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Posted: September 27, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Town hall attendees discuss health care reform

Hundreds of concerned residents express dislike of current system, reform

Gabriel Khouli/

The crowd at Saturday’s health care town hall meeting at Alcovy High School had a lot of issues with the current healthcare system, but the majority of those who spoke, and U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Macon), said the current proposals would not fix the problems.

Most people agreed the current system wasn’t working, but they also agreed that the expansive overhaul being talked about wasn’t the way to go. However, most, including Marshall himself, admitted it was difficult to actually understand the current proposals, because of their vast length and complex language.

H.B. 3200 or America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, which is the primary health care bill under consideration, found little support at the town hall meeting. Newton County residents attacked its public option, mainly because of the fact it gives more control to a government they no longer trust.

"The government control taxation, education, transportation to a certain level and labor by way of unions. Do you want to let them control energy and health care?," Resident Casey Wallace said. "Our federal government has been negligent as far as taking our tax dollars and saying they know what to do with them. If we go down this road and they take over health care, is that what you want?"

Alternatives proposed included tort and malpractice reform, which would limit the ability to sue and the amount of damages that could be awarded, reducing the burden of illegal immigrants on the system, and focusing on smaller and more gradual changes like Health Savings Accounts.

Elizabeth Christian, a member of the local Republican party who works in health care, said she has a HAS and has seem them work. They allow money to be put into an account before being taxed, similar to a 401(k).

Toward the end of the meeting, a citizen said that based on the conversations it doesn’t seem that anyone knows enough to be voting on H.B. 3200 or any other bill yet

Marshall said repeatedly that he not a health care expert and like every other congressman did not have the time to actually read through the bills. He said he kept up with the bills by reading various summaries, created by government committees creating the bills and other organizations. He advised the public to do the same.

Based upon what he’s seen in those summaries, he’s not in favor of any of the current bills, because they all throw more money at the problem without addressing the most serious issue: the fact that health care is bankrupting America.

Any bill that Marshall supports will have to address the costs. He said that one of the causes for the current system’s huge costs, is the fact that in most cases neither the doctors nor the patients is affected by the costs of expensive tests and procedures. Gradually insurance has paid for more tests to be drawn and the most expensive procedures to be performed, which leads to overkill and unnecessary costs.

Despite the current problems, a nurse who used to live in Canada said socialized medicine was not the way to go, and that in fact private insurance was becoming more popular in Canada.

Returning back to current reform efforts, local pediatrician Lisa Miller said that the Medical Association of Georgia and thousand of physicians in other states strongly oppose H.B. 3200.

A man on disability asked if his Medicare would be cut and a military man asked if his Tricare insurance would be affected; Marshall responded that as far as he knew neither of those would changed.

A woman raised the fact that much of the problem lied with American and their unhealthy lifestyles, which stressed the system and added to everyone’s costs. Marshall said the government would not be telling people what to eat anytime soon, but he did agree that health care incentives to keep people healthier could be explored.

Overall, Saturday’s town hall remained mostly civil, despite the fact that one man walked out and there were a handful of outbursts from the crowd.

After the meeting, Marshall said that he had already heard most of the criticisms and suggestions before, but he said the town hall meetings are for the people, to give them an opportunity to ask questions in person and feel like their voice is being heard.

Many citizens talked about personal cases, and Marshall invited those people to talk to his staff after the meeting and he promised to follow up with them.

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