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Crowded town hall meeting for healthcare
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Crowded town hall meeting for healthcare

by Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid - SGN A&E Writer

Speaking to a crowd of 900 to 950 people of various ages, races, gender expressions, and economic status, Congressman Jim McDermott tried to put some minds to rest by attempting to explain President Obama's healthcare plan ideas in ways the average person could understand. Unfortunately, along with those who came to the town hall meeting (held on the UW Campus at Meany Hall last Tuesday) to listen and be supportive of McDermott's efforts, there were also those who disagreed, sometimes loudly, with what they believe is another attempt by the government to control their lives.

Undaunted by the numerous disruptions and yells of "lies" from some very vocal members of the capacity audience, McDermott continued to try and explain the complicated workings of the proposed plan now being debated in the White House by members of Congress.

"If I had my druthers, we'd have a single-payer health plan, but at this point the Obama administration doesn't think it's politically feasible," said McDermott. This statement drew both cheers and a standing ovation, as well as more jeers from the highly vocal dissenters in the audience. The dissent at one point became so heated that it seemed more than a couple of audience members might come to blows, as shouts of "shhh" turned to shouts of "free speech means I can say what I want and you have to listen," and "shut up and let him [McDermott] speak."

McDermott, showing a bit of weariness at this point, continued his presentation, showing pie charts with numbers to indicate figures of insured and uninsured and other charts discussing how the proposed plan would affect those on Medicare, Medicaid and those who already have healthcare through employers.

"We hope to, in 2012, close the so-called 'donut hole' in Medicare for seniors, and though some people ask why we're rushing this, in actuality, we're taking until 2013 to implement some of these new plans into the existing healthcare system, and especially into Medicare," said McDermott. This statement drew more jeers and the two University of Washington policemen made themselves more conspicuous to the crowd, which calmed things down, but only temporarily.

After the speech, McDermott read questions from the audience, which had been put on cards that were written before the town hall meeting started. He started with a question on how the plan would affect small businesses. Many were leaving at this point, particularly some of those who were in disagreement with McDermott's speech, but most of the audience stayed. The whole presentation did not have the ardor or chaotic element that has colored many of the recent town hall meetings, particularly the last one held by Congressman Jay Inslee at Quest Field several weeks ago. More town hall meetings on healthcare are planned, as well as more large protest rallies around the area.

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