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Health care gets heated at Manzullo town hall meeting

SYCAMORE – U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo believes that health care can be reformed by using tools already available in the private sector.

The Congressman stopped in Sycamore Saturday morning during a series of town hall meetings he is holding to talk about health care reform.

It's a topic of interest across the nation, and already more than 3,000 constituents have either called or e-mailed Manzullo, most seeking information "because they just don't know what's in the bill," he said.

More than 200 people came to the DeKalb County Farm Bureau to listen to his perspective and then share theirs. This month's congressional recess is allowing lawmakers to hold similar town hall meetings around the nation before they regroup in Washington.

Many of the questions and statements revolved around the principle of the bill itself, introduced by President Barack Obama and designed to extend health insurance to millions who now lack it while attempting to slow the growing medical costs.

But criticism is ringing high, in Sycamore and elsewhere.

"Where have the people authorized the Congress to do anything along these lines whatsoever?" asked Kurt Kallenbach, from Rockford. "The problem is this is an unconstitutional issue. So why are we talking about this at all?"

Clare resident Art Bingham read the preamble of the Constitution before sending the message that the bill is taking "a fundamental shift" from those words.

"The idea is that instead of earning a way, we're wanting to consume a way" toward better health care, he said.

Other concerns raised were the level of Congressional oversight, mandated end-of-life counseling, interference with the patient-doctor relationship and the indirect effects on small businesses and unemployment.

Jenny Tomkins of Sycamore was concerned with the overall cost of health care, both in the current system and in Obama's plan. She said she came from Britain more than 20 years ago, where the health care system is "far from perfect" but that it's at a lower percentage of GDP than in America.

After the meeting, she said she was disappointed by the information.

"He didn't talk about the major thing, the economic [impacts]," she said. "We have to get a handle on how much this costs us."

When asked if she supports the bill, she said she doesn't because she hasn't read through it yet, but that "we need health reform."

Manzullo pointed out some of the major problems he sees in the bill. Those include new bureacracies created, more entitlement programs and the high use of taxes and penalties.

He cited a report that the unemployment rate would rise because small businesses would be put out of business. Faced with penalties, they would be forced to buy into it, he said.

Manzullo said he has spent 60 hours reading the bill and is halfway finished reading the 1,000-page-plus document.

His solution to health care reform is to continue improving what's already being done, such as health savings accounts and refundable tax credits for low-income people to purchase health insurance.

"These are simple things; these bills can stand on their own," Manzullo said. "They don't require a massive overhaul of the system."

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