So many people came to the meeting that the large auditorium was completely filled, and a crowd of thousands spilled over into the outside lawn. Speakers were set up so that all could hear, and Larsen made a point of coming out on to the lawn area to take questions. Congressman Larsen treated everyone with patience and respect. Oh, to be sure, there were some who seemed bent on stoking ill will, such as the guy who had a picture of the President defaced to look like Hitler. These folks were far outnumbered by those who came to listen and have true dialog, and when the Congressman singled out the picture of President Obama as Hitler, to say it was not reflective of true and honest criticism and debate, there was a loud and prolonged applause from 90% of those in attendance. To those who complained that the house bill was rushed through by people who did not understand it, he made it clear that he had read the entire bill, and had a copy with him to refer to if there were specific questions. And the questions did come!
One of the most interesting things I learned at this meeting is how confused and misinformed some worried people are about the truth contained in the recent bill passed by the House of Representatives. For example, one woman thought that payment for care would be limited to $5,000. The Congressman explained that no, this figure was a cap on expenses for her to be responsible for, and not a limit on benefits. Another thought that illegal aliens would be covered, and was told that they are explicitly not covered by this bill. There were many other examples.
Larsen made it clear that he is not approaching reform as an ideolog, but rather, he wants to accomplish practical change by keeping the following principles in mind:
- Ban discrimination for pre-existing conditions, age and gender;
- Don't try to fix what isn't broken. If people have insurance and doctors they like, they should be able to keep them;
- Eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in government health programs;
- Invest in prevention and pay for quality of care, not quantity of tests;
- And get reform that works for Washington State.
All in all, I was very impressed. Congressman Larsen should be commended for working hard on our behalf, with clear principles of reform. He is obviously very knowledgeable and energized about this issue. Residents of our area should be commended for their attention and respectfulness of the town hall process. I was glad that I went.
One disappointment I do have is with our local newspaper, The Bellingham Herald. I could not find a report of our local meeting, but there were 2 articles with old news about how meetings are being disrupted. What a missed opportunity by our media to set the record straight!