Lawmakers hold healthcare reform forums

    Members of Congress are returning to their districts for the August recess, but many of their constituents want to continue discussion on one of the major issues facing lawmakers: healthcare reform.

    Members of Congress are returning to their districts for the August recess, but many of their constituents want to continue discussion on one of the major issues facing lawmakers: healthcare reform. To that end, many legislators will hold forums for discussion, but recent horror stories from town hall meetings across the country may have turned them on.

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    A July town hall meeting hosted by Delaware Congressman Mike Castle veered off its intended discussion on healthcare when a woman held up her birth certificate and demanded Castle push President Obama to prove that he was born in the U.S.

    Other town halls across the country have been derailed by disruptive behavior from protesters on various subjects, prompting some local lawmakers to hold so-called teletownhalls over the phone. Attendees listen in and push a button to ask a question.

    Congressman Jim Gerlach is planning to hold several in-person town hall meetings, but he will also hold a teletownhall.

    Gerlach: With telephone town hall meetings, we can have thousands of people on the line at any one time, so we’re able to reach out to a lot more people through the teletownhall format than what end up coming to live town hall meetings.

    But some experts doubt the format’s effectiveness. Harris Sokoloff is Director of the Penn Project for Civic Engagement.

    Sokoloff: They’re good in the fact that they let people make a comment, but they’re totally inadequate in terms of having people create a dialogue where they can work through ideas and figure out what’s best.

    Castle and Congressman Joe Sestak will also be sticking with teletownhalls this month, though Sestak says he doesn’t get quite as much participation as he does in traditional town hall settings.

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