Wicker hears residents’ health-care concerns

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

NATCHEZ — Health care reform was the main topic of conversation at Tuesday’s town hall meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

Wicker opened the 90-minute question and answer forum by expressing his views and opinions on the proposed national heath care reform acts. Wicker, a Republican, described the health care system in America as very good but said action should be taken to improve it.

But, Wicker said, the proposals from the House and Senate committees are not the best way to go about changing the system.

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“I’m opposed to both the House and Senate plans,” Wicker said to a full house at the Natchez Convention Center. “I’m opposed to a government option that would create a single tier healthcare system.”

Wicker fielded questions from audience members, and while the meeting had no preformed agenda, most of the questions centered on the health care debate.

Wicker called the struggle over health care reform the “great issue of our time.”

“I’m not ready to turn over 1/6 of our economy to the federal government,” Wicker said. “The consequences are too far reaching and too irreversible.”

Mignon White of Natchez voiced her concern about the proposed legislation at the meeting. White said her main concern would be a drop off in quality of health care provided.

“What I want to know is what can I do to defeat this bill,” she said.

Wicker said the most effective way to defeat the bill would be to make sure concerns are voiced.

Natchez teacher Louis Felter said the government is setting a bad example to children by “spending uncontrollably.”

“What I try to do each day in my classroom is teach them to have personal responsibility,” Felter said. “That is difficult when the federal government can’t be responsible.”

Wicker said instead of one massive piece of legislation overhauling health care, he is in favor of smaller reform that would make healthcare “more affordable, more accessible and more portable.”

Wicker said allowing consumers to purchase insurance policies across state lines would create more competition among companies and ultimately lower prices for consumers.

Wicker said he has long supported legislation that would allow small business owners to band together to form an association of sorts to purchase insurance.

“That would give thousands of people the opportunity to purchase insurance like the large corporations,” Wicker said. “Small businesses are our job creators, (owners) shouldn’t be penalized for that.”

Natchez resident Gene Simonton said Wicker and his Republican counterparts should create a bipartisan atmosphere to help the proposed reform become law.

“People can’t afford health care the way it is now,” Simonton said. “This shouldn’t be about the Republicans wanting to stop this, it should be about the people who need health care.

“Have some compassion on these people.”

Wicker said he has experienced bipartisan concern over the proposed reform. Wicker said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is one Democrat who is greatly concerned about the effect proposed healthcare reform would have on the states.

In the proposed reform bill, states would be mandated to accepts a large number of new people into a state funded Medicaid program, a proposition Richardson feared would strain states already strapped for cash, Wicker said.

“It wasn’t a Republican governor saying this act would bankrupt states,” Wicker said. “There is bipartisan concern over this.”

Wicker was in town as part of a series of similarly formatted meetings across the state.