Boyd Continues Townhall Tour in Tallahassee
Florida congressman Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, was booed, applauded, chastised, questioned and listened to for three hours Tuesday night as Panhandle residents debated the national health care proposal that President Barack Obama is promoting.
Boyd and other lawmakers across the country have been holding town hall meetings with constituents over the summer congressional recess to talk about potential health care legislation that is aimed in part at providing uninsured Americans with health insurance. However, many town halls have turned nasty with protesters often yelling at lawmakers and interrupting debate.
Organizers of Tuesday's event at the Tallahassee City Commission chambers minimized outcry by holding it in a 240 seat room, much to the displeasure of critics who said it would not allow many people to participate. They also forbid people to bring signs into the meeting and threatened to remove anyone who disrupted the event.
A few hundred people turned up, meaning some couldn’t make it in, and had to watch a television broadcast of the meeting.
The issue at hand was pending legislation that could change how health care is paid for throughout the country. Obama has been pushing for a health care overhaul that would provide more coverage to the uninsured, but a group of lawmakers, including Boyd, blocked his plans and told him to wait until after the summer recess so lawmakers could talk to their constituents.
A variety of plans and proposals were put up for consideration over the summer, including ones that include a so-called public option that would offer basic care as a government funded program. That particular proposal has drawn criticism from a number of factions who have said private businesses would not be able to compete with a cheaper, government health care alternative.
Boyd said he has not taken a position on the public option, but said it was just one of the reasons that he and other lawmakers did not feel comfortable voting on the bill before they left Washington D.C. for the summer.
“I don't think rushing this through is the right thing to do,” Boyd said.
The Tallahassee event drew participants from all sides – people who were in favor of the public option, some who thought the current bill needed to be reworked, some who thought Congress should first look at medical malpractice lawsuit limits, and others who didn't want the government getting remotely involved in their health care coverage.
Jo Hobbs, a former Havana teacher who lost her job, said it used to be part of her job to find people who would help her disadvantaged students get food or medical care so they could attend school and learn. She said she felt many of the barriers facing her students were hunger and illness, rather than a lack of interest in school.
But now she is the one without health care, she said.
“I know I'm not the only person in this boat right now because of the economy,” she told Boyd and other panelists at the meeting.
Boyd, who also held meetings Tuesday in nearby Crawfordville and Quincy, will conclude his town hall tour on Friday and will have held 15 public events by that time. He has also pledged to hold another larger even this fall before a final vote on whichever health care reform package emerges.