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Town Hall Meetings hear organized opposition to health care reform

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – U.S. Congressman Gene Green has scheduled a series of Town Hall Meetings throughout his district in August, to report to the people on the work accomplished in Congress to date in this session, and to get opinions from the electorate in return. Normally these meetings during the Congressional break are civil, fact filled, sometimes personal, and not well attended.

But this year, due to a number of factors including the public’s concerns over proposed changes in national health care insurance, the weak economy, and organized opposition, the meetings have been packed, often with raucous and rude audience members.

The first of Green’s scheduled eight Town Halls was held last Monday night, Aug. 3 at the Melrose Park Civic Club, hosted by the club and its president, Judy Hoya.

The room was crowded with about 150 persons in attendance. After opening remarks by Green, about the Stimulus package, environmental legislation known as Cap and Trade, and the Health Care Reform proposals, the audience began a series of questions, and often loud and combative statements.

Several speakers in the audience said they preferred private insurance they now had, over any government programs that might replace them. Others were concerned over the high costs of health insurance, but afraid of restrictions and inadequacies of a government run program.

Green did his best to answer the questions in an orderly way, even when the questioners shouted and expressed anger. He explained that over 30% of the population have no medical insurance, and the Obama proposal is for Universal coverage. He also pointed out that in the U.S. we pay the most in the world for health care, but get less than adequate care in return. Green was questioned as to whether he had actually read the healthcare bill, and knew what it said. He answered yes, although it was 1000 pages long, and he held up an annotated copy as proof. He also pointed out that it is not final, and at least 60 amendments to the bill have been proposed and are under consideration.

The disruption in the meeting continued, with some turning to the subject of Iraq and Afghanistan. Also questioned was the need for “Cap and Trade” which will curtail the energy production in our area, or at least the emissions that result. Green pointed out his work on the Clean Energy Act of 2009, which provides for more energy in cleaner technologies, with more jobs created, and allowances to the local chemical industries.

Green also issued position papers on the Stimulus Act, pointing out benefits to the local economy, and a paper on the Benefits to the 29th District from the Healthcare legislation.

The noisy opposition to the Congressman’s remarks seemed to be planned and organized. According to some sources, a group known as the Houston Tea Party Society has a web site that encourages participation, and in fact disruption, of these meetings as a tactic to defeat the Democratic sponsored bills. Nationally, several organizations including FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots and conservative radio talk-show hosts, have been linked to the idea of causing problems at these town halls and therefore not allowing a thorough and objective discussion of the issues involved.

At one of the town halls, an activist in the audience asked how many were opposed to government run health care. After a majority said they did, Green asked how many were on Medicare. About half said they were. Green pointed out that this was in fact a government healthcare program.