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Sen. Boxer: 'We Won’t Walk Away From The Healthcare Debate'

Black Voice News.com, News Report , Chris Levister Posted: Aug 14, 2009

“Mostly white, angry and disruptive,” that’s how Elaine Jenkins of Riverside described a rambunctious health care town hall meeting that she attended with her daughter Jenna in Alhambra Tuesday night.

“The faces didn’t represent America,” said Jenkins one of a handful of African-Americans in attendance. “Agree or disagree with health reform, I think it’s un-American to block civilized debate,” said Jenkins who left the meeting early.

“I was turned off by the antics,” she said adding, “I worry the bitter sessions will discourage many people from attending such forums.”

The meeting hosted by Democratic Congressman Adam B. Schiff who represents California’s 29th Congressional District, including the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, Glendale, and South Pasadena was moved from the Community Room of the Civic Center Library outdoors because of the large crowd.

While jeers and taunts frequently drowned out Schiff, and a panel of medical experts, California Senator Barbara Boxer insists Democratic lawmakers are determined to press on with what is arguably the country’s most important policy discussion in decades.

“This is not a debate we are going to walk away from,” said Boxer. “We know a lot of people will come to these town hall meetings and start screaming. We need to hear what they have to say. Hopefully we can forge some common ground once they hear our positions.

We welcome the debate.”

Real or imagined, many people perceive an organized attack by conservative groups out to stifle the health care debate.

“It felt like organized chaos,” said Jenkins of the Alhambra town hall meeting. Jenkins lost her health insurance in 2008 after being laid off her job as a real estate appraiser. The 54-year-old mother of three is battling breast cancer and mounting medical bills. She says eventually the public will see past the ugly rethoric.

“The protests will drive people to ignore the vicious accusations and misinformation. We have to do our own homework,” said Jenkins. “I think what people want most is affordability and protection from the big insurers,” says Jenkins.

It’s the one issue in the health care debate that nearly everyone can agree on. Better consumer protections are needed to end the nightmare of not being able to get covered for a treatable if costly illness. Yet Jenkins fears such practical considerations are being drowned out by the noisy confrontations and the passionate argument about the government’s role and reach into medical matters.

Democrats say the bill working its way through Congress includes significant consumer protections that would end denial or cancellation of coverage for medical reasons from high cholesterol to cancer. Insurers could no longer base premiums on a person’s medical history, although they can charge more for coverage to 50 year olds than people in their 20s.

Under the proposal people would buy their own policy and those working for small businesses, would gain many of the advantages employees of Fortune 500 companies now have. That would eliminate ‘job lock’ the fear of leaving employment that provides medical benefits.

Experts say it would bring drug costs, insurance and insurability standards into line with medical practice and with the way people live their lives.

Braced for a fight he never got, President Barack Obama went on the offensive in support of his health care plan Tuesday, urging a town hall audience not to listen to those who seek to “scare and mislead the American people.”

The White House had been ready for an unruly reception from opponents of overhauling health care. There was no sign of that, perhaps because of the makeup of the day’s crowd or out of traditional deference for the president.

For all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary is if we do nothing,” Obama told a friendly crowd of about 1,800 in a Portsmouth, New Hampshire high school auditorium and a nationwide audience watching on cable television.

He told his audience reassuringly, “For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this ... if you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care you need.”

A successful reform package he insists should provide the kind of stability where you will always have coverage, even if your job doesn’t provide it, where it is easy and affordable to shop for health insurance through an exchange, where you can’t be denied health coverage for a pre-existing condition or charged more because of your gender.

Mr. Obama said reform should also ensure that the costs of health care don’t threaten family finances, that doctors are paid for making patients well and not ordering unnecessary tests, and that their health-care premiums are spent on actual care, not paying for piles of paperwork and red tape.

Meanwhile local Democratic lawmakers who’ve scheduled community meetings and town halls are bracing for bitter sessions underscoring the challenge for the administration as it tries to win over an increasingly uneasy public on the costly and far reaching task of revamping the nation’s health care system.

Related Articles:

San Francisco’s Health Plan for Uninsured Offers Clues for National Reform Effort

Obama Briefs Latino Media on Health, Immigration

Thousands of California Elders Losing Long-Term Care


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