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— Sometimes impassioned, often opinionated, citizens Thursday asked questions and got responses about national health-care plans now being considered in Washington, D.C.

To a town-hall meeting with his constituents in Bentonville, U.S. Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark., brought two serving U.S. senators who are also doctors: U.S. Sen.

Tom Coburn, R-Okla., specializing in family medicine, obstetrics and the treatment of allergies; and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., an orthopedic surgeon.

Boozman is hearing these days from friends on both sides of controversial plans for a larger federal government role in health care and hopes all will remain civil, the northwest Arkansas congressman told about 150 people at the Shewmaker Center for Workforce Development on the Northwest Arkansas Community College campus.

“We can disagree without being disagreeable,” he said.

The lawmakers then took questions.

One questioner said her father works for a healthcare provider, and she wonders what will happen to private health-care companies if any bills now being considered by the Democratmajority Congress were to pass.

Some 55 percent or more of the money to pay for reforms is from small businesses, which usually create 75 percent of the jobs in the country, Coburn said.

“It would devastate small business and small providers of health care,” he said.

Also, lots of money to fund re-Coburn said.

“Will illegal immigrants be covered under proposed health-care reforms?” one attendee asked.

“The House bill doesn’t say illegal immigrants will be covered,” Boozman said.

“(But) there’s no verification (process).”

Written with input from few people, the plans now being considered understate costs in a variety of ways, but it’s still clear they can’t be afforded and new approaches are needed, Coburn said.

“We need to incentivize efficiency, better care and lower cost. We can do that without government stepping between you and your provider,” he said.

“Why is the single-payer option not on the table in the current debate?” one woman asked.

“I would be willing to pay more taxes if we had that,” she said.

A single-payer health-care system would provide for payment of services to doctors and other health-care providers from a single-payer source managed by the government.

Such plans will inevitably lead to the rationing of health care, Coburn warned.

He offered amendments to ban rationing, and thoseamendments were voted down by Democrats, even as Democratic leaders continue to say the plans won’t lead to rationing, he said.

And there’s another problem, Coburn insisted.

“Where do you find the authority for that in the U.S.

Constitution?” he asked.

Another attendee said she thought one plan would require people to buy health insurance.

Plans being considered by the congressional majority call for too much government intervention, the three Republicans agreed.

“We all know we need health-care reform but this is not the way,” Boozman said.

There are five reform plans sponsored by GOP legislators, but none get media attention or traction in Congress, Coburn said.

“Haven’t we gone too far already in terms of (government) debt?” one attendee asked to loud applause.

“I support a spending cap, a balanced-budget situation,” Boozman said.

People touting mostly free-market allocation of health care seem to have forgotten already the financial and economic crises of the American economy in recent years, one attendee asserted.

Government, including its intervention in the mortgage industry, played a significant part in creating recent economic problems. And even so, markets allocate better than government, Coburn said.

“You have a short memory,” the questioner responded.

Sports, Pages 9 on 10/07/2009

Print Headline: Lawmakers, citizens talk health care

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