Media Coverage of Mark Warner’s Health Care Town Hall

WARNER WALKS FINE LINE ON HEALTH CARE

The Associated Press

FREDERICKSBURG — Virginia’s freshman Democratic senator and former governor, Mark Warner, joined public tumult over health-care reform with a town-hall meeting yesterday on the divisive issue.

During the evening event attended by about 1,800 people, Warner walked the fine line between the two groups, something he has done for eight years when he governed as a pro-business Democrat. He now aligns himself with moderate Democrats in the Senate, whom he calls “radical centrists.”

Warner had something for both sides of the debate in the sometimes raucous meeting with widely divergent interests. In a presentation, graphics showed steadily escalating lines representing health-care costs, a trend that Warner said meant average Virginians would be paying 40 percent of their incomes for health coverage.

“We have to change the financial incentives we have now in the health-care system,” Warner said. “We’re really good at acute care. If you have a heart attack or a traumatic accident, we do well at that. But if you have a chronic disease, then it’s not so good.”

The crowed seemed to be split evenly among those who support the Democratic health-care initiative, those opposed, and those who were more interest in listening than shouting.

Some in the crowd wore orange stickers that said “Guns Save Lives,” while others held green and white placards with the words “Repower America,” a reference to sustainable-energy initiatives.

Inside, conservatives, seated together on one side of the room, cheered loudly when Warner said he demands a health-care program that would not expand the federal deficit. The other side of the room erupted in applause when Warner said another requisite for his support would be driving down the cost of health care.

The mood turned confrontational several times.

Peter Canciglia of Spotsylvania, screaming from the floor, tried to make a point about the primacy of state rights as conservatives cheered him on and the rest of the room booed him and shouted him down.

Warner, unable to hear the question, instead attempted to answer an inquiry from an audience member who had won her chance to ask a question in a random drawing.

Warner attempted to head off some of the rhetorical battles when he began talking, noting to the crowd that national media were on hand and reminding them that Americans should be civil, despite their views.

“Not only are we Americans, we are Virginians,” Warner said. “We treat each other with respect.”

———————————

WARNER HOLDS EVENING HEALTH CARE TOWN HALL

By Bob Lewis  AP Political Writer

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s freshman Democratic senator and former governor, Mark Warner, joined public tumult over health care reform with a town hall meeting on the divisive issue on Thursday.

During the evening event attended by about 1,800 people, Warner walked the fine line between the two groups, something he has done for eight years when he governed as a pro-business Democrat. He now aligns himself with moderate Democrats in the Senate, whom he calls “radical centrists.”

Members of Congress who have held open forums on the emotional and consuming health care issue have found them packed with people passionate about both sides.

Nobody has held more than Rep. Tom Periello, a Democrat who unseated longtime Congressman Virgil Goode in Virginia’s rural, generally conservative 5th District.

At some town halls, angry opponents railed against a public option. At others, supporters of President Barack Obama and a public option dominated.

Warner had something for both sides of the debate in the sometimes raucous meeting with widely divergent interests. In a presentation, graphics showed steadily escalating lines representing health care costs, a trend that Warner said meant average Virginians would be paying 40 percent of their incomes for health coverage.

“We have to change the financial incentives we have now in the health care system,” Warner said. “We’re really good at acute care. If you have a heart attack or a traumatic accident, we do well at that. But if you have a chronic disease, then it’s not so good.”

The crowed seemed to be split evenly among those who support the Democratic health care initiative, those opposed, and those who were more interest in listening than shouting.

Some in the crowd wore orange stickers that said “Guns Save Lives,” while others held green and white placards with the words “Repower America,” a reference to sustainable energy initiatives.

Several places in the cavernous convention hall where Warner spoke, there were posters of Obama with a Hitler-style mustache.

Inside, conservatives, seated together on one side of the room, cheered loudly when Warner said he demands a health care program that would not expand the federal deficit.

The other side of the room erupted in applause when Warner said another requisite for his support would be driving down the cost of health care.

The mood turned confrontational several times.

Peter Canciglia of Spotsylvania, screaming from the floor, tried to make a point about state rights under the 10th Amendment as conservatives cheered him on and the rest of the room booed him and shouted him down.

Warner, unable to hear the question, instead attempted to answer an inquiry from an audience member who had won her chance to ask a question in a random drawing.

Warner attempted to head off some of the rhetorical battles when he began talking, noting to the crowd that national media were on hand and reminding them that Americans should be civil, despite their views.

“Not only are me Americans, we are Virginians,” Warner said. “We treat each other with respect.”

———————————

1,800 AT WARNER TOWN HALL DIVIDED ON HEALTH CARE

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said he would support a health care plan if it doesn’t increase the federal deficit; lowers costs for all; and alters financial incentives for doctors.

By Bill Bartel  The Virginian-Pilot

FREDERICKSBURG

Before the start of a town-hall meeting on health care Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said he hoped everyone “can take a deep breath, calm down a little bit.”

But almost from the start of the 90-minute session in the Fredericksburg Expo Center, many of the 1,800 in attendance roared their approval or disapproval with almost every comment by the Democratic senator or those asking him questions.

The large array of signs, both preprinted and homemade, seemed to indicate that the crowd was divided fairly evenly between those who support health care reform efforts in Congress and those who oppose them. Mixed in were smatterings of activists pushing gun rights or greener energy.

But the loudest voices during the evening came from those upset with the federal government.

Speakers, their voices echoing across the concrete floor, expressed strong concerns about government control of health care, the high cost of medicine and the patriotism of President Barack Obama.

Warner began the forum by reminding his audience that regardless of how they felt about the health care proposals being debated, there are certain indisputable facts. Among them, he said, is that if Congress does nothing about health care costs, all Americans will pay dramatically more in the near future and the federal deficit will “explode” because of the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

The senator restated his objection to setting up a government health care plan to compete with private insurers. He stressed, however, that for health care costs to come down, there has to be considerably more competition.

But many in the crowd objected to his stances on some issues.

When the father of three children asked him how he would pay for health care reforms, Warner said one way to raise money would be to tax some of the “Cadillac” health plans that pay for elective procedures such as “tummy tucks.”

The crowd booed.

Then he suggested that millions who are uninsured but can afford a health policy should be required to buy health insurance.

They booed again.

But later, when he said he would not vote for a House bill, HR3200, that would establish a government insurance plan and levy new taxes to help pay for medical coverage for those who can’t afford it, the crowd cheered. The bill is one of several proposals that Congress is expected to consider when it convenes again Tuesday after a month long recess.

Warner, unfazed by most of the crowd’s responses, was disturbed by some speakers who drew loud applause from people when they questioned Obama’s background.

A woman from Stafford who did not want to give her name told Warner that she has lived through 11 presidents and “for the first time I don’t believe the president we have now is a patriot…. It’s less about health care than the agenda

Warner said he respected her right to free speech, but he strongly objected to her suggestion. “I find it offensive,” he said. “I, 1,000 percent, categorically disagree with you. I think President Obama is a great patriot.”

Some in the crowd booed; others cheered.

Warner said that for him to support any health care plan, it must abide by three principles: It cannot increase the federal deficit; health care costs must come down for all Americans; and the financial incentives for doctors and medical care must change.

Warner said the country has to abandon the system that pays fees solely based on services and leads to unnecessary, costly treatments and procedures.

Pat Gammon of Henrico County, who slowly hobbled up to the microphone using a cane for support, told Warner that she worked for 25 years and raised a family. Now she’s 65 and on disability, but she doesn’t have enough money to buy insurance to supplement her Medicare coverage.

“I’m confused about the fact that a lot of people that are against health care, they don’t understand what it’s like not having health care,” she said.

A young man asked Warner whether he would support a law excluding abortion from any government health care program.

The senator said he supports federal law that already prohibits federal funding of abortion. The senator also reminded the audience that he personally believes that “abortion should be made safe, legal and rare.”

Ken Morgenthal wanted to know what can be done about insurance companies that are more concerned about their executives’ salaries than they are with keeping costs low.

Warner responded – and repeated the comment several times – that he believes competition in the marketplace will bring down prices. In the past, he’s expressed interest in forming health care cooperatives to allow people to pool their resources to buy insurance.

“In a lot of communities, there is no real competition. I’m a free market guy. I want competition.”

He acknowledged that the political divide between Democrats and Republicans in Washington is hurting the efforts to find a way to deal with the health care issue.

“If ever there was a time we ought to shed our ‘Ds’ and ‘Rs’ at the door, it’s right now,” he said.

As the forum drew to a close, Warner thanked the crowd for coming but also indicated that the issue is far from settled.

“I think this audience is divided, and I think America is divided,” he said.

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