Tulsans Discuss Health Care At John Sullivan Town Hall Meetings

Monday, August 31st 2009, 8:31 am
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsans give an Oklahoma Congressman a piece of their minds.   First District Congressman John Sullivan held two more town hall meetings on Monday.  One of the most hotly contested exchanges was over the idea of a public option.

"Public options in other countries are immensely more efficient," said Tony Nuspl with Oklahomans for Health Care.

The statement was met with groans and moans.  The idea of a public option or government run health insurance plan strikes fear in the hearts of many.

"I'm terrified. I'm absolutely terrified of what we may be facing. I think we're about to do something to this country that can't be undone," said Don Wyatt.

For opponents, federal government sponsored health insurance is a government takeover of health care.

"No one in any circle is talking about a government takeover. We're talking about a plan to ensure people have comprehensive health care," said Tony Nupsle with Oklahomans for Health Care.

According to House Bill 3200, the public option would pay health care providers at a slightly higher rate than Medicare.  The Lewin Group estimates that would make the public option's premiums 20% lower than private ones.

Opponents say the government plan would be so cheap, it would drive private insurers out of business and everyone would end up on the government plan.

"Some say 114 million, but at least 100 million would leave private insurance to go to the public option. That's not what we want to encourage," said Oklahoma Congressman John Sullivan.

Those are similar to numbers reported by the Lewin Group.  They estimate those covered by private insurance would be cut nearly in half, by 2011. With 104 million enrolled in the public plan.

But, that's only if the bill opens up the public option to all employers instead of just small businesses.

The independent Congressional Budget Office estimates only about nine million would opt out of employer coverage in favor of the public option.

Critics have said employers could drop their insurance benefits and let employees enroll in the public plan.  But, House Bill 3200 includes a penalty for companies that do that.

Also, the objectivity of the Lewin Group, which is cited by many in Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation, has come under fire recently.  The consulting firm is a subsidiary of a health care conglomerate which sells insurance.

08/26/2009  Related Story: Tulsa Hospitals Watching Health Care Debate

For more information on the town hall meetings, you can check out the congressman's web site.

Email your questions about health care reform to The News On 6