There were only a few seats left at the Leaf Theatre Aug. 25 as U.S. Congressman Allen Boyd opened a town meeting to discuss the health care initiative. He said most of the people in the room were raised by parents whose lives were shaped by the Great Depression and many people are losing their jobs and their homes – and people are "scared."
"I'm delighted you're here. You were told last September that our financial institutions were about to collapse. That didn't happen but we never get credit for averting disaster," Boyd said.
But the economy wasn't what most people attending the meeting, one of 15 held by Boyd in District 2, came to hear about. Health care and House Bill No. 3200 were on the minds of the majority of those in attendance.
"I believe you can't fix this economy long-term unless you have responsible health care. Seventeen percent of the gross domestic economy, that's $4.5 trillion, is spent in health care and the cost is increasing between 8 and 10 percent above inflation each year," Boyd said.
To make his point, Sam Anderson of Quincy held a bundle of $1 bills and said Congress is mismanaging the public's money.
"In four days you all spent $10 million on junk cars. You've taken over the housing industry, the energy industry and the car industry and now you want us to trust you with health care?" Anderson asked Boyd.
Anderson, a 28-year military veteran, said government should has taken too much away from citizens.
Boyd asked all of the people who had questions what kind of insurance they had and most told him but Sherry Howell of Greensboro told him it was none of his business. She said she didn't need government in her life.
"We all have health care. It's about health insurance," she said.
Pat Higdon suggested to Boyd that instead of spending trillions of dollars on a new system, the system currently in place could be repaired, while another man from Mt. Pleasant said he views the health care plan as another attempt by government to control the lives of the public.
"Our system is broken. I'm a chiropractor and I have seen it from both sides," said Dr. Don Cross, whose wife is ill. He has seen Medicare payments go down as he’s seen his own patients.
Boyd said the health care plan doesn't take anything from anyone.
"If you're happy with the plan you have, keep it. No one is trying to make you switch insurance. But there are 48 million people out there with no health insurance and you're paying for them whether through higher premiums or through higher taxes. When they get sick they go to the emergency room and it's costing everybody," Boyd said.
County Commissioner Doug Croley told Boyd that Gadsden County spent $600,000 last year on indigent health care. Another $1.5 million was spent on ambulance calls, according to County Commissioner Brenda Holt.
Boyd drew applause when he said he could not support the bill as it is now. He said there are five bills under consideration, three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.
"I would support a bill where patients have a choice of doctors and care, that there is a reduction in cost, the uninsured receive basic care and that it be deficit-free. It must come from U.S. coffers and not be borrowed from China," he said.
The 90-minute meeting was minus all of the shouting and hostility dominant at other town meetings around the country.