Yarmuth Town Hall Draws Capacity Crowd

by Gabe Bullard on September 2, 2009

Town Hall ParticipantCongressman John Yarmuth led a sometimes contentious discussion on healthcare in a town hall meeting at Central High SchoolWednesday. The meeting was Yarmuth’s first and only in-person town hall of the congressional recess.

Nearly 15 hundred people showed up for the meeting, and the much-publicized and outspoken dissenters who have appeared at meetings across the country were a vocal minority.

“Booing’s not going to change my explanation of it,” said Yarmuth. “You can be against it. I understand there are people who don’t support it, but I was asked to explain it and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Town Hall SecurityAfter drawing some boos for expressing support of a government-provided public insurance option, Yarmuth addressed a claim that the plan would put private insurers out of business.

“Let me put it this way,” he said. “We have…we spend in this country billions and billions of dollars every year on bottled water and we have a pretty good public option to that. It’s turn on your tap. People still buy public water. They still by bottled water.”

Yarmuth says the future of the public option could be determined by the president, who will address both chambers of Congress next Wednesday. To hear the full audio of Yarmuth’s town hall, click here.

Comments Closed

{ 14 comments }

Ken September 3, 2009 at 12:29 am

Yarmuth’s comparison of public health care with public water is sophomoric. Actually, his example proves exactly why having a “public option” would kill private insurance, forcing, in effect, everyone on the government plan. Think about it: Does your employer buy you bottled water? I bet not. Doing so would be stupid when they can simply install water fountains. So, when it comes to health insurance, do you think your employer will provide you insurance options from the private sector when they could simply “install” the public option? The fact is, most of us get our insurance through our employers. Employers, understandably, seek the best cost option -that’s why you have a water fountain at work and not bottles of evian stacked on your desk. There’s no way a private insurance company will be able to compete on a cost basis with the government. Therefore, employers will only “offer” the public option. Bottom line: If you get your health insurance through your employer, the “public option” would likely be your ONLY option. Oh, and by the way, people buy bottled water because “public” tap water is full of chemicals and often isn’t very palatable. What kind of “chemicals” do you think will be swimming around in government run health care? Whatever’s in there, my bet is that it’ll be hard to swallow.

Anthony September 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

so… you think it’s sophmoric and yet apt enough to extend the metaphor substantially?

This debate really comes down to what our primary goals should be. If our first goal is access to decent health care for all citizens (kinda like clean water available to everyone), then we need a public option. If you don’t care about that, and your only concern is to keep insurance companies making record profits (even in a recession) then you’re against the public option. I happen to value the American People more than insurance companies, but you’ve obviously chosen a different way.

The public option WILL NOT be your only option, even if you get health care through your employer – it may just be your most cost-effective one. Bottled water has generally shown to be no safer (and often less safe than) tap water) – yet people are willing to pay a premium for it because of marketing and perceived benefits. And some companies are willing to offer it, because they believe it creates a better working environment and/or will help them attract or retain employees.

PS: if you really think tap water is less safe than bottled water, here’s a shocking expose from noted Liberal rag, The Reader’s Digest:

http://www.rd.com/your-america-inspiring-people-and-stories/rethink-what-you-drink/article51807.html

Nathan September 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

My company provides a water cooler even though we get free tap water. In fact every company I’ve ever worked for has provided a water cooler.

Obviously you enjoy your current health insurance, possibly your one of the 5% of American’s who’s premiums haven’t gone up dramatically.

Regardless you will have the option to keep your wonderful Private Insurance. If your company decides to go with the Public option, and you don’t like it, you can go work for another company.

Ken September 3, 2009 at 2:29 am

The cost difference between a water cooler versus public tap water is minuscule. In no way could that compare to the cost difference between private insurance options versus the public option. That’s why it’s a poor analogy.

As to your statement: “…possibly your [sic] one of the 5% of American’s…” In fact, my premiums have increased. It’s no picnic; but the proposed solution shouldn’t be one that will fundementally change what is arguably the world’s most advanced, most readily available health care system. Doing so would be akin to using a two ton steam shovel to remove a kidney stone. Instead, let’s focus -surgically, if you will- on reducing the cost of health insurance. Here are some good ways to start: Tort reform, free market competition, and -brace yourself- more (not less) personal responsibility for the patient to pay out of his or her own pocket for minor health care issues. As it is, folks head to the hospital for a sniffle; and why not? It only costs them a 10 dollar “co-pay”. The insurance companies are stuck with the rest of the bill. That bill, conveniently enough, is passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher premiums -much like the bill for the public option will be passed on to all of us in the form of higher taxes.

You’re right: I get to choose -at least for now- my private insurance company. I do so based on cost and an assessment of my personal health risk. Happily, I qualify for relatively inexpensive insurance. I don’t smoke, drink to excess, or ride a motorcycle without a helmet while eating two Big Macs…etc, etc. Why should I pay -via my taxes- the excessive health care costs of those who do?

Jamie September 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

Ken, I really think you are missing the point of most of this. What about the people who are too sick to have a job? What about the people who have a job with no health care benefits? What about people who are have another job offer from another company but who can’t take it because their insurance is tied to their current employer. Surely, in the long term, you can see yourself in at least one if not all of these positions. Employer based health insurance does not work efficiently for anyone…not the employee, not the employer (I am the benefits coordinator where I work, and I speak from experience), not the insurance company who have to spend lot of money to advertise.

Anthony September 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm

If you haven’t called the police or fire department this year, do you still have to pay the taxes to pay for them? Of course, because having police and firefighters available when needed is good for everyone. You may feel differently about your insurance when you get sick and your provider drops you, or if you lose your job and can’t pay/get a private plan. Not to mention, what about your family? Your friends? Your neighbors? Do you really want them to not be able to get care when they’re sick? If we should all have the right to be protected by the police and fire departments, we should all have the right to see a doctor when we’re ill.

If I can see a doctor when I first start getting sick, instead of having to go to the ER when things get really bad, the taxpayer gets significant savings, and society benefits from the fact that I was able to continue to work, pay taxes, etc. – that’s a stabilizing force in society. Compare that with the fallout from medical bankruptcy or death due to inadequate/delayed care – increased poverty for entire families leading to GENERATIONS of problems. Do you not see the effect that has on you personally and on our country?

There’s a potential for abuse in any system. Some people call the police when the hear the slightest strange noise outside. But that doesn’t mean we do away with the police department altogether, we instead work to improve the system and limit abuse.

Oh, and “we have the best healthcare system in the world”? False. There are absolutely no numbers to back up that claim, unless you’re only looking at the subset of Americans that make over 100k per year. Maybe.

jorge September 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm

What if you have pancreatic, prostate, ovarian or breast cancer? Go to the emergency room and get it fixed? In a week you’ll be as good as new? Is that what Ken is saying? It sounds it to me. Maybe Ken needs to go to a hospital and ask what one can expect if you don’t have health insurance and these pop up. I never see this in these health scare discussions. And kids don’t pay taxes and they get cancer, too.

Mel September 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

In regards to the U.S. having “what is arguably the world’s most advanced, most readily available health care system…”

I wouldn’t argue against the quality of US health care, but the main problem is access. Recent research cites the U.S. as ranking last in a study of industrialized nations’ preventable deaths:

http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Content/News/News-Releases/2008/Jan/New-Study–U-S–Ranks-Last-Among-Other-Industrialized-Nations-on-Preventable-Deaths.aspx

mike September 3, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Missing the point? The point is we have 35 million uninsured Americans, some of which choose to be uninsured. House Bill 3200 proposes a solution that goes way beyond addressing this problem, and (if passed) it WILL cause more problems that it solves. That is the point in a nutshell.

jorge September 3, 2009 at 8:07 pm

Who would choose to be uninsured? If you make 20k a year, have kids and pay 12k a year before taxes for health insurance, you’re going to hope for the best-that you won’t get sick. Don’t say they “choose” to not be insured. I am fortunate. I am insured by my employer. Socialist? No. Social conscience, yes.

Keith September 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm

The public option will kill the US economy if employers are required to buy it or pay a fine. The current Bill penalizes employers if ANY change is made in their current plan and forces them onto the public plan. That cannot possibly be considered fair in a free society like the US. If the government wants to insure those who want to be insured but cannot then a simple revision of the current Medicare/Medicaid programs could possibly solve the problem. If the goal is to really control cost then the need to look at Tort reform. The reason they will not do that is that Lawyers are righting the bill and that will take money out of their pockets. The real reason is that the current administration wants to remake America into a Socialist/Communist country. To do that they have to control all of life and shred the Constitution.

Anthony September 4, 2009 at 11:43 am

Keith:

Please follow and read the link that Mel posted. What do you think is the effect on our economy of 101,000 preventable deaths in 5 or 6 years? Do you REALLY think tort reform will enable people with pre-existing conditions to see a doctor? Let’s say we were to make medical malpractice lawsuits completely illegal (since I’d guess that’s the sort of “tort reform” you might lean towards) how much do think that would save us in a year? Enough so if I get cancer and don’t have insurance I could get quality care and not go bankrupt?

Ken September 4, 2009 at 3:34 pm

To be clear, I believe we need to make health care -and access to it- better. We need to make insurance more affordable and more accessible. I’d like everyone to be able to get and afford the care and medicine they need. I think these things are possible. But I think trying to accomplish them via more government involvement or control would not only fail, the attempt would also dismantle many of the things that are best about our health care.

I’m a small government guy. I’m big on personal responsibility. I don’t believe in the “Nanny” state. I believe in Individual Liberty and that such Liberty is derived from strict limitation of government power. These are the principles upon which our nation was founded. These are principles that are threatened, I believe, by increasing government’s role in our lives –especially when it comes to something as personal as health care.

Folks throw around the term “Health Care” as if it’s a public commodity. It’s not. And with all the talk of “reform”, people have come to think that America’s “Health Care” is awful. It’s not. In fact, it’s the best you can get. Anywhere. Is it perfect? No. But it’s still the best. For any given condition, I can think of no other country in which I’d want to be treated. Apparently, many around the world feel the same way. Those who can, come here to be treated. Yet we’re about to throw it all away in favor of government-run health care. But here’s the one thing: The Democrats’ latest health care plan has nothing to do with “health” or “caring” and everything to do with power and control. Free health care for everyone? Sure, that’d be dandy. Let’s just have “the government” pay for it. But wait, WE are “the government”. Bummer. Obama’s own CBO estimates that the latest House plan will cost $1 trillion over 10 years. Once everything finally has kicked in, the plan will cost more than double — $230 billion per year — with the cost rising each year. Where will the government get the money to pay for this “free” program? Well, “the rich”, of course! So, if you’re part of that, mean, evil, awful population of “the rich” or are employed by “the rich” or are looking to gain employment from someone who is “rich,” then brace yourself. You see, the party that hates being called “socialist” is proposing to fund government care with a 5.4 percent surtax on those making over $1 million a year, with gradual taxes starting at incomes of $250,000 a year (that number used to be $280,000 a year. Keep watching. Soon it’ll be coming to a salary near you). As Margaret Thatcher famously said “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Sadly, though, that huge tax hike on other people’s money only funds part of the plan. The rest is coming from — and I’m going to try and say this with a straight face — the expected windfall of savings the government will achieve. Really? Our government? The one who has racked up an $11.5 trillion debt will fund a massive new program on “savings”? Right. They claim they’ll be able to beat those evil insurance companies in efficiency because they don’t have to care about profits or paying bloated CEO salaries. Only one problem: Health insurance profits account for a measly 0.6 percent of health care costs. So, for every dollar spent on health care 0.6 percent goes towards health insurance costs. And those evil CEOs account for 0.0005 percent of costs. So for every dollar spent on health care, 0.0005 percent goes towards that greedy CEO. So why is health insurance so expensive? Because the government regulates the Hec out of it! They’re called “Mandates”. Every state controls who can offer health insurance to the residents of their state. So much for free market competition, huh? Each state also tells the insurance provider what must be covered in policies sold in that state. 11 states require insurance companies to cover hair prosthesis, 3 states require that an athletic trainer be a covered expense, and 3 require insurance companies to cover the costs of a pastoral counselor. In 2009, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) identified 2133 different mandated benefits. Rhode Island tops the list with 70 individual mandates. Idaho has the lowest with 13. Kentucky is right up there with 41. It’s easy to be sympathetic to persons who have special needs; but, the question becomes what are the basic health care services to which everyon should be entitled? Should mandated coverage make plans so expensive that few can afford them? Free the market. Let me shop for Health Insurance like I shop for car insurance. Give me the same tax credit for buying my own insurance that I get when buying via my employer. I’ll decide if I want my hair plugs to be covered or not. Get government out of the way of free market choices and competition. The current legislation would do exactly the opposite. If this bill passes, government would control and additional 1/6th of the economy. Combine that with the industries they’ve already infiltrated — namely the banks and the auto industry — and the ones they are trying to infiltrate — like the energy industry — and you have something that looks nothing like America. What are we doing? I don’t want to be like the European Union or Canada. I want America to be America: Where the people run the show — that’s what makes us great. When we’re run by the government, we’re anything but the land of the free. Besides, if we become like Canada or the E.U., where will all of their citizens come when they need that difficult or elusive medical treatment they can’t get in their own country?

84% of Americans HAVE health insurance. It may be expensive in some cases, but so are a LOT of things in this country that aren’t “rights”…like auto insurance or homeowners insurance…which are things the doesn’t doesn’t provide, but that we are forced by law to have. And here’s another law: It’s against federal law to deny health care to someone who needs it. There are hospitals that treat patients every day who have no way of paying. There are also thousands of clinics and programs to help those who can’t pay catastrophic medical bills.

It’s sad that some people don’t own their own homes. Is a permanent place to live also a fundamental right? Some people don’t own a car. If they cannot afford one, should one be provided for them by the government? Where does it end? Flat screen TV’s? The right to keep and bear a washer/dryer set? How much can or should the government do?

Both the House and Senate bills would result in sweeping and complex federal regulation of health insurance. Moreover, it would take oversight away from states and concentrate it in Washington. There are better, less expensive things we can do. Instead of trying to overhaul one-sixth of the American economy and seize an unprecedented amount of political control over health care decisions and dollars, policymakers should proceed with smaller, incremental improvements, making sure the initial steps taken aren’t disruptive of what Americans have and want to keep.

Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackey eloquently wrote about some good “first steps”. You can take a peak at his short Op-ed piece here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204251404574342170072865070.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

My apologies for the length of this post. This is a complex issue with valid, sound points on BOTH sides of the discussion. There’s answer, I’m sure, somewhere in the middle.

Anthony September 5, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Ken, I really fail to understand how you intend to see reform in the system without “more government involvement or control.” Our health care system ranks near the bottom on nearly every possible measurement when compared to other advanced countries, and we are THE ONLY industrialized country without some sort of nationalized system. We’re all worse off for our failure to recognize that our system stinks and for our failure to do something about it, even if we’re afraid of what could go wrong.

Let me take some of the numbers out of this and make it more personal. My wife has a pancreatic condition that has not yet been fully diagnosed. When she started getting sick four years ago, she was forced to miss so many days of work that she lost her job, and with it, her insurance. Now what she has, although it’s never been completely diagnosed, is considered a “pre-existing condition” and she can’t get insurance (even if we could afford it, which we can’t). Yeah, when things get really bad we can go to an ER or clinic, but all they do is stabilize her, and send us home with a massive bill (which we can’t pay); she can’t see the specialist she needs or get real treatment that will enable her to be healthy and start working again.

When it comes to someone in your family, you might stop caring about HOW the help comes, and just pray someone will do something so that it will. Nothing you or John Mackey propose will help my wife in any way. But a plan with a public option would, and nationalized care would help even more. Maybe if we made people more important than ideology in this country we’d all be better off.

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