FORT VALLEY — It is in the American public’s best interest to take action on the health-care reform, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., said during a town hall meeting held at Fort Valley’s Pettigrew Center on Wednesday afternoon.
The congressman cautioned, however, that such reform must be done in a fiscally responsible way. Bishop said that a massive overhaul of health care in the United States should not be done hastily, and legislators need to do so without adding to the federal deficit.
“We should be deliberate,” said Bishop, who is counted among Congress’s Blue Dog Democrats — a group known for holding moderate and conservative views on many issues.
Bishop said that, currently, citizens are paying dearly for health care across the board — from individuals with pre-existing conditions being denied insurance, to small business owners forced to reduce staff sizes because of increasing coverage costs.
About 68,000 people in the Second Congressional District, which Bishop represents, are uninsured, according to information distributed by his office.
Bishop said reform is vital to achieving long-term financial stability by reducing personal debt, as well as government spending on health care.
“Some think we shouldn’t reform health care given the state of the economy,” Bishop said. “I believe the worst thing we can do is do nothing. The cost of inaction is too great.”
While there were disagreements among audience members about the future of health-care reform, the meeting took place without the protests that have erupted at similar forums across the country.
“I thought it was great dialogue,” said Willie Foster, an employee of Fort Valley State University who said he supports health-care reform.
“Everyone had their concerns, and most people had the chance to voice those concerns.”
After Bishop addressed the crowd, he took questions about the proposed changes ranging from concerns about funding to how private and public options will compete against each other.
Attendees expressed a range of emotion, both in favor and against the proposed bill.
After seeing patients have difficulty affording medications and health services because of rising costs, Dr. Michael Early, a Fort Valley family practice physician for 22 years, said he favors changes to the current health-care system.
“I am 100 percent in favor of health insurance reform,” Early said.
“We’ve got to take care of the people in the U.S. The insurance companies take advantage of the people by not providing care they’re paying for and deserve.”
Larry Lee, a lawyer from Fort Valley, vocally denounced the proposed health-care plan in the question and answer session.
“There is not unlimited money. Our economy is in worse shape after the stimulus,” Lee said.
“Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Postal Service is bankrupt. Why give the government more responsibility?”
Wednesday’s event was one of four that Bishop will hold in Georgia, including meetings today in Bainbridge and Albany.
“I believe it is imperative to be bipartisan,” Bishop said. “(Reform) should not be Democrat; it should not be Republican. Health-care reform should be all-American.”
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.