Local reaction strong on both sides of health care debate
CHAMPAIGN – Supporters of health care reform were jubilant Sunday evening after the House of Representatives voted to approve overhaul legislation, while opponents expressed concern over the bill.
Jim Duffett of Champaign, executive director of the Campaign for Better Health Care, called Sunday's vote historic.
"This vote today will go down in history like the people who voted in 1935 to enact Social Security," Duffett said. "This is a major victory for the American people."
Frank Barham, chairman of the Champaign Tea Party, said he was disappointed with Congress.
"The people do not want this health care reform," Barham said. "The people who voted for this are not representing the people they were elected to represent; they are voting for their own self-serving government interest."
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, who voted against the bill, said he was concerned about increases in taxes, cuts to Medicare and expansion for Medicaid included in the legislation.
"It strikes at the very core of our liberties and is a giant step toward wrecking an already fragile economy," Johnson said. "This is a regrettable day in the history of this Congress."
According to Johnson, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services said he could not fully analyze the cost of the legislation prior to Sunday's vote.
"Payoffs and favors have been passed out like candy to buy passage of a bill nobody completely understands," Johnson said.
Duffett called the vote a victory for ordinary citizens across the country.
"Hard-working Americans will no longer be taken advantage of by the insurance industry," Duffett said. "They will enjoy security and the peace of mind that comes with accessible, affordable health care when they need it."
Duffett said the Campaign for Better Health Care is a coalition of 300 different organizations working together to promote an accessible and quality health care system.
Barham, meanwhile, questioned the constitutionality of the health care bill.
"I think the whole stinking mess is unconstitutional," Barham said. "We need people in Congress who will vote with their conscience and will vote with what their constituents want. I'm tired of the government trying to run our lives.
"We're not going to let this thing go."
Josephine Underwood, downstate organizer for the Campaign for Better Health Care, said she was pleased.
"We've been confident that there would be a favorable passage for us," Underwood said. "It was amazing to see our side getting all this extra support in the final few hours."
Underwood said she is happiest for people who have had no health insurance.
"From the beginning this has been about American health care consumers, decreasing costs and expanding coverage," Underwood said.
Johnson expressed concern that the bill had no language prohibiting the use of federal money from being used to pay for elective abortions.
"For the past 35 years, our government has statutorily blocked the use of federal funds being used for abortions," Johnson said. "That is unacceptable."
Savoy Village Board member Joan Dykstra said she has concerns over the expansion of government control allowed under the bill.
"One of my concerns are the unintended consequences of overreaching government control and increased costs as a result of this vote," Dykstra said Sunday night. "There will be more bureaucracy, and I'm especially concerned about the government hiring as many as 16,000 extra IRS agents and giving them expanded authority to confiscate our tax refunds to ensure people have acceptable levels of health insurance coverage."