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HHS Secretary pitches health reform in Philly

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

More than 200 people gathered at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia Sunday for a town hall meeting on health insurance reform. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter and U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hosted the event and were interrupted often by a mix of cheers and jeers.


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Specter and Sebelius quickly ditched their prepared speeches and took questions from the audience. Ana Puig is an immigrant from Brazil and says she’s worked hard to afford health care.

picture-005Puig: Why is that we are turning the United States, that I have learned to love so much during the past 22 years, into a land of entitlement?

Secretary Sebelius answered …

Sebelius: Although we have a health system that works well for some Americans who pay their taxes and work hard, there are lots of Americans who pay their taxes and work hard who don’t have the kind of health care that some of us enjoy.

Sebelius is trying to sell health reform to skeptical Middle class Americans. She says high costs and inefficiency in the U.S. system make it a bad bargain even for those who have very good health insurance coverage.

picture-003Sebelius says a healthcare overhaul will benefit both the uninsured and people who already have good coverage. She says the reform bills in the House and Senate change the payment system so doctors are rewarded for better health outcomes.

Sebelius: Many doctors will tell you that they would much rather have an incentive to keep their patients healthy than to spend 75 percent of their time on chronic conditions which is what we are doing now. So, there’s a huge incentive in the bill for preventive care and wellness care.

Sebelius says right now only about 8 cents of the U.S. health dollar are spent on prevention.

Members of the Philadelphia Tea Party interrupted the secretary several times with jeers and boos. They oppose proposals for another public health insurance plan and are concerned about health care rationing.

picture-002Surgeon Jason Bell traveled from Newark, Delaware to share his reservations. Bell says the proposals in the House and Senate will lead to health care rationing similar to national health systems in Europe.

Bell: While it would be true to ration care would cut costs, the American people don’t want protocoled, rationed health care. And that’s my concern.

Secretary Sebelius says the current U.S. system already rations care for millions of underinsured people who pay for coverage and get little in return.

Senator Specter was booed when he told the crowd that he thinks a single payer plan should be included in the health reform debate. Under a single-payer plan the U.S. government would control most of country’s health care dollars.


  • Saoirse says:

    Why are people even asking questions? This would imply that you would believe the answers. Your time would be better spent reading the bill that is about to be shoved down your throat. That’s where the answers are.

    Just like “Will illegal aliens get health care under this plan?” They will tell you “No.” It’s a lie. Read the bill. Ask yourself why the hispanic caucus didn’t feel the need to add any wording to the bill. There are many things not stated in black & white, because they know the flack it will raise.

    Why depend on them for answers? Accept a little responsibility for your own life. Turn off the TV and read the bill. 99% of your representatives won’t read it. Like you they just depend on someone else. Yet you depend on them to answer questions. That makes sense how?

    If you believe that this plan is going to improve health care, I truly feel sorry for you. There will be rationing, there will be waiting lists, there will not be any treatments for cancer patients beyond a certain point, elderly will be denied treatment and offered minimal care. Doctors will not be making the decisions – there will a board of bureaucrats deciding your fate.
    Medicare is going to go away, and many other reprehensible things are going to happen.
    This is not the panacea they want you to believe it will be. It will be far worse at denying coverage than any corporate insurance company now does and you will have no choice. The government will be taking over your life and your death.

    That is why people are getting upset. That is why they are booing. They are tired of being lied to, tired of being treated as idiots, tired of their representatives not representing them, they don’t want to see their taxes go up (not that it would make a dent in the cost of this health care mess), they don’t want to lose their current health care. They do have a First Amendment right to say what they want.

    No, I don’t work for an insurance company – or any other company. I do not have health care insurance – nor do I want this mess! I do not get Medicare, Medicaid, welfare or Social Security. Not that any of that matters – read the bill yourself.

    If you believe the spin from Sebelius and any one else from the government you probably shouldn’t be out alone.

  • Lisa Simmons says:

    Where the heck was SECURITY at this event?
    If it was a Bush cabinet member, security would have tackled these folks in a couple of seconds.

    This is unbelievable. We can disagree, but we need to act in a civil manner and booing someone and disrupting an event is WRONG, period.

    If you are doing this, I hope you never get cancer. My 36 year old friend has cancer which came as a complete shock and CA Blue Shield refuses to pay for all her treatment. She’s Stage 4 and has had to rely on the generosity of her friends and family to raise money for her.

    What these people are doing is complete wrong. Everyone deserves a chance to speak.

    Like I said, pray to God you never get cancer. If you knew what it felt like to be denied treatment by your own health insurance company when you have freakin’ CANCER you would not be disrupting these events.


  • Angeles Gonzalez says:

    The booers did not ask questions. They interrupted so nobody could exercise the right to voice their opinions and concerns. They are afraid of democracy.

  • Erick says:

    I was there and I booed. I have nothing to do with health insurance companies, except paying them for coverage. It takes a lot to get me and those like me away from our jobs and families. Love of our parents and progeny is driving us to take action, lest they wind up with health care like those in Canada or Europe. The Senator and Secretary’s positions are well documented. The intent was to show our displeasure. I estimate roughly a thousand people in attendance (20 rows of ten people would have been two hundred – you can see many more than 200 in the videos on-line). There were only about half a dozen questions asked and they did not take questions or critisicm on their answers. This was not a forum to get into depth. I’ve heard so many outright lies form politicians recently, and many more stretching and spinning the truth. In addition to their lack of integrity, they continue to violate there oath to adhere to the U.S. Constitution. These politicians have earned disrespect.

  • Tim McHugh says:

    Interesting that said:

    “Many like the idea of single-payer insurance – a system in which all health-care costs are funneled through one agency instead of through multiple insurers. They applauded (and others, of course, booed) when Specter said he thought single-payer insurance should be on the table.”

  • phillygirl says:

    I was there, and can attest that these were not normal citizens. They were shrieking about abortion, cap and trade, all kinds of completely irrelevant stuff. Crazed and furious, with bumper stickers plastered across their chests, they did not even LOOK like normal people.

    I assume that the Andrew who commented here is Andrew Monaghan, who works in the insurance industry and promotes Tea Party events. He was there, too, egging on people who are, well, less smart than he is.

    For WHYY to portray the town hall as a sprited “debate” among thoughtful citizens is nuts.

  • Joan C. Ratcliffe says:

    Do the mysterious not-polite group of booers have anything to do with INSURANCE COMPANIES?

  • Cristy says:

    As an attendee of the town hall meeting I felt embarassed and dismayed by the unprofessional, crude tactics used by those who have strong views. I support Democracy and freedom to exert your feelings but when it is done at the cost of others freedoms it is really out of line. Nothing can be accomplished with these types of tactics other than making a clear fool of yourself.
    I am looking for reform of the health care delivery system and quality of health care in this nation before we give an expensive broad brush of access to all without careful considerations of the outcomes. The current plans fail to address the medical errors, overuse of medical resources and quality issues while creating an expensive and potential plan that lacks viability due to cost and lack of regard for finite resources. I will stay in tune with this process and hope for change that is not only cost effective but sustainable. This current plan is like putting a bandaid on a cavernous wound, it just won’t cut it.

  • Andrew says:

    We weren’t a small group. We dominated the crowd and asked questions. Nice Try. You can expect plenty more of this. We’re all community organizers now!

  • W. Moffett says:

    I was at the Town Meeting that feature Senator Specter and Secretary Sebelius at the Constitution Center. I came to hear questions asked and answered.

    As the story mentions, there was a small but vocal group there. They came to make speeches in the guise of questions and to boo and scream.

    There is nothing wrong with asking tough questions to members of our government. But our democracy would be better served if we at least listened to the answers. And let’s acquaint ourselves with the bills under consideration in the Congress, not just follow the lead of media commentators who have agendas that do not always include what’s best for America.

  • Elizabeth Gutman says:

    I was there at the National Constitution Center yesterday, and I was appalled at the behavior of the audience! I don’t care for Speacter’s switching party affiliation, but to boo him and Secretary Sebelius before they even spoke was shocking and bad manners. The audience even booed the person asking questions so it was difficult to hear the question We never got any new answers from either speaker, but the speakers now know, if they didn’t know already, how important a workable health plan for all is necessary.

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