Local Politics

Health care debate continues to rage in Triangle

Posted August 14, 2009 5:42 a.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2009 8:53 p.m. EDT

— President Barack Obama's push to reform the nation's health care system continued to generate opposition Friday, as hundreds of people lined New Bern Avenue outside U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's office in Raleigh.

The protest was the latest show of force by opponents to health reform. A similar protest was staged last Friday outside the Raleigh office of Thirteenth District Congressman Brad Miller, and opponents have outnumbered supporters at public forums held this week by congressmen G.K. Butterfield, Bob Etheridge and David Price.

"I was there (Thursday) night with Congressman Price, and it was a joke," said Marcy Bria, of Durham, one of the protesters outside Hagan's office Friday.

Price spoke at North Carolina Central University in an event organized by the State Employees Association of North Carolina. He told about 850 people that he supports the plans making their way through the Democratic-controlled Congress, arguing that the system already limits care too much.

"Rationing based on existing conditions, rationing based on ability to pay, rationing based on who knows what," he said. "We're trying to get away from rationing, trying to get toward universal participation."

Most of the protesters outside Hagan's office Friday expressed frustration, saying they feel no one is listening to their concern that the government will take over the health care system and create more bureaucracy, higher costs, less access and lower quality.

Obama spent Friday afternoon in Montana, pitching his plan to a town hall meeting there. He spoke earlier in the week at a forum in New Hampshire and planned another meeting Saturday in Colorado.

Much of the opposition to his plan is centered on the so-called "public option" that would provide government-sponsored health insurance to people who have no other coverage.

Yet, most of the protesters acknowledged that they haven't read the proposed reform bills.

"I just depend on the Holy Spirit to speak to me, and the Holy Spirit has told me this is not the way to go," protester Beverly Jones said.

Hagan wasn't even in her Raleigh office Friday because she was attending a family function out of state.

Her office issued a statement saying Hagan "appreciates hearing from her constituents" and thanking protesters for taking time to express their views.

During the taping of the WRAL News public-affairs show "Headline Saturday," Price said health reform could create a problem for Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"It can do damage to the extent that the anger that's out there quite justifiably about health care and about a lot of other things gets placed on the Congress if we fail to act or if we somehow do what people think is the wrong thing," he said.