Minnesotans, like politicians, disagree over health care billby Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — As President Barack Obama tries to kick start health care reform in a bi-partisan summit Thursday, Minnesotan's hopes and dreams for what they would like to see in the bill are similar to politicians hopes for the same legislation: varied.
Obama needs to spark new life into legislation that stalled in Congress last month. Before then, passing the overhaul bill looked like a sure thing; now, it's on life support.
Carol Miletti, a sales consultant from Mound who leans Democratic, just wants something done on health care.
"If there is no health care...insurance reform bill passed, I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that no one who's in office ever sees the light of office again," she said. "Everyone who will not act on health reform, Democrats as well as Republicans."
Miletti has a rare disease and pays $900 a month for health insurance. She's grown cynical and angry at Congress for not passing an overhaul package.
The Democratic-sponsored plan that stalled would've done several things: among them: a mandate that everyone obtain health insurance; it would've prevented insurers from charging higher rates for pre-existing conditions; it taxed higher-priced health care policies to pay for subsidies for people needing help to pay for insurance.
Jeffrey Mayhew, a property insurance agent from Orono, is a self-described conservative and said he's glad that bill stalled. He said it was too expensive, particularly in a recession. He said even if the overhaul bill stays dormant, it's been good for the nation to talk about health care. Mayhew said it's made people appreciate what they have.
"It's always good to say, 'Yeah we've got a broken system', but none of the fixes look very good," he said. "I think people are saying at this point, 'OK, don't spend any more money.'"
Ginny Aldag, a student teaching advisor in Duluth, said the current system is bad enough to warrant change. Aldag said health care reform is really in the eye of the beholder.
"I don't know that people are listening to reason anymore or can be empathetic to other people's situations other than their own," she said.
Brad Leeser is a supervisor of a liability company from Moorhead and thinks the health care bill was a bad idea nine months ago and thinks it's a bad idea now. He considers himself a Libertarian after a history of voting Republican.
Leeser particularly opposed the requirement that everyone to obtain health insurance. He said Americans shouldn't trust the government with their health care. Leeser has insurance, but his son, who is in his late 20's, does not.
"I can't speak for him, but I don't want to be forced to pay for his insurance and I don't want to have to force him to pay a fine or a penalty for insurance that at this time he does not want," he said.
JT Haines, a progressive Democrat from St. Paul said he hopes some reform will pass. Haines, a film producer and attorney, was a backer of the single-payer system Minnesota Health Plan legislation championed by DFL Sen. John Marty.
He said pundits interpret the waning interest in reform as a sign Washington tried to pack too much into the bill. He thinks the lackluster support is actually a sign that Democrats lost interest because party leaders gave up too much ground to Republican interests.
"What we ended up with after all the compromises is a very watered-down bill that plays into the hands of big insurance that wasn't particularly inspirational to a lot of people on the left," Haines said. "I think there's a missed opportunity to have very vehement support and excited support from progressives."
Haines said he's optimistic that some members of Congress have renewed a push for a public insurance option. President Obama did not include it in his list of reforms he'll bring to the summit.
- Morning Edition, 02/25/2010, 7:20 a.m.