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Latham hears angry crowd on health care reform

By Staff | Aug 21, 2009

A large crowd visited with Congressman Tom Latham during his town hall meeting held at the Iowa Lakes Community College Auditorium Thursday afternoon. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Lucky for Rep. Tom Latham that he’s a Republican.

Knowing they were preaching to the choir, what was on the verge of an angry mob turned out Thursday at Iowa Lakes Community College to tell Latham they did not want health care reform shoved down their throats. While some audience members seemed sympathetic of health care reform proposals now under debate, the vast majority opposed making health insurance mandatory of everyone.

Prior to taking questions – something that took the vast majority of the 75 minutes Latham was there – the congressman noted his position on a number of items of legislation.

Latham said he opposed the $700 billion bank bailout and the $780 billion stimulus bill as well as the omnibus spending bill. Offering his reasons, he said $5 billion had been cut from military spending to finance loans to foreign countries. He also explained that his opposition to cap and trade legislation stemmed from the projected loss of 17,000 jobs a year for the next 20 years.

Latham held out hopes that a bipartisan plan could be found for the health care crisis. Possible solutions would be making sure that people with pre-existing conditions were insured without bias.

Latham then fielded a number of questions, most dealing with health care reform – and most of those questions indicating opposition to a mandatory federal health insurance plan.

Latham acknowledged concerns by one woman as to the apparent continuing loss of individual freedom in the country.

“People are very concerned about what we’re going to have in a few years,” Latham said.

Regarding health care reform legislation under consideration, Latham said health savings accounts, something which has proven hugely popular, would not be a qualified plan.

Latham agreed with one man who asked how a government-run health care plan would be any better than the current federally run Social Security and Medicare programs.

Another constituent offered concern about how local hospitals would fare under a federal plan. “Are we going to lose our local hospitals over this?” the man asked.

Another man said he thought health care reform should be called what it really is – socialized medicine. “I think they need to go back to calling it socialized medicine because it’s socialism,” the man said. He said Canadians come to the U.S. when they need better medical care. “It costs more because we get more,” he said.

Another asked how private insurance companies could be expected to compete with a government plan operating without a profit and another objected to taxpayer-funded abortions. “We don’t want the government health plan in any way, shape or form,” said the latter speaker.

Latham also addressed tort reform, saying, “That is a very major factor in escalation of costs.”

Gene Haukoos of Estherville Ambulance Service said that while Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement is a small fraction of actual costs, fuel and other costs continue to rise.

Latham agreed that in rural America people need to be concerned about locking in private care at Medicare rates.

On a related topic, Latham said that while Iowa ranks fourth or fifth in the nation in quality of health care that it is at the bottom in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

One woman noted a few people don’t want insurance. In her case, she said her religion does not support substituting unethical uses of insurance. Instead, she said she belongs to a cooperative that helps people share medical costs. “Turning everything over to the government is not the answer,” the woman said.

Dr. Richard Lepird noted how medical malpractice suits have forced doctors into ordering more tests than they did previously when the physician made the diagnosis and used tests to support that diagnosis.

One man asked why Republicans did not pursue health-care reform in 2000-2006.

Responding, Latham said Republicans had tried to address that issue; however, they were unable to push through tort reform.

Another constituent asked about those who are truly in need of health insurance coverage.

Latham said if health insurance were deductible for everyone – including employers that would improve affordability of health insurance coverage. He said insurance industry officials who have come to the table on health-care reform have agreed they will do away with added premiums for pre-existing conditions. He also noted with chagrin that health savings accounts would no longer be allowed under legislation under consideration. He acknowledged a lot of people are now working poor whose employers can’t afford to pay for their insurance. Latham said another good option – not allowed currently – would be to allow associations such as blacksmiths to form their own insurance pools.

Another opposed health-care legislation before Congress as well as amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“I have always been a supporter of legal immigration,” Latham said. “It’s unfair and it’s against the law.”

Another asked about being able to purchase insurance policies across state lines.

Latham said if that could occur that premiums in a given state would eventually increase. He said though that association-sponsored insurance would probably be lower.

Greg Johnson noted a disparity when insurance companies negotiate down medical costs while persons paying on a cash basis don’t have that option. “We’re paying for it anyway,” Johnson said. “Why can’t we do it in an efficient manner.”

Latham noted a movement toward uniform claim costs. He also said many of those who can’t afford health insurance go to emergency rooms and “the hospital eats it” and that eventually everyone pays for that cost.