The national healthcare reform debate came to Hannibal today.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill hosted a Health Listening forum for nearly five hundred people as part of her statewide tour to gather opinions from constituents. It's part of state-wide town hall events and roundtables to gether input and listen to concerns.
McCaskill has met with angry constituents at many of those townhall meetings.
McCaskill said, "I'd rather make someone mad and talk directly than talk around it."
But this Town Hall meeting about healthcare reform wasn't as heated as some seen in Quincy and around the country. But it did have its moments.
McCaskill said, "Raise hand if don't want government anywhere near your healthcare." Nearly 80 percent in attendance raised their hands.
McCaskill said, "If we do nothing, many of you want us to do nothing, but trust me, if we do nothing, the deficit is going to swallow us whole as far as Medicare costs."
Even though the vast majority of folks here say they don't support healthcare reform, Senator McCaskill says most Missourians want change.
McCaskill said, "The majority of my constituents want healthcare reform. They're tired of being turned down for insurance because they had an illness ten years ago. They're tired of having a serious disease and the insurance company finding a reason to not pay. The vast majority want some kind of healthcare reform and they just want to make sure they keep their choices."
McCaskill said, "That's the focus of the discussion in Washington how do we do insurance, reforms in a way that we still have a free market."
Senator McCaskill says she feels a limited constrained public option would help keep healthcare costs down as private insurance companies would have to compete.
McCaskill said, "I would be for a constrained option to be available to people along with private insurance companies -- that would allow the leveling of the playing field to allow serious competition to occur. Obviously, competition between insurance companies in the private sector is not working to bring costs down."
She says most of the opposition to this plan comes from misinformation. But she admits no one knows how it will be paid for...yet. She just knows she doesn't support taxing already-strapped folks. But Republicans say no matter who's taxed, the cost will trickle down to everyone.
And that's the main concern of most here - how will it be paid for during this time of mounting national debt?
McCaskill answered pre-written questions an audience member drew out of a basket. But what this crowd of almost five hundred people came for, most say they didn't get their questions addressed.
Did people get a chance to be heard?
Concerned resident JoAnn Wilcox said, "No, but I think Senator McCaskill got a chance to be heard. I fear with public option, more people would be coming into the system, which is good but the government doesn't have a way to pay for it."
Some concerns from folks on the other side of the aisle - that proposed plans would provide healthcare to illegal immigrants and provide dollars for abortions, although Democrats say that's not true.
McCaskill said, "There's so much misinformation. Benefits to illegal immigrants are strictly prohibited in this bill. Nothing allows one dime to be spent on abortions, there is nothing in this bill to allow the government to have a say in end of life care. All this says is we are going to make end of life planning available to people so they make good choices. It's not about taking decisions away, it's to give them information to make the right decision for them and their families. "
Others are concerned national healthcare reform would strip choices from patients and seniors. Many also are concerned a government-controlled healthcare system would put the private insurance sector out of business. They also fear the government would end up taxing small businesses and employers for not providing health insurance to workers.