Overflow crowd turns out for health care town hall
Parking spots all were taken and a line formed early for entrance into the Hoosier Room at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany for the Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill town hall meeting Monday evening. By 6:15 p.m., the 400 available seats were filled for the 6:30 meeting and about 200 people stood outside the large windows, looking in and listening to the discussions on a public address system.
Hill opened the meeting with a simple, ‘Let’s get started,’ then went on to say that during the ongoing health care debate ‘democracy has been in action, no matter what your views are. We have been talking about health care reform for about 60 years, and it’s been shot down by, in my view, a vocal minority.’
Hill then concentrated on the pre-existing condition policy used by most insurance companies, saying that, ‘It’s time to do something about it, once and for all.’
Hill was pelted with a few boos and loud guffaws at first as opponents tried to set the direction of the meeting. The congressman stood his ground, scolding those who disrupted the dialogue by saying, ‘It’s disturbing the way people are acting at these meetings. I’m hoping that Hoosiers are better than that.’
Throughout the meeting, Hill was quick to head off any loud and disrupting attacks, but allowed many reform opponents to have their say and ask questions. A retired police officer from New Albany said he is aware that reform of the health care system was needed, but ‘How can the government keep on spending?’
Another man, from Floyds Knobs, told Hill that ‘a lot of things in the health care reform bill is unconstitutional. How can you vote for that?’
When Hill asked him for specifics, the man couldn’t give an example of what was unconstitutional in the bill, but answered, ‘I’ve also heard that the government will be able to get into people’s bank accounts and get money.’
When a woman in the audience told Hill that members of Congress should sign up for the new plan first and ‘after you’ve had it a few years, then give it to me.’
Hill answered that he would take the government option and added that his daughter had a blood disease, a pre-existing condition, that would prevent her from being covered by insurance once she goes to college and is off the family plan in the coming months. He added that coverage should be available to everyone, despite their health.
‘I don’t have a gold-plated insurance plan,’ Hill said. ‘My wife, sitting there in the second row, is a school teacher and I’m on her plan. She just retired and our insurance premiums will go up.’
Hill indicated that he wasn’t insisting on a public option, but had three priorities: making health insurance available to everyone, being sure that those without coverage would get coverage and passing a ‘deficit-neutral plan.’
‘If I can get those three, I will vote yes,’ Hill added, when someone in the audience asked if he’d reject a plan that didn’t have a public option included.
There were many in the audience who supported the health care reform plan, and some told stories of the suffering of family members and others who have been without insurance or have been underinsured.
Mark Megenity, a retired school teacher from Crawford County, told how his employers changed insurance companies seven times in 23 years, ‘and our rates would increase every year,’ he said.
Megenity went on to say that his father, also a retired school teacher, took an option on health care that supplied the maximum in coverage for his wife before he died and that she also has a supplement.
‘But after health insurance costs are taken out of her check, she gets a retirement check for 17 cents every month,’ Megenity said, holding up a check for all to see.
Dusty O’Brian, from New Albany, told Hill that he had cancer and, at 53, would have no insurance when he is forced to quit work.
‘There’s no free health care,’ he said. ‘I’ve worked since I was 13 years old, and I’m proud of it. And everyone deserves good health care. I appreciate your hard work on this.’
‘I’m an independent voice in Southern Indiana,’ Hill told the crowd.
As the meeting drew to a close, Hill said that the gathering had been a ‘pretty civil discussion.’
His next town hall meeting will be tonight (Wednesday) in Bloomington.