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It’s been quite an August. Over the course of the month, I’ve had the privilege of holding 21 town hall meetings throughout the 5th District – more than any other Member of Congress in the country. In total, nearly 5,000 people participated and the average length of each meeting was three hours. The topic of healthcare was definitely the number one concern, although people also brought up education, jobs, the federal deficit, and our nation’s energy policy.
I would like to thank all the residents of the 5th District for your engagement, your substantive questions, and most of all, your civility. While town hall meetings in other areas of the country devolved into shouting matches and rowdy antics, we Virginians maintained our mutual respect for one another, even when we disagreed.
In addition to the town hall meetings in the evening, I have continued to hold dozens of meetings during the day with other major stakeholders like seniors groups, small business associations, and local doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators. While there is little consensus on the best way to fix the system, there is near universal agreement that the status quo is not sustainable, that any reform proposal must be deficit neutral, and that we must preserve patient choice.
I’d like to highlight just a few of the stories I heard in the town hall meetings, in my online healthcare forum, and in individual meetings over this extraordinary month. This is by no means a comprehensive report, but a small sample of the hundreds of stories I’ve heard.
A doctor who has practiced in Farmville for decades talked about his struggles providing care to patients when having to deal with so much red tape from insurance companies. Whenever he wants to order a test or a procedure for one of his patients, he has to make numerous calls to insurance companies and fill out copious paperwork just to provide the kind of care he knows they need.
A small business owner in Bedford told me of her struggles trying to obtain health insurance for herself and her husband. After waiting for three months for a response from the insurance company, she received a letter that her husband was denied because of high blood pressure and cholesterol levels although they are under control with medication. Her son is currently serving our country in Iraq and he is not able to assist with medical payments.
A gentleman in Greene County praised the innovation of the American medical industry. His fear is that if we allow a public plan to compete with private companies, they might not be able to profit and therefore will not invest in as much research and development and we will fall behind the world in medical innovation.
The main concern for a mother in Fluvanna County is the rising cost of premiums for her family. Although she and her husband are both employed full-time, they are struggling to make their health insurance payments. She shared her frustration that she is basically paying for the uninsured who receive care in the emergency rooms.
Another gentleman in Mecklenburg County simply stated his displeasure at the federal deficit and did not want to pass additional debt onto his children and grandchildren.
I am grateful to the people who shared these stories along with the thousands of letters, emails, and phone calls you all have sent to my offices. As the debate goes on and as I prepare to return to Washington to work on this important legislation, these stories and many others will continue to echo in my head.
The entire bill, along with fact sheets and analyses, is posted on my online healthcare forum: www.perriello.house.gov/healthcareforum where your comments are welcome. Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.