The Washington Times - August 11, 2009, 12:57PM

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) met with a hostile crowd in Towson, Maryland last night to discuss the Democratic health care reform plan.  Mr. Cardin’s audience at the town hall meeting was packed with mainly those who did not support the government’s healthcare reform plan, that the Senator was endorsing that evening.  He faced boos and hisses among other jeering responses from the riled up crowd last night.  The evening’s turnout of 500 attendees sat in a Towson University theater, but organizers had to turn away many who ended up protesting outside.  

Senator Cardin took written questions and questions from the floor between shouts from audience members.  He presented a power point presentation of several slides endorsing the Democratic healthcare plan.  One audience member blasted the power point presentation later on asking why the healthcare bill was over 1000 pages long, but Mr. Cardin seemed to sum it up in only “five slides.”  

Mr. Cardin was so confident of the health care plan he told the town hall:

“All of estimates show that more that under the bills moving through congress that we’ll have more people, not less on private insurance.  I believe in competition and choice. I think we are moving in the opposite direction if we do nothing.” 

The audience’s reaction to Mr. Cardin’s statement above was far from affable.  In fact, the Senator was responding to a question that began with why the government had moved so far away from the Philosophy of our Founding Fathers.  C-Span has video of this  question and response that begins at 1:27:46.  The audience member’s includes this one below:

“Are you trying to tell me that the government can deliver higher quality healthcare than the the competitive market place?”

Mr. Cardin was so well challenged by a Roger Baine of Baltimore, the Senator invited Mr. Baine to further discuss health care. At 1:24:07, Mr. Baine noted to Mr. Cardin that he was at a town hall meeting in 1994 with the Senator when then-First Lady Hillary Clinton’s health care plan was being debated.  

BANE:I have to ask you why you are debating the argument with so many misstatements and mis-facts.  In 1994 Maryland passed small group reform…sweeping healthcare reform legislation for guaranteed issued of healthcare coverage with no preexisting conditions, no ratings for gender, no rating for health conditions, but a modified community rating only a rating for the age and the location of that small group in the state.  In 1996 HPA, Health Insurance  Portability and Accountability Act passed, has guaranteed issued in all 50 states and guaranteed portability of coverage for any citizen that remains responsible and covered in the health care system for 12 months can never have a pre-existing clause re-imposed upon them.  Why do we forget this and try and re-invent the wheel when Maryland is backing off in increments since 1994 saying, ‘Ok we need to expand the rating a little bit more.  We need to give a little more room to rate appropriately.  Now we can rate for wellness and potential health conditions and we’re adding a pre-existing clause back in to prevent gaming of people that wait until they get sick to enroll in the health care plan.’

CARDIN: As you point out the Current law doesn’t protect you from pre-existing conditions  There’s a six moth wait period…

BANE: That’s not true.  If you are enrolled in a plan…

CARDIN: If you are not enrolled in a plan…

BANE: Well when you…

CARDIN: Well let me finish my answer.

BANE: As long as you tell the truth

CARDIN: But there is a pre-condition.  There are pre-conditions.  That will be gone under this bill.  Why?  Because, everyone has to have insurance.  You’re not going to game the system.  Everybody is going to be in the system.  That’s the problem with the current law.  We think people are going to try and game the system by being in, out, or wherever…changing plans.  We want a seemless system so you can’t game it, but we want you to have protection.

BANE: We need global transparency, so everybody knows what’s being charged, and what’s being paid, so the consumer can do their job instead of asking you to do it for them.

CARDIN: The health exchanges will do that.  The health exchanges will allow the consumers to make the choices they want.  Today what choice can you make?  If you are working for an employer who offers one plan, what is your choice?  That’s one-third of our insured.

BANE: Senator, I applaud you for fighting the good fight.  One point about global transparency.  The point that I’m making with global transparency is that the physicians, the hospitals, the insurance companies if they all need to disclose their charges and their reimbursement levels, we remove their ability to make profits based on behind the scenes negotiations.  This nation spends over seven billion dollars  a year on discounts for a doctor’s network.  Seven billion dollars of wasted money, so that the doctors can negotiate with United Health Care, Blue Cross, and seventy other payers independently.  We should all be paying the same, charged the same, and insure what we want to insure.

CARDIN: We have transparency in the bill.  I’m going to invite you to take look at that and you can help strengthen it.  You seem to be knowledgeable in it.  Help me figure out how to make that provision stronger.I’m with you on it.

The Washington Times spoke to Mr. Banes after the town hall meeting ended, and he spoke further about his discussion with Senator Cardin.  Mr. Bane mentions here how surprised he was that Senator Cardin knew little about Maryland health care.

Senator Cardin will face more town halls this week, and it is likely he will be facing similar crowds and questions.  A power point presentation and repeating the administration line may not exactly be the formula to get him through questioning from the likes of those who know the health care system in his own state better than he does.  

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