Local Politics

Health care an emotional issue, lawmaker says

Posted August 10, 2009 1:34 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2009 7:07 p.m. EDT

— Health care reform is an emotional issue all around, Rep. David Price, D-N.C., says.

As the debate continues over how to ensure affordable health care coverage for every American, Price and two fellow U.S. lawmakers on Monday attended an open house and luncheon for Wake Health Services, a private nonprofit health center, in observance of National Health Care Center Week.

The center has eight sites in Wake and Franklin counties and serves about 25,000 patients regardless of their ability to pay. About 25 percent of patients there have no insurance at all.


"There's emotion all around," Price said. "You know, health care is one of those things that everyone is an expert on or thinks they are because everyone has a stake in this."

Across the nation, town hall meetings have sparked shouting matches and shoving between supporters and opponents and public officials.

"The average family is paying $1,000 to cover the uninsured as they come into emergency rooms," Price, D-N.C., said.

Locally, Rep. Brad Miller, also in attendance Monday, had his life threatened by a caller upset that he was not holding a public forum on the proposal.

That, however, did not stop hundreds of protesters lining St. Mary's Street outside the 13th District congressman's office Friday to express their opposition to the proposal.

"In my political life, which isn't that long, I've never seen anything like this," Miller said.

Much of the debate centers on the so-called public option, which would create a government-sponsored health insurance plan for people who cannot obtain other coverage.

President Barack Obama backs the plan as a way to guarantee that every American has health insurance, but opponents say a government-run plan would increase bureaucracy raise the costs of private insurers and provide fewer choices and less access.

Supporters argue that without reform, premiums would likely double in 10 years, and deductibles would rise. Certainty about coverage would decline.

"Nobody can say, 'That's a good plan,'" Price said. "Now, there can be legitimate debates on exactly how we fix it."

Price, Miller and Rep. Bob Etheridge admit the current system is broken, yet Etheridge would not commit to comprehensive reform.

"You ought to have all the evidence and do legislation that's good policy," he said.

Democrats are hesitant to hold large meetings on the issue, because of the violence and outbursts in other parts of the country.

Price and Etheridge say they plan to hold telephone town hall meetings later this month.

First District Congressman G.K. Butterfield said he would hold a two-hour forum on health care reform at 6 p.m. Tuesday at J.W. Parker Middle School in Rocky Mount.

It's unclear whether other members of North Carolina's congressional delegation plan to hold such meetings.