2009-08-28 / Top Stories

Meeks Urged To Support House Health Bill

By Miriam Rosenberg

Congressman Meeks Congressman Meeks As the health care discussion grows more passionate and contentious, and as people try to discern the kernels of truth in the information and myths being passed down from Capitol Hill and television pundits, residents from all over southeastern Queens came together at a Town Hall meeting hosted by Congressman Gregory Meeks earlier this week.

The meeting to discuss America's Affordable Health Choices Act, which is making its way through the House of Representatives, drew more than 100 residents of the Sixth Congressional District to York College in Jamaica on Monday night.

"My job is [to insure] that the needs of the people of the Sixth Congressional District are taken care of," said Meeks. "Unless we have quality health care our people will be unhealthy and be unable to live healthy lives."

Some of the statistics for the Sixth District and Rockaway, cited by Meeks included: 21 percent of residents have no personal doctor; 33 percent have high blood pressure; more than one in four adults are obese; 25 percent have high cholesterol and one in 10 have diabetes.

Here are some of the facts Meeks laid out about he House bill.

If you already have insurance and you like it, you can keep it, Meeks said. The bill prevents insurers from dropping people if they get too sick. People will not lose their insurance if they lose, move or change jobs. There will be a limit on out of pocket expenses your insurance company can make you pay, and it will cover preventive care.

Those without insurance can choose a quality, affordable health plan through the health insurance exchange or market place.

"{The House bill] includes a public health insurance option competing on a level playing field with private insurers," said Meeks. "It means you have another option what you can choose. It makes it competitive."

For Medicare Part D users, the bill will begin to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole and extends the solvency of Medicare by at least 5 years.

He said that in Medicare and Medicaid there are ways to save money, including reducing fraud, by making the programs more efficient without cutting benefits.

"That's going to help us pay for the public health plan and then the health reform bill," said Meeks.

While some people's taxes will go up, nobody who earns less than $350,000 a year will pay a penny more in taxes, Meeks assured. He also added, that no illegal residents will be covered by the bill.

Meeks warned that there are those against change.

"My dear friends, the tactics that are taking place right now are trying to make you afraid. That you should be afraid of this," Meeks said.

He added reform was essential to "rescue the economy and build it stronger than it was before."

For those who support a single payer option Meeks said the House of Representatives wouldn't pass a bill without a public option, adding, "I think the best alternative is a public option."

Among those supporting the bill is retired health care administrator Joanne Petersen of Far Rockaway.

"I've seen a lot of people without health insurance," she said. "They don't have the money for prescription drugs."

Gary Hillard, also of Rockaway, suggested Meeks hold a Town Hall meeting on the peninsula.

"We need to do this in Far Rockaway," said Hillard, pointing out we have two hospitals in the area. "A lot of people would come."

Many in the audience encouraged Meeks to end the attempt at bi-partisanship and that the democrats should pass the bill without republican input.

"I think if you don't pass a strong public option you'll lose the majority," said Sara Delvin. "We should not be governed by the top 1 percent who ride our backs to the bank. Pass a bill with a strong public option."

A few were not buying it. David Rindy of Dismore Avenue questioned the constitutionally of the federal government operating a national health service.

Meeks pointed to among other things "the same powers that give the congress the right to tax." The rest of his answer was drowned out by audience applause in support of the congressman.

He also addressed the biggest misconceptions the public has about health care reform.

"The biggest misconception is that individuals will lose their current health care if in fact this is passed," said Meeks. "One of the other myths is this thing about euthanasia. That's a myth. That's incorrect. That people will be forced into a public option - that's a big myth, and that all individuals will be taxed and it will cost them a tremendous amount of money - that's another big myth. I think it's fear mongering at its best that is trying to derail the bill and we've got to do whatever we can so that we can erase those fears so that people can just think intelligently."

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