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Saturday, November 21st, 2009

Health reform bill divides nation

Area residents voice views on legislation soon up for a vote in Washington

By Shelley Grieshop
Polls show most Americans want some type of health care reform, but legislators' proposed plans have many local people worried and some downright mad.
A recent survey by the independent and bi-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation noted that 55 percent of U.S. citizens believe "it's more important than ever" to establish health care reform right now, while 41 percent say the country simply can't afford it in today's economy.
Ron Beougher of Celina says he's "very much opposed" to what he's learned of the House bill, which is detailed in a nearly 2,000-page report.
"I printed the first 30 pages ... It's too difficult to know what's being said. I don't think they really want the American people to know," says Beougher, 62.
The House recently passed its version of a health care reform bill, and the Senate is planning to vote today on its own version. If the Senate version passes, then both bills will go to a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate. The committee must come up with a final, combined version. This bill then would go back to the House and Senate for a final vote and finally to President Barack Obama for signature.
The proposed bills have drawn questions about how much the government should interfere with the private health care industry and whether the public should be forced to buy some type of insurance or face fines and prison time. The issue of government-funded abortions also has parties divided.
Beougher believes the House plan will undermine the Constitution and interfere with each citizens' right to choose what they believe is in their own best interest.
"It's not government for the people, it's government imposed on the people," Beougher says. "This isn't about taking care of people's health care concerns, it's about the government taking over."
Those in opposition fear the proposed bills mean more taxes and low quality and delayed medical services. Planned cuts to Medicare and Medicaid also have come under scrutiny.
The selling point of the bills are their promise to provide health care to everyone - regardless of unemployment or pre-existing conditions. That is music to the ears of nearly 46 million people who have no insurance at all and 25 million others who are underinsured.
Michael May of Celina says he's experienced first-hand the fall-out from having no insurance.
"I've had back surgeries and ended up filing for bankruptcy," says the 43-year-old who wasn't insured at the time his health problems began.
May is unemployed and awaiting approval from the government for disability status, he says.
"Health care should be everybody's right, not a privilege," he says.
May believes no one should have to worry about losing their home or going broke because of their health or financial status.
Beougher disagrees.
"We've been on the entitlement track too long," he says. "It's very destructive."
Beougher says the government has no right to "redistribute the wealth" in order to fund the needs of the masses. He feels if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi wants to redistribute her wealth, that's fine, "but she better keep her hand out of my pocket," he adds.
Beougher said the government isn't listening to the people.
"The only thing that will get their attention, I believe, is a revolution - I hope a revolution at the polls," he says.
Critics such as Beougher say politicians who support the reform legislation also should be subject to its coverage instead of the "Cadillac" version of health insurance that House and Senate members are given.
Terry Jeffries, also of Celina, joins Beougher in his crusade. He, too, believes the Constitution does not give the government authority to create such a system.
"There are few things the federal government is empowered to do for a reason." he says, adding this isn't one of them. "Never forget, a government with the power to provide for my needs, also has the power to take it away."
New Mercer Health CEO Paula Detterman fears the government's ongoing desire to regulate U.S. industries such as health care eventually will destroy the free enterprise system and ultimately cripple hospitals financially.
"American hospitals ... have made tremendous strides in quality and efficiency by collaborating with American businesses," she explains. "Free enterprise is the foundation of this country."
Detterman also points to the country's current shortage of doctors and nurses and questions how the government plans to handle a huge increase in demand for services if all are offered health coverage.
She also notes that people without insurance are not denied medical care at most medical facilities. Mercer Health, like other public hospitals, must provide treatment to everyone who walks through their doors - with or without insurance.
"No one is ever turned away," she adds.
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