Area residents sound off on health care reform plan

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Residents in Rock and Walworth counties agree government should reform health care, but most are not satisfied with the legislation currently being considered in Congress.

That’s the outlook based on a series of listening sessions held Wednesday by Republican Paul Ryan, who represents both counties in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Crowds are about 85 percent opposed, 15 percent in favor,” Ryan said of the legislation Congress is considering. “At least those coming out to town hall meetings are clearly opposed to this bill and are very worried about its contents.

“They want to see us get it right and not rush it through.”

Ryan held five meetings Wednesday, starting in Williams Bay and passing through Fontana, Walworth and Darien and ending in Janesville. He wanted to hear from his constituents and to clarify to them what Congress is considering on health care reform.

For Ryan, local opposition to government-run health care mirrors demonstrations and civic engagement seen nationwide.

Ryan’s staff had to move the location from Janesville City Hall to the Craig High School auditorium. The crowd was about 520 there, and the Walworth County meetings packed village halls.

“There are legitimate issues that need to be fixed,” Ryan said, citing rising care costs and inaccessibility as the main problems. “I think we should focus on those without tearing the whole system upside down.

“People worry that this will change the size and scope of government.”

That’s why Alex Torres, 41, came from Whitewater to attend Ryan’s listening session at the tiny Walworth Village Hall. He wanted to show opposition to the health care reform bill to ensure his children have choices when they are old enough to have their own insurance policies.

“It’s a complete travesty,” Torres said of government-run health care. “If we allow this to pass, it’s the first step to the end of our democracy.”

Bob Hein, 36, of Janesville said the reason people are coming out and attending listening sessions in record numbers has little to do with health care but rather with the way reform is coming about.

“I believe the constitution says that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Hein, a libertarian who said he normally votes Republican. “It doesn’t say anything about the government getting in there and taking over.

“Health care is just the issue of today.”

There was little opposition to Ryan’s point of view among attendees. Coleen Robson of East Troy was among the few who supported the House plan.

“I think the U.S. can do better to make sure everyone has access to health care,” she said.

Robson came to Fontana to support the public option because she is concerned about her 23-year-old son. He has a learning disability and will be ineligible for her insurance when he gets out of college.

Among those attending Wednesday’s meetings, Robson knew she was part of the minority to support the government plan.

“There’s got to be a way to compromise,” she said. “And I keep hoping, thinking, ‘Can we get this done before he’s out of time?’”

Ryan compared the health care system with his favorite movie, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.”

The good, Ryan said, is quality of care with medical innovations as America’s hallmark. The bad is the number of citizens who go without care and a lack of transparency. And the ugly, he said, is that without reform, health care is expected to cost $4.4 trillion by 2018 and account for more than 20 percent of the national economy.

“We spend more than twice than any other industrialized nation spends on health care,” Ryan said. “But we don’t get twice the benefit.”

Ryan hardly talked about partisanship Wednesday. When people asked how they could have their opinions heard and stop the Democrats from ramming through health care reform, he said there is little they can do.

In the end, he said, it will come down to votes by Blue Dog Democrats, a moderate group of southern Democrats who are undecided on how to lean on health care.

“I feel frustration that many Americans feel, that the people that we elect to go to Congress don’t represent us anymore,” one attendee said in Fontana. “I feel they represent President Obama, and they’re his representatives in Congress.”

Last updated: 11:04 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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