Forbes: Slow down

Published 12:19 am Saturday, September 19, 2009

With the nation embroiled in a debate on health care reform, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-4th) visited a largely supportive group of constituents in western Tidewater Friday to talk to them about the situation.

It was a rare public appearance on the topic for Forbes, who has preferred a more direct — if less personal — approach to gauging public opinion on the topic.

His office, the congressman told members and guests of the Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce during a special lunch meeting sponsored by Manry-Rawls Insurance Co., has made more than 320,000 contacts in the run-up to the debate on the legislation currently before Congress.

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“Ninety-eight percent were against the current health care proposals that we see coming through Congress today,” he said.

Forbes said his office had contacted more than 1,000 doctors, more than 7,500 nurses and every hospital administrator in the Fourth District to seek their opinions on the proposal to federalize health care.

The congressman also has held three different “telephone town halls” for residents of the district, including one especially for those who had wished to speak or ask a question in the first two calls but had been unable due to the time constraints. Surveys have been sent to residents, and another is available on his Web site.

“This is an interesting dialogue,” he said, adding that much of the vitriol surrounding face-to-face town hall meetings in other districts around the nation seems to stem from anger over issues that go beyond the health care debate.

“For many people, there comes a point in time where government seems to take control of everything,” he said.

Forbes noted that he was one of only 17 members of Congress to vote against every bailout and stimulus bill that came before the House of Representatives.

“We didn’t think they’d work, and they didn’t,” he said. Congress didn’t have a way to manage the funds it handed out, and it wasn’t sure how the handouts would be funded, he added.

“We have never gotten out of an economic situation by the government pulling us out,” he said, noting that the federally mandated health insurance would be prohibitively expensive and “absolutely devastating to employment.”

Instead of trying to cure all of the ills of the nation’s health care system with one piece of legislation, he said, Congress should pass separate pieces of legislation aimed at addressing various aspects of the problem.

For instance, Forbes said, he has supported bills that would: make it illegal for insurance companies to exclude clients’ pre-existing conditions from coverage; require insurance companies to give fair notice before terminating coverage for non-payment of premiums; make insurance policies portable from one job to another; give a refundable tax credit that would pay for health insurance for the five million to 10 million American citizens he said genuinely cannot afford it; reform the legal system “so that doctors are not having to give so many defensive tests”; and increase the amount of money spent on medical research.

All of those proposals would have widespread support on both sides of the political divide on Capitol Hill, he said, adding that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-8th) had blocked members from voting on the bills.

Even without the added cost of universal health insurance, the federal budget is straining under the costs of all the government bailouts during the past couple of years, Forbes said.

“Nobody’s saying we do not want to reform health care,” he added. “We do. We want to keep on improving it. But if we make bad decisions on some of these things, there’s no going back.

“Whether Republican or Democrat, we need to come back to the table and see what we can agree on.”