"'Til death do us part, regarding sickness and health, I am
here for you."
pursuit of my "Oh!Barbara-Care" health plan, I braved Tropical
Depression Danny on Saturday to attend Bill Hudak's town hall
meeting about health care reform.
I went to the Sheraton Ferncroft in Danvers, where
a roomful of people got to be part of a real discussion, ask
questions and share ideas.
Republican who is running against Democratic Congressman John
Tierney, seemed very knowledgeable about the various aspects of
ObamaCare. He was able to answer all questions from the audience,
and to set forth some reform proposals of his own.
formally invited Tierney to attend, but the congressman declined
even before he had the excuse of the Kennedy funeral held in Boston
Saturday, Hudak asked any supporter of the congressman's bill to
please participate. No one stepped forward.
were already opposed to the House bill, but others seemed to be just
looking for solid information and alternatives. Several held signs,
including one stating, "ObamaCare: to die for."
thought of that sign when I participated in the Tierney phony-phone
town meeting Monday, since I eventually found myself wishing someone
would strangle me with the phone cord to put me out of my misery.
when I registered online last week, as directed by Tierney's office,
that in order to write a fair column, I would have to listen through
the entire scheduled hour and attempt to ask a question. For some
reason I was called twice, once at 4:10 p.m. and again two hours
learned later that many voters who had not registered online were
called to join the earlier conference. Both times we were told to
press 0 to submit our question to someone who would put us in the
queue. Then we heard Tierney begin by attacking the insurance
companies who "pillage" thousands.
I had a
question, so I pressed 0 and eventually gave it to a staff screener.
heard on Saturday that Medicare recipients would become part of the
"public option" and that Medigap plans would be eliminated in order
to save money. So I wanted to ask if I'd lose my Tufts Medicare
Preferred plan if the Tierney plan prevailed.
had already told a caller that all Medicare benefits should be the
same, that the insurance companies shouldn't be able to charge
additional premiums for extra coverage; or at least I think that's
what he said since no one got to ask for clarification.
what I heard on Monday was very different from what I'd heard on
Saturday. Some of what I heard Tierney say on the second call seemed
different from what he'd said two hours earlier, or made no sense.
time I pressed '0' on the second call, I just wanted to know one
thing: Will John Tierney agree to a debate on this issue with Bill
Hudak so that interested citizens can hear both sides, with
rebuttals and discussion, in order to make an informed decision?
This time I didn't get on, though.
caller asked why the House bill doesn't include tort reform (which
Hudak said is essential for the savings that Obama says will make
the bill "affordable"). Tierney said that was too big an issue and
besides, the savings will come from eliminating waste, fraud and
abuse. But the Congressional Budget Office says that this would
cover only 1 percent of the Medicare cuts.
someone asked why not do health reform in smaller, manageable
pieces. Tierney said that all the pieces are essential and work
together. So why doesn't tort reform fit that description?
told one caller that no language exists allowing coverage of illegal
immigrants, then said questions couldn't be asked that would violate
a patient's privacy, then told another caller that there is specific
language forbidding this coverage. Hudak said on Saturday that
attempted amendments to include that language had failed. Which is
hour, someone asked if Congress would have to live with the same
plan available to all of us. Tierney said that we could choose the
same plan. I'd like to have asked, if we can all get the excellent
plan that Congress has, won't that cost a lot more than most of us
wanted to ask how much the Tierney plan will cost his family in
premiums and increased taxes.
end, Tierney said that 32,000 people had been on the line, so he
couldn't get to everyone. Then he said that he couldn't fit all
those people into a town hall meeting either, so the phone forum was
I have a
third "public forum option." And here is my question, Congressman
Tierney: Will you agree to a cable television debate that will give
your constituents a chance to hear a balanced response to their
questions? If The Salem News sponsors this discussion before the
final vote on Obamacare, will you be there to defend it?
Bill Hudak will be there with his critique and alternatives. And I
know that I and many voters will be watching.