MOUNT VERNON — Health care was the most debated subject when nearly 50 people gathered Monday night for the monthly Up For Discussion forum at Sips.
Several people agreed more information is needed, and that the information needs to be in language so laymen can understand it.
As one woman pointed out, part of the confusion is that there are several plans being discussed, not just one piece of legislation. She said what worries her is that no one seems to be able to read a 1,000- to 1,200-page health care plan, which affects everyone, yet can read through a Harry Potter book.
“We all need to take a deep breath and keep asking questions, keep asking for information from our representatives,” she said.
One man said the health care issue is really part of the government trying to stimulate the economy. Just as for the auto industry, the $1 trillion price tag for health care doesn’t mean anything to the government. Another person said, “We can’t fix things unless we let the debt go bad.” That means, he said, letting Wall Street fail.
One woman said spending money is not the way to fix things, but cutting taxes is. Another participant suggested a higher deductible, and encouraging people to save through vehicles such as health savings accounts.
Interstate competition between insurance carriers and capping malpractice awards are two other suggestions that will help in making health care more affordable.
One participant said she is afraid of losing Medicare due to proposed cuts. Another said the cuts will be made in reimbursement to hospitals and physicians, not in the services covered. Another said the proposal calls for $500 million a year less for the Medicare Advantage program.
An area of disagreement arose when the discussion turned to how specialized cancer hospitals would be affected under the Obama administration’s plan. Referring to one section of the plan, one said Obama’s plan allows Medicare to pay a cancer facility more if it is incurring a higher cost. Another, referring to another section of the plan, said it states that if treatment is more expensive at a specialized facility versus a local hospital, the patient would be required to go to the local hospital. “So they are taking away choice,” she said.
That led again to comments that if government is supposed to be by the people and for the people, then the language in legislation should be simplified enough so people can understand it. One man said the government will not simplify things, because it would mean cutting down the bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., and no one wants to lose their government job.
Former state representative Thom Collier said what he is concerned about is how quickly legislation is being moved through the process. Issues such as health care and cap and trade are being pushed so quickly that there is not ample opportunity for people to discuss them with their elected officials. That, he said, perpetuates fear among constituents.
“Policies deserve to be debated and discussed by people on both sides,” he said, adding that the group was lucky to have local commissioners, city council members and council candidates present at the forum.
There was some discussion about the inability to get Congressman Zack Space to town to discuss issues with his constituents. It was noted neither Sen. Sherrod Brown nor Sen. George Voinovich come to town, either. The Mount Vernon News has invited, and will continue to invite, all three to visit Mount Vernon.
Other topics briefly discussed include plans for extending Sandusky Street south across the river, which council members Bruce Hawkins and Rebecca Jordan say is five or 10 years down the road; how many times people will have to vote on gambling issues before the issue stays off the ballot; whether attendees believe there will be a bank holiday this fall; and the city’s Dilapidated Buildings Commission, and the status of the old middle school.