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|Calm crowd turns out for Alexander's town hall|
A majority of the 100 or so local residents who took part in a town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander Friday voiced their opposition to health care reform.
Unlike many of the town hall meetings on health care reform members of the House and Senate have conducted since Congress adjourned for its August recess, the one Alexander staged at Monroe City Hall was void of any major disruptions. One woman who declared her support for President Obama's call to provide health insurance for all Americans was shouted down. She was the only participant who openly declared her support for Obama.
"We don't want the federal government to run health care, period," another woman said to a thunderous applause.
Alexander said he strongly supports that notion.
Alexander also does not support the current proposals Congress is entertaining to reform health care in America. He says it would negatively impact many of the people in his 5th Congressional District since current proposals suggest $500 billion must be cut from Medicare, the government's health care program for the elderly.
"We don't have a system that's broken," said Alexander, R-Quitman. "Does it need to be improved? Absolutely, but we don't need to tear it up and reform it to the extent that we rob people of the healthcare system they enjoy and support today."
"We have a system that works," Alexander said. "We just need to make it better."
"With all the frustration and all the weaknesses, we still have the best in the world," Alexander continued. "People are filling rooms up in town halls across this nation because they are frustrated. We're frustrated, too."
Alexander said the 5th Congressional District is one of the poorest in the nation. Many of the 5th District's residents are older Americans, too.
"One hundred percent of our population (in the 5th District) is Medicare eligible," Alexander said. "I am concerned about what this bill would do because it will affect those who are Medicare eligible."
He said pharmaceutical companies now support health care reform, and he questioned their motive.
"We think that is because they were told they would not get cut," Alexander explained. "They made a deal with the president where pharmaceutical companies will be protected.
"So where will the $500 billion cut be applied? The only ones who will be cut will be the ones receiving health care benefits through Medicare, and that's the elderly."
Alexander also is concerned how the proposed health care reform legislation would affect small businesses. He said 80 percent of America's jobs are provided by small businesses.
"I am concerned with the idea that government will tell employers, many which are struggling right now just to make ends meet, that if they don't provide health care for their employees, they will be assessed an 8 percent increase in their payroll taxes," Alexander said. "I'm not sure there are many small businesses that can afford that."
He said if current employer-based health plans do not meet the government's guidelines, those health plans would become obsolete.
Alexander questioned how the federal government could mandate health care, too.
"How do we force people into a program they don't want to be in?" Alexander said.
One woman asked what right the federal government has to "ration healthcare from the elderly who have served this country." She also asked why government provided health care to illegal immigrants.
Alexander said he does not support providing health for illegal immigrants either.
Another resident asked what alternatives Republican members of Congress will offer to the various health care reform proposals Democrats have introduced.
Alexander expects possibly in September or October there will be several alternatives offered by both the Republican members of Congress and the congressional Blue Dog Democrats, the 56 Democratic members of the House who describe themselves as conservatives.
"We all agree that something needs to be done to improve the quality of health care, the access to healthcare and the expense of healthcare, but not this drastic," Alexander said.