Public Option, Health Care Costs Dominate Bipartisan Town Hall

Posted September 21, 2009 at 2:24pm

RICHMOND, Va. — Voters attending a town hall meeting here Monday between House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) left voicing frustration with what they said was familiar partisan rhetoric on health care reform. Scott and Cantor, participating in the rare bipartisan forum, fielded about a dozen questions on two of the most controversial health care subjects — the public insurance option and the costs of an overhaul. More than 200 people attended the 90-minute “public square— event sponsored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.Cantor, the No. 2 House Republican, spent most of Monday’s forum arguing against the public insurance option and promoting the areas where he believes Republicans and Democrats could agree. In particular, Cantor argued that both parties agree that any overhaul should bar discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, allow for portable health insurance and include medical liability reforms. Meanwhile, Scott focused on the merits of the House Democratic proposals and compared the public insurance option to Medicare and Medicaid. “Government Medicare and Medicaid have polled higher than private insurance based on polls,— Scott said. Scott conceded the price tag associated with the Democratic health care reform bills is high — estimated at more than $1 trillion — but argued that the measure would be paid for unlike other priorities such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.After the forum, several attendees who asked questions said they weren’t satisfied with the answers they received. “It doesn’t have to be called a public option, but it’s got to be something [where lawmakers can] show me how it works,— said Marlee Skinner, a registered nurse from Richmond who asked Cantor whether Republicans had an alternative to the public insurance option. Skinner said she would continue to call Scott and Virginia Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner to get some answers.Eileen Davis, also a registered nurse from Richmond, said, “We’re not even debating health care. We are debating the managers of the health care coverage.— Joe Cacciotti, an assistant film director who asked Cantor why he hadn’t held a town hall meeting in his Congressional district, was less charitable.“You don’t care about the employers do you?— Cacciotti asked Cantor after the forum. “You won’t be re-elected buddy.—