Sestak discusses healthcare at local church

    Healthcare townhall meetings across the country are erupting into shouting matches.

    Healthcare townhall meetings across the country are erupting into shouting matches. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter continues to face boos and jeers as he travels to small towns across the state. But the meeting hosted by Specter’s primary challenger, Congressman Joe Sestak, at a Philadelphia church Wednesday night had a different tone. Supporters of healthcare reform gave him a friendly reception, while skeptics challenged Sestak on a key aspect of the plan – “the public option.”

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    Once a month the Broad Street Ministry in Center City Philadelphia hosts for about 200 church goers, what pastor Bill Golderer refers to as “Philadelphia’s most dangerous dinner party.”

    Golderer: Where we gather people who dine at the finest restaurants in Philadelphia and people who eat at soup kitchens.

    But this week, an additional 600 people showed up, the line snaking around the corner, when word got out that Congressman Joe Sestak was invited to speak about healthcare reform. Pastor Golderer was clearly worried about his community dinner getting hijacked by angry participants and ending up as another video on YouTube. So he set a civil tone early on.

    Golderer: Thank you for your patience and love and all that good stuff, we’re off to a good start, no pushing, I’m so happy, that’s wonderful.

    But this isn’t a small town in central Pennsylvania, it’s Philadelphia, so unions and other reform advocates made sure that this time, Democrat’s healthcare ideas got a friendly reception.

    “What do we want? Healthcare! When do we want it? Now!”

    But not everyone joined in the chant. Barry Scatton, from a small town in western Pennsylvania, is president of Temple University’s College Republicans. He uses his student loan to pay $450 dollars a month in health insurance.

    Scatton: This issue, it definitely affects everybody. ‘Cause if college ends and I’m not able to get a job right away, I’m not gonna get health insurance and since I have asthma, its very beneficial for me to have health insurance in case of an emergency.

    Considering Scatton pays for his own insurance, he seems like the kind of guy who might be waving one of the pro-reform “Healthcare for America Now” signs. But he’s not.

    Scatton: I’m curious to see how more government is going to make healthcare cheaper for people.

    And he’s not the only one.

    Inside the hot, humid church, northeast Philadelphia resident Fred Spratt sat with two friends. They all worried about getting kicked off their health plan.

    Spratt: I think we have the best healthcare in the world in this country and its because we have a private option. And I truly believe that if the government comes up with a public option every employer out there is going to drop their employees off their employer based option and everyone is going to be forced onto this public option. And its going to be overrun with too many people and not enough funds and they’re gonna have two options. Either raise taxes to support that many people or option number two start rationalizing.

    Congressman Sestak took question after question about the idea of a “public option,” a government-run plan that would compete with private insurers. He tried to assure the crowd that under the Democrat’s plan, employers would have to continue to provide healthcare, or be taxed on 8 percent of their payroll.

    Sestak: Mind you the public healthcare plan option, and I know you may disagree with what I say but it is the fact, is a choice, its a choice, nothing more.”

    Sestak drew cheers from the majority of the crowd when he said he would not budge on the public option.

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