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East County Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009 10 years ago

TOP STORY, AUGUST: Town hall draws 1,400

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Throughout the holiday week, will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day for a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.


MANATEE COUNTY — Linda Sack stepped to the microphone, and with a tremble in her voice, she pleaded with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan to fight H.R. 3200, a health care reform bill that includes a government-run health insurance plan.

Citing specific lines and page numbers in the bill, the disabled Christian Retreat resident said passage of the bill would leave her without much hope.

“They are going to ration health care,” said Sack, who became disabled in an accident at work. “If it get the surgeries (I need), I’ve already maxed out. If they don’t work, what would I do? I’d be disposable.”

Sack was one of more than 1,400 constituents who flocked to the Braden River High School auditorium for Buchanan’s town hall meeting on health care and the economy Aug. 20. Just five minutes into the forum, Buchanan’s aides not only closed the doors to the auditorium but also the overflow area, the cafeteria, which was packed to standing room-only.

Buchanan took comments and questions from constiuents, who spoke both in favor and against H.R. 3200 and other issues during the hourlong meeting.

The majority of speakers opposed President Barack Obama’s plan and its hasty trek through the legislative process. Many cited specific reference points for their objection, which included everything from the government being able to access bank accounts to the rationing of physician services.

Braden Pines resident Bob Eredics, a pharmacist argued free health care at no cost devalues the service. Eredics noted an instance in South Carolina where the state began offering free prescription drugs to state employees and the number of medications used by state employees rose seven times in one year.

“It’s not free ride,” Eredics said. “You’ve got to work. America is about (people, not the government) helping each other.”

Others, including Mitch Mallett, a state committee member for the Democratic Party for Manatee County, said people are misinformed about the bill, what it will do and how it will be implemented and funded.

“What I heard today was a lot of ignorance,” Mallett said after the meeting. “I think a public option (for health care) would be a tremendous thing because it would take in everybody. We have a public option for homeowner’s insurance in Florida. … I don’t think people are looking at the whole picture.”

Buchanan said everyone should have access to affordable health care but the plans of a single-payer system and H.R. 3200 were not the best solutions.

“The system clearly needs major reform,” Buchanan said. “The No. 1 issue for small businesses was they couldn’t find health care or couldn’t afford to (provide) it. Working families are being squeezed from every side.”

Finding a way to curb costs and make it more affordable is of utmost importance, he said.

The Republican congressman also pledged his support to making sure that senior citizens and veterans continue to receive the medical assistance they have been promised and depend on.

“We have to do what’s best for America and what’s best for Florida, but stand by our seniors,” he said. “I’m not interested in taking (health care) from seniors and giving it to someone else.”

Congressman Vern Buchanan hosted several most town hall meetings in the area following his Braden River High School appearance.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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