Protesters and supporters traded hot words on both sides of the debate Saturday morning in Bicenntenial Park as U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Erie, D-3rd District, came to Sharon to talk about health-care reform.
The sides seemed to be more or less evenly split.
Mrs. Dalhkemper gave a quick introductory speech to separate fact from fiction.
“I have not voted on anything yet,” she said, saying the legislation was being passed through a series of congressional committees trying to come up with a compromise.
“I’ve read the bill and it does not in any way promote euthanasia,” she said, addressing one common rumor. “It gives you the ability to sit down with your doctor and talk about end of life issues (such as will-writing and hospice care), and the doctor will be reimbursed, before, they weren’t reimbursed for that.”
She also said the legislation may would bar insurance companies from refusing coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions, and ban gender discrimination among providers.
The public option, if it makes it into the final legislation, would include a sliding pay scale up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, Mrs. Dahlkemper said. She added that reform would not do away with private insurance, only make it more accountable.
After her speech, she answered questions, the responses to which, drew mixed reactions from the audience.
When Mrs. Dahlkemper said the country’s health-care problems were caused by insurance companies, some applauded while others shouted it was actually the fault of lawyers.
Some cheered when a man asked Mrs. Dahlkemper how she could support socialized medicine when she took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and cheered again when he said, “No government programs,” about Medicare, Medicaid. Both are government programs.
Others cheered when a representative of a local union praised her for supporting President Barack Obama’s push for change in the nation’s health-care system.
Some people laughed when Dahlkemper said she had friends and relatives who had lived in Canada and loved the health care program provided by the government.
After an elderly man asked what was going to be done to improve Medicaid, one protester shouted, “Take his cane away, the government probably gave him that, too.”
Some came with signs that displayed a hammer and sickle, the symbol for the Soviet Union, and one group of union workers handed out signs from the AFL-CIO that said that health-care reform can’t wait. Many others brought their own homemade signs.
Sharpsville resident Guy Gadola held a sign that said House Bill 3200, the current version of legislation, should not pass and that House Bill 2520, which he said was proposed by a doctor, should be the new health-care model.
“It’s not that I think the government can’t do anything right, I just think a free market solution would be better,” he said.
Dom Vadala, president of the Mercer County Central Labor Council, came to support reform.
“A lot of people are afraid the government is going to control everything,” he said. “My answer to them is Social Security and Medicare, those are good programs.”
Before the question and answer segment, Vadala got into a heated argument with a man who identified himself as Bill, who had a sign asking the government not to socialize medicine.
“This is a homemade sign,” he said. “It wasn’t paid for by union dues.”
Missa Eaton of Sharon had a sign which said that if the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate were correct — $2 trillion over the next ten years — that would be $670 for each American, which the sign said was not a great burden.
Carolyn Oppenheimer, of Grove City, asked, “how many of the 11 percent (in this county) who are uninsured can actually afford health insurance, but just don’t buy it?”
Mrs. Dahlkemper said that she didn’t have those statistics available, but said Mercer County has some of the poorest areas in her district.
“The numbers are shocking,” she said.
Mrs. Dahlkemper said several times that there would have to be some kind of tax increase to pay for the bill, but it wasn’t clear what kind of tax it would be, after which, several dozen crowd members started chanting, “No new taxes.”
Other questions involved the bill including federal funding going towards abortions, which Mrs. Dahlkemper said she would oppose.
Questions arose about a single-payer system, which everyone pays into and everyone benefits from. Dahlkemper asked for a show of hands on who was opposed to such a plan, and at least two thirds of the crowd responded.
“There is just not enough support for that kind of legislation,” she said.
Scott Boyd, of Stoneboro, who has organized protests against health-care reform, said, “we still believe free market reform can do all of the same things (government reform) can do.”
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