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Town Hall Talk: Republican Trio Wary of Reform's Price Tag; Democrat Concerned About Public Option Plan

By Sarah Lovenheim
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "took turns pounding the Democratic plan" for health-care reform yesterday in Kansas City as reform advocates protested on the street, according to a local radio station, KMBZ 80. The forum at Children's Mercy Hospital was invitation-only, limiting the crowd to fewer than 100 people.

During the forum -- which included a group of health care professionals -- Republican senators called President Obama's health-care reform initiative "outlandishly expensive" and suggested it would lead to further economic instability. They said reform "could lead to rationing and outsized budget deficits for years to come," according to the Kansas City Star's Steve Kraske.

Slate magazine's Christopher Beam said McCain and McConnell stressed the impact of reform on business owners. They "repeatedly stated that the Obama plan would be paid for on the back of small businesses," he wrote.

Photos compiled by the Kansas City Star of the senators' hospital visit can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, in downtown Springfield, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) led a town hall meeting of nearly 1,200 people, some of whom lined up six hours in advance of the event, at the Gillioz Theater. McCaskill "vowed" to oppose legislation lacking "legal restraints" on a public option plan, according to the Springfield News-Leader's Chad Livengood.

"I can't support a bill that will allow the public option to become the public mandate," the Missouri Democrat said.

At times, the "mostly conservative crowd" was disrupted by people shouting out concerns. One man "asked McCaskill how she could justify expanding government-run health care, when the U.S. Constitution says nothing about health insurance being an inherent right," Livengood said.

McCaskill responded that the government acts in many ways not addressed in the Constitution.

"There's nothing in [the Constitution] that says we can give money to the dairy farmers to help them with their milk prices," she said. The audience reacted with boos.

McCaskill told reporters that despite her support for health-care reform, "she knows Missourians will not tolerate a single-payer health-care system totally run by the government."

Write us with news from today's town hall meetings at politicscalendar@wpost.com.

By Washington Post editors  |  September 1, 2009; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Comments

I saw part of Sen. Vetter's town hall meeting last Friday in Kenner, LA. It appeared to be well run, dsiciplined and informative. Sen. Vetter took written questions interspersed with questions from the floor. This is a good example of how a town hall needs to be run both from the moderator and the attendee position.

Posted by: countryfirst1 | September 1, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

McCain and McConnell are just lying.

The opposite is true. The present Health Care reform proposals will be a boon to small businesses and a great improvement in the quality of life for their low/middle income workers.

The Democrats need to lay out a plan and get a few good Republican men and women to participate. Once it goes through, the Neocon Republican lies will be exposed, and the country will love it.

That's what the Republicans want to really avoid.

Posted by: ffcaruso | September 1, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

THE HYBRID OPTION

States can have their own Public Option, as some already do, like Vermont, but we need a "back-up" Federal public option program, for everybody not covered adequately by State Plans, and for funding and maintaining federal standards.

It is a better idea to keep a State public option paradigm, because many good States have good plans and a public option administrative system infrastructure (it would be a waste to just throw it away) The transition to Federal health care reform could be seamless. People in such States are already familiar with their State Plans. The can only get better, and get more funding with Federal Health Care Reform bill.

Such a plan would disarm the republican charge of Obama's health plan as a giant federal government "take-over" - also people feel they have more control over their State government plans. This does wonders for the trust and "comfort" factor, as people are familiar with their own State systems. For instance, citizens of Mississippi would be more likely to believe elective abortions are not covered under their own State Public Option Plan.

However, we still very much need the existence of a Federal Public Option, in addition to State Programs for several reasons:

(1) as a funding mechanism and fiscal template for the State plans

(2) to insure the States keep their public option health plans up to a Federal Standard. The Federal Public Option Plan acts as a standards establisher and standards enforcer.

(3) to act as a backup for the people in States with no public health plan, or for people in States that have public option plans that don't meet the Federal Public Option coverage standard, and have therefore not received federal funding.

(4) as a public plan for people with no State residency or other special extenuating circumstances. The Federal public option can also cover the DC citizens.

Posted by: ffcaruso | September 1, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Republicans sure know how to do one thing right.....attach a lable to any democratic plan in order to frighten people. The big one in this game they are playing with the American people is calling healthcare reform "government take-over". Reforming this awful mess that has morphed into today's healthcare, will be managed by the government, while making sure that the big insurance companies can no longer make the decisions of whether you have coverage or not. Anyone who is against reform must have never had a serious illness or accident, must have never made numerous claims with their insurance company. For if they had, they would realize that it is the insurance companies who have control over our health, once you get to the point where you begin to make claims against your plan, you get cancelled.

History will record that the republican party lied and delibertly tried to prevent Americans from recieving healthcare just to keep the money flowing into their pockets from the special interests associated with the insurance industry. For any of you who don't believe it, I hope that your alive to see it for yourself. I doubt it though, narrow-mindedness is as debilitating as any disease can be.

Posted by: liberalwesterngirl | September 2, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If Congress enlarged the federal share of Medicaid, it would be a major improvement in state finances. Also, cities that depend on state revenue sharing would benefit, because medicaid costs have forced many states to cut revenue-sharing. Some cities are cutting police and fire protection.

Kidney dialysis is financed by Medicare as are kidney transplants. However, Medicare doesn't always cover the expensive anti-rejection medications required by transplant recipients.

There are dozens of low profile and non-controversial improvements that Congress can and should make.

God Bless America!

Posted by: jamesabush | September 2, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

There are a few good men out their looking out for the people.

If there's one thing that derails the Hope and Change train, it's questions. Facts also get them PO'ed.

Posted by: MOMLEE | September 2, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Here we go again with the BS R's hiding, holding their meetings with selected audiences only, again.

Several things they don't have: 1) guts, 2) any real plans to help get us out of the mess they got us into.

Let's hear it for a budget with no numbers!!!

Let's hear it for not having a plan to do anything but say NO!!!

Posted by: dennissuper | September 3, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

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