Town Hall Heats Up
By Sarah Smith
“We are rationing care by saying people who don’t have money can’t have coverage,” said one woman at Tuesday’s Town Hall health care meeting in Dodd Auditorium.
As one of the final comments of the night, it was met by passionate audience responses from both sides and was one of comparatively few pro-health care supporters present.
Virginia Representative Republican Rob Wittman’s forum drew a sizable crowd to campus to discuss H.R. 3200, the Congressional health care bill that is currently being debated in town hall meetings across the nation.
People from Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and the surrounding area came to make themselves heard and to ask questions about the bill’s particulars.
Wittman opened the forum with his own stance on the bill and was met with a standing ovation when he announced that he cannot support it with its current provisions.
“It [health care] is a significant problem we need to address. I want to make sure all of us understand and are as comfortable as we can be. I don’t want to rush it,” Wittman said.
Prior to the meeting, protesters stood outside of Dodd in opposition to spending public money on abortions, holding banners such as one that stated, “President Obama: Social justice and human rights begin in the womb…protect our children.”
“Our goal is that not one penny of public money is spent on abortions…Health care should be healing, comfort and compassion, not violence and brutality,” Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C. and member of Fredericksburg’s Grace Church said.
Following his opening statements, Wittman took questions and commentary from the audience and addressed participants’ statements for more than an hour and a half.
While many town hall meetings across the country have devolved into disorder, the Dodd Hall forum stayed civil. Wittman had to ask audience members to be respectful to one another a couple of times, but the crowd was generally courteous.
Several people expressed their concern about the availability of coverage that will be available to the elderly under the proposed bill.
Wittman echoed their concerns, questioning who would decide how the program’s resources would be distributed.
One woman brought up the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. She cited similar language between this bill and the current health care proposal with regards to end-of-life counseling, and pointed out that it had passed into law six years ago.
The 2003 Medicare bill states, “Services would include…counseling the individual with respect to end-of-life issues and care options, and advising the individual regarding advanced care planning.”
Points were also made addressing the need for more incentives for medical students opening general and family practices.
“We absolutely need to do more on the preventative side,” Wittman said in agreement.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency Factbook, the United States’ life expectancy is the 50th highest in the world, at 78.11 years.
W. M. Blaine of Spotsylvania attended the forum to support the health care plan. He said every week he attends church and asks himself, “How can I sit here in church when our country does not provide health care for nearly 50 million of its citizens?”
Rather than revising the nearly 1100-page bill, Wittman proposes starting over altogether.
He stated that the bill must accomplish three things: reduce the overall cost of health care, not interfere with the aspects of the system that he currently work and focus on the currently uninsured citizens.
Wittman also outlined 13 points to achieve these goals, such as tax incentives to purchase health care, reduction in unnecessary medicine, competitive private alternatives to government healthcare and affordable care even for those with preexisting conditions.