Health Care Reform Supporters and Opponents Spar at Debate

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(click image to enlarge) An opponent of the proposed health care reform bill wears a shirt depicting President Obama as the character the Joker in the last Batman movie. Beneath the picture is the word "socialism". About 400 people turned out for a forum hosted by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown at Ohio State University.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
(click image to enlarge) An opponent of the proposed health care reform bill wears a shirt depicting President Obama as the character the Joker in the last Batman movie. Beneath the picture is the word "socialism". About 400 people turned out for a forum hosted by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown at Ohio State University.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown held a health care reform forum at Ohio State Wednesday. More than 400 people showed up, but at least 100 of them were not allowed inside. WOSU attended the town hall-style meeting.

People of all ages stood outside Ohio State’s Biomedical Research Tower on West 12-th Avenue. Some held signs in support of health care reform, one man wore a shirt with Barack Obama on the front – the president’s face painted like the joker in the last Batman movie – under the picture was the word “socialism”.

That man was in a heated debate with another man who supports a reform bill.

“Where in the Bill of Rights does it say I should pay for your health care?”

Next to them…another heated debate…this one a little less civil.

“Sorry, but you’re a liar. You’re a liar.”

Inside the building the mood was much calmer – people talked among themselves in hushed voices. As U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown entered a packed room many people stood to applaud him – others, though, held their applause but stood out of respect.

While other Ohio members of Congress have shied away from town hall-style meetings because of recent volatility, Brown told the crowd he wanted to hear what they had to say.

Brown supports the proposed health care reform bill. He says it must be passed to avoid a worsening crisis.

“As good as our medical research in this country is we’re spending way too much money and not getting enough money for what we’re spending,” Brown said.

About forty minutes into the forum the senator opened up the floor for question and comments.

One man said the federal government is good at creating a deficit and poor at running a business. And he questioned the timing of the bill and raised the issue of public trust in the government.

“Is this really the right thing is this economic environment to possibly cause more job losses, and possibly cause more budget deficits in this economy? And I just want to leave with just one last statement. The founders reminded us, a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is large enough to take everything away,” he said.

But Marianne Steger from Hilliard supports the health care reform bill. She urged Senator Brown to continue to support a public option because in her words the “private system has failed”.

“And people who want to beat up on government, you’re beating up on veterans, you’re beating up on military people, you’re beating up on doctors and folks, and schoolteachers, police officers. Government does a lot of good things in this country and when the private market fails we need government to step in and give us an option that will not turn us away,” Steger said.

While many in the crowd became passionate while sharing their comments, Senator Brown remained reasonably calm. But a woman’s question about why insurance companies could be audited or penalized as part of the bill struck a chord with the senator.

“If an insurance company gets audited and there is a, there is a long profligate list of abuse by this insurance company you’re damn right they should be punished,” Brown said.

One woman expressed to Senator Brown her concern over a single payer system. Brown followed up with this:

“The president doesn’t support single payer so uhm.”

Several in the crowd questioned that statement. “Well, I’ve heard…Unlike the rest of you I’ve actually asked him that question,” the senator replied.

After the forum Becky Rayner said she and her husband just lost their health insurance and they cannot get private insurance because of pre-existing illnesses.

“I was just reassured. And thing were put more in a better understanding. And I’m more for it now than I was this morning,” Rayner said.

Melanie Leneghan did not get into the meeting but she stuck around anyway to hold up her signs.

“One says Obamacare, immoral, lies, lies, lies, we don’t want it’. The other says what’s your hurry’,” Leneghan said.

Like many others, Leneghan’s concern is a government run health care system. When Leneghan was told Senator Brown said the President does not support a single-payer system she pointed to her sign.

“Lies, lies, lies. They know darn well that if they put this plan into place private insurance will go out of business,” she said.

Comments like these will not likely be the last as the health care debate continues during the congressional recess.

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