As Congress comes back in session after Labor Day, the debate on healthcare reform is heating up and locals are participating in activities on both sides of the issues.
The Rockdale County Democratic Party recently held a closed, invitation-only forum on health-care reform on Aug. 27 at Macedonia Baptist Church.
About 40 people packed into the church meeting room to hear from a panel that included U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Decatur), state Senator Ronald Ramsey (D-Lithonia) state Representative Pam Stephenson (D-Decatur), as well as a physical therapist, critical care nurse and a physician.
Throughout the meeting, RCDP chair Stanley Williams said he was hoping to hear personal stories that Johnson could take back to Washington.
One of those stories came from party organizer Candice Walker, who lost her17-year-old son Clinton, who was suffered from Jacksonian seizures, in 2008. She said her insurance company refused to pay for diagnostic tests recommended by their doctor, so the family decided to pay for each separate test out of pocket instead of having the tests done all at once at the recommended clinic. She walked into her son’s room one day to find him dead. He was rushed to the hospital, but in the end the family decided to take him off life support.
The autopsy later revealed her son had an abnormal left coronary artery.
"Nothing will allow me to get over the fact that I had insurance that I paid for that I felt like was good insurance. They made a life and death decision that killed my child," she said. "People complain about the government being involved in their healthcare decisions, but if you have insurance, your insurance provider is involved in it. It’s never between your doctor and you."
County Commission Chairman Richard Oden, who was in the audience, spoke about how his 79-year-old mother was the caretaker for his 91-year-old stepfather. Even though she was retired Federal employee who had worked for the Federal government for 30 years, she had to break her medicine in half to make it last longer because of all the medical bills.
"It’s not exempt to anyone," he said.
During the forum, Johnson stated his support of the public option in the health care reform bill. "The public option will create the competition that will allow them to choose whether they will retain their coverage or go to another network."
Williams said he was motivated to organize the closed forum after attending town hall meetings and watching them on TV. "Seeing the confusion, I felt that the matter was so outrageous regarding some of the stories and untruths that you really needed to pull together the communities that are pro-healthcare reform, might be pro-public option, or may not know where they want to fall," he said. "We’ve got to stand up and say they’re wrong. We’ve got to have the facts to show they’re wrong."
Johnson said this was the first such forum he had attended since the Town Hall meeting he held in early August.
Hundreds of supporters of the health care reform bill gathered at the Capitol on Sept. 2, along with a contingent of opponents of the bill who held a counter rally down the street.
Local resident Dave Williams and his wife were among the 25 or opponents that held up homemade signs outside the Capitol. Williams said they were moved into a "corral" down the street from the bill supporters, but that he was able to get away and walked through the supporters’ rally with a sign that read "Hitler was a socialist too."
Williams said although someone did try to grab the sign out of his hands, the event was generally civil.
Local residents are organizing a Rockdale Tea Party at the Whistlepost Tavern on Oct. 3 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with speakers on topics such as the first amendment, second amendment, ending the federal reserve bank along with the health care reform bill. Candidates for governor might be stopping by, including Ray McBerry, Karen Handel and John Oxendine, Williams said. "Frankly it’s open to anyone who has a gripe with the government, who feels like they’re being taxed too much. That’s what a tea party is all about."
The Homeowners for Better Government is also organizing a closed "mock Town Hall" on Sunday, Sept. 6.