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Town Hall Meeting- Mineola

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Hensarling town hall on healthcare draws big crowd
By SHEILAH PEPPER The Gazette Staff

Interest in the health care issue is running as high as the August temperatures.
On Monday afternoon, a large and buoyant crowd filled the city council chamber to overflowing at the Mineola City Hall to hear Congressman Jeb Hensarling on the proposed health care legislation going before Congress this fall. Some estimates put the crowd at well over 200. City parking lots were filled and many people parked in the lot at the adjacent Pizza Hut.
Hensarling, serving his fourth term in the 5th District, said the crowd exceeded his expectations with attendance far beyond the usual August break meetings he has held. He had just come into town from Chandler, where he said the crowd was estimated at 400.
He opened the meeting by outlining his general principles in considering health reforms.
Firstly, he said, "Every American - no matter how sick they are and regardless of their financial status, should have access to health care."
He added, "Americans should know that if they get sick, they can get the care they need, when they need it and that they won't go bankrupt in the process."
He cited a report from the Harvard School of Public Health that indicates that 9 in 10 Americans believe their existing plan meets their projected health needs. "While many East Texans need access to care, those who are happy with their current plan shouldn't be forced to give it up."
He noted that our current system is expensive because of the waste, fraud and abuse associated with it. He also noted that medical liability reforms can save between $70 billion and $126 billion in one year alone. (However, tort reform nationally is highly unlikely due to the power of the trial lawyers within the Democrat Party.) The threat of lawsuits is forcing doctors into practicing "defensive" medicine which pushes costs up when extra testing is ordered.
Additionally, Hensarling said, we should also "focus on things like preventative care, wellness programs and medical breakthroughs."
He also addressed the concern of many senior on the end-of-life provisions in the House draft that could put these decisions in the hand of Washington bureaucrats, rather than an issue to be decided by seniors, their family and a lawyer.
He concluded that the fundamental question in this debate is who will control health care in America. He said he could not support any program that emphasizes costs over quality.
He noted the possibility of rationing of medical procedures. He also touched on the public option proposal He said millions could lost the plans they have today and ultimately be forced into a one-size-fits all government plan. This would happen steadily over a period of time, perhaps a few years. The plan, as proposed, would add trillions to the deficit and what that will do to our children and grandchildren is "immoral."
The Congressman then spent about 45 minutes taking audience questions.
A woman who had done some research, noted that a portion of the bill actually prohibits the sale of (new) private policies. She said another portion of the bill actually protects Congress from having to join this plan. Yet another provision requires citizens to prove income but excludes any requirement to offer proof of citizenship.

Hensarling noted that access would be cheaper and easier if the law prohibiting the purchase of medical insurance across state lines would be dropped." You can buy car insurance across state lines, but not medical care."
He also stated that a mechanism should be put in place allowing people to voluntarily associate to form groups to obtain coverage. Other cost cutting measures he mentioned are developing programs to aid people with pre-existing conditions and dropping government mandates that push costs up.
A member of the audience said the plan includes choice. The Congressman responded that in perhaps five years there would no private choices. He also noted that currently, private premiums subsidize Medicare and that is not sustainable.
A woman in the audience stated that she hadn't yet found a government program that runs effectively. She said she was very concerned about any government plan that would run healthcare for herself and her children. A man stood up and said that the V.A. (veteran's healthcare) was "the best in America." Hensarling responded that in his conversations with veterans, the reviews on veterans care were very mixed.
Another questioner asked what could be done to stop this plan from "being blown through" the Congress. Hensarling said that 50 to 52 so-called Blue Dog votes held the key. (Blue Dogs are Democrat members who term themselves as fiscally conservative.)
He said these members likely find themselves under intense pressure right now from their party leadership. One thing the public can do is find out which districts the Blue Dogs are in then contact any friends, relatives or business associates who may live in these districts and encourage them to talk to their representatives.
A man who said he had read about 300 pages of House Bill 3200 was concerned as much about "what is not said" as he was about what is in the bill.
Other concerns voiced by audience members included worries about how many new bureaucracies would have to be employed to administer the many tentacles of the bill, plus several voiced concerns over the added taxation and/or penalties that would be placed on individuals and especially on small businesses. The Congressman said that the National Federation of Small Business had studied this and concluded that job losses could total as much as eight million.
A question was raised about seeing a final bill. Hensarling said there are several draft versions between the House and Senate and that it is probably a good thing that there is no final bill right now allowing the debate to continue.
The audience was highly animated and many seemed remarkably well-informed on many aspects of the looming legislation.


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