Emotions Run High As Thousands Attend Health Care Forum
Congressman McKeon hosts well-attended discussion.
If you thought you heard thunder Saturday morning, it was just College of the Canyon's gymnasium, packed to the gills with frustrated constituents from Congressman Buck McKeon's 25th district.
Emotions ran high from residents on both sides of the political isle, who made up the 2,000-strong crowd attempting to voice their opinion of the current health care system and what they hoped it would be.
After a short introduction, Congressman McKeon opened the floor for comments, where dozens of people filed to microphones.
The main subject was the still-pending H.R. 3200 bill in Washington, which proposes a series of broad actions aimed at extending healthcare coverage to everyone in the United States. Congressman McKeon is not a supporter of the bill, and he explained that his opposition stems from several issues. He charged that TORT reform is not addressed in the bill, and that he didn't believe the government should be competing with private industry. He also takes issue with the financial load the bill would place on taxpayers, adding $239 billion dollars to the national deficit in the first ten years and $60 billion each year afterwards according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
In an informational handout from McKeon's office, our Congressman expresses his belief that many people will lose their current insurance if the bill passes. He claims this could happen if a government-appointed Health Choices Commissioner sets a standard for acceptable health care coverage, and your plan doesn't meet the criteria. Businesses, McKeon went on to say, would also be faced with an eight percent fine if they don't provide health insurance to their employees (the eight percent figure applies to those with payrolls over $450,000 annually - the rate is less for smaller companies). McKeon predicts that if passed, the bill would create a scenario in which companies that do provide health insurance would opt to cut their benefits in favor of a government fine because it could be less expensive that what they pay for the existing benefits. Therefore, McKeon concluded, millions more could be left with few options except for the public plan.
Many agreed with McKeon's stance, and questioned why such a major move had to be conducted so quickly, especially when there are existing problems that could be addressed separately.
"President Obama says that he's going to pay for his health care plan by reducing or eliminating criminal activity and fraud," one resident exclaimed. "My question is, ‘what are you waiting for?'"
Others took the opportunity to blast any governmental intervention in their health decisions.
"I am being told that I must have healthcare," one man said. "But I am going to retain my freedom of choice."
After a loud applause, Congressman McKeon said that he could still chose to be uninsured, but that he would pay for it.
"You won't have to have insurance, but you will have to pay an additional 2 and ½ percent tax," McKeon said. "It's in the bill."
While Santa Clarita is a heavily Republican district, there were numerous speakers who voiced disagreements with Congressman McKeon and his position on health care reform.
When McKeon described how the bill would not take affect until 2013, yet lamented that Congress was rushing to act on it now, one man stood up and shouted "Because people are dying without healthcare."
Another woman worried about what he called the "race to the bottom." She described a scenario in which health insurance companies were able to sell plans across state line (currently this is not allowed, however McKeon supports it). She was concerned that companies, if given the opportunity, would relocate to the state with the lightest regulations.
Of the conflicting arguments, many stemmed from personal experience.
Two residents complained about receiving massive bills for short and nearly meaningless hospital visits. One woman says she was charged thousands of dollars after her son was given an IV drip at Henry Mayo. Another claimed that she was given water and an aspirin in the emergency room when she complained of what she assumed was pneumonia. She was released and presented with a $1,300 bill, only to find out later that she did have pneumonia. She wished that America's health care system could more closely reflect the system in England.
However others had different opinions.
One woman reminisced about how some members of her family were forced to wait months for treatment in the Canadian public healthcare system.
Another woman attacked public healthcare programs around the world saying; "Our citizens are not leaving our country to go to socialized countries."
The event lasted over two hours and was interrupted several times by individuals yelling from their seats or diverting the topic from healthcare to other federal financial matters.
Overall the forum showcased the importance of the issue to such a large number of people. Just a few weeks ago several thousand participants joined in on a telephone-based health care discussion with McKeon.
If you would like to make your voice heard in this matter, visit Congressman McKeon's website and send him and email.