Health Reform Passage Brings Strong Opinions
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Local opinions on the health-care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives Sunday night range from "a heck of a start" to "a train wreck."
The bitterly partisan fight over health-care reform legislation reached a climax when the House passed a Senate bill by a vote of 219-212 - a narrow but major victory for President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats who made it the centerpiece of their agenda. The Senate passed the bill in December.
The House passed the bill despite strong opposition from Republicans and much of the general public. A CNN poll released Monday found that 59 percent of Americans opposed the final version of the bill.
Nonetheless, Democrats are savoring the victory.
Moore County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Heim said the bill's passage was a pleasant surprise in light of the recent political climate, especially with Republican Sen. Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts in January.
"I am very excited about the events of last night," he said by phone Monday.
While Heim said he would have liked to have a public option provision in the bill, he said it was "a heck of a start." He said he wasn't sure why it didn't get more bipartisan support.
"Frankly, it's a Republican bill," he said, contending that a Republican like Richard Nixon probably would have supported it.
Heim's wife, Dr. Lori Heim, is the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. She has been in Washington lobbying on behalf of the legislation, which she said was long overdue.
"The academy is certainly pleased that health-care reform has passed," she said by phone from Washington. "This has been something the academy has been working on for 20 years. However, there are multiple parts of the bill that we think are not perfect. But, having said that, we still think this is a great platform that we can then build upon."
She said that Americans will begin seeing results from the legislation this year, such as a ban on discrimination by insurance companies against children with pre-existing conditions.
She said the legislation would benefit many folks in Moore County by providing affordable options for health-care access, especially for those who change or lose their job. She said she thought it was "an error" for Congressman Howard Coble to oppose the bill.
Heim said she considers health care to be a right, not a privilege, and that having access to quality health care is the key to a healthy, economically sound and productive country. She said the legislation begins to change how health care is approached in America, and that it will be used in tandem with other initiatives. She cited first lady Michelle Obama's childhood obesity campaign and anti-smoking programs as examples.
She said it is important to provide incentives for people to assume responsibility for their own care.
Heim has been actively involved in fighting for passage of health-care reform. She said it was "very rewarding" to be on the front lines of the reform movement.
She hoped to attend the signing ceremony Tuesday at the White House.
"We've been working long and hard for this, so I will be thrilled to be there," she said.
Ken Lewis, president of FirstCarolinaCare insurance in Pinehurst, opposed the legislation. However, he said it's much too early to know how it will impact his company until all of the pieces of the bill are vetted.
"I still think it's a poorly-framed bill and doesn't really accomplish all the things that it set out to accomplish," he said.
The bill's passage - especially the process - has been in the cross hairs of Republicans.
Every Republican in the House voted against it, along with 34 Democrats. Conservatives have accused Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership of using backhanded tactics to force the bill on an unwilling electorate.
Coble, a Greensboro Repub-lican who represents Moore County, opposed the bill from the start. He issued a statement shortly before the vote took place Sunday and said the vast majority of his constituents in the Sixth Congressional District opposed it as well.
"Make no mistake about it," he said in the statement. "This bill will put the government in control of our health care. It is a train wreck waiting to occur, and considering our current economic morass, we need no train wrecks. It is with the best interests of all of my constituents, their children and future generations that I will oppose this legislation."
Robert Levy, chairman of the Moore County Republican Party, echoed Coble's sentiments, saying the bill is the beginning of a government takeover of medicine in the same vein that it has taken over the banking and automobile industries, as well as student loans. He added that bureaucracy would interfere in the patient-doctor relationship.
"The Democrats have decided that the government will begin to run the economy, and we will become more of a central-planned economy," he said by phone Monday. "I believe that is extremely dangerous and that that destroys much of the freedom we have enjoyed in this country."
Levy said the way the bill was passed was "appalling." He took aim at Rep. Bart Stupak, of Michigan, and other pro-life Democrats who initially opposed the legislation over the issue of federal funding for abortion but agreed to vote for the bill after Obama signed an executive order that said no federal funding would be used.
He said he expected Stupak to cave on the issue, and argued that Stupak and his colleagues think that "socialized medicine" is more important than protecting the lives of the unborn.
"I actually don't know why everyone seems so surprised," he said.
He said Obama's executive order was nothing more than political cover for Stupak and his colleagues to vote for the bill.
Voters Will Speak
Levy said that repealing the bill is a possibility, but a difficult one. Not only must Republicans recapture both houses of Congress in the November election, but they would also need enough votes to override the expected presidential veto from Obama - a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate.
Regardless, Levy said he is still optimistic about the Republicans' chances in Novem-ber and said the health-care issue has revived the conservative movement. He said he believes conservatives will rally together not only in opposition to the health-care bill, but also on the issues of illegal immigration, welfare expansion and spending, among others.
"I believe that the Democrats are thumbing their noses at the American people," he said, "and I think in November that the American people will tell the Democrats that they are upset over the way they have governed the country."
Contact John Krahnert III at (910) 693-2473 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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