Gregg Hoffmann, for WisPolitics.com


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