'Great white hope' issue resurfaces
Read the latest news from Jenkins' comment about a "great white hope."
Some of the 150 people at the Dole Institute of Politics erupted into cheers Tuesday when Kent Henson voiced his support for a public health insurance option.
And during her town hall-style forum, U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., supported a different view regarding government involvement in major health care reform, but she also received applause from other members of the crowd.
“People continue to be very passionate about their issues, as well they should,” Jenkins said. “These are tough times and tough decisions. I’m just delighted that this many people care about what’s happening in Washington that they’d come out to share their views with me.”
The first-term congresswoman’s lively forum in Lawrence was a snapshot of the enthusiastic and divisive health care debate members of Congress have faced during their summer recess. It was Jenkins’ 26th listening tour event in the 2nd District, which includes western Lawrence.
Henson, a KU graduate student, chided private insurance companies and said administrative expenses were too high, driving up costs. He favors a public option because he says it will allow for more risk-pooling to protect certain groups.
“Without a public option, there is no way that that administrative expense is going to come down to a reasonable level,” Henson said.
In Congress, health care reform has become a highly partisan issue. Jenkins does not support a public option and instead said any changes should address tort reform, help people with pre-existing medical conditions and offer more portability of health care plans.
She also criticized House Democrats for not reaching out to Republicans on the debate. Democrats hold overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.
A man asked her about claims of “death panels” in proposed legislation. Jenkins said she didn’t think there was any truth to that specifically but said one concern might be if the federal government might have to make a decision about “your grandmother (being) worthy of a pacemaker” and not getting one.
“To her that might feel like a death sentence,” she said.
She also criticized the main proposed House health reform bill.
“I do believe it could put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor,” Jenkins said getting a loud response from the crowd.
The crowd often reacted loudly with applause and cheers to people who spoke and disagreed with Jenkins. She also received applause several times on her own statements.
Before Jenkins arrived, members of the crowd cheered when someone put up a sign on the Simons Media Room wall that said “Health Care for All.” Others also cheered when someone put a sign “No Obama Care” next to it.
The event was standing room only, and Jenkins spoke for 20 minutes before letting more than a dozen people give comments or ask questions for 30 minutes. Members of her staff also collected yellow comment cards.
Before the event, Sharon Antes, of Olathe, stood outside with a sign urging Congress to pass a plan with a public option.
“It is so important, and we feel the Republicans aren’t listening. They are just fighting,” she said.
Jenkins did say she heard some statistics and information that piqued her curiosity.
“That’s the beauty of these town hall forums. You get new ideas, new information,” she said. “And hopefully we’ll make the right choices when we actually get around to passing health reform.”