Monday, November 9, 2009

Rochester’s reaction to health reform bill is guarded

health insurance

The House health care reform bill is so comprehensive and complex that many local residents qualified their support for or opposition to the legislation.

H.R. 3962, which passed late Saturday night, includes a public option for health insurance. Democrats in Congress said it also bars insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and would extend coverage to 36 million Americans who are uninsured.

While the American Medical Association officially supports the bill, physicians locally and nationwide are split on the public option, said Nancy Adams, executive director of the Monroe County Medical Society.

“Some are very much in favor, and some think it’s too much government control and will interfere with the physician-patient relationship,” Adams said.

Many doctors are also unhappy that the bill doesn’t include provisions for tort reform, Adams said. On the other hand, the AMA is pleased to see that almost all Americans would have health insurance under the new bill.

“Certainly, nothing’s perfect so far that’s been presented,” she said. “But in my opinion, we’re getting closer.”

Fran Weisberg, executive director of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, believes the reconciled bill that emerges from Congress as a whole will look different than the House version.

“I think that there’s going to be much more negotiation before a final bill is actually signed by the president,” she said.

Debra J.M. Smith, a vocal critic of Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, does not believe it’s constitutional for Congress to pass such sweeping reform.

“They are not given the power to get into our personal lives this way,” said Smith. Smith has a mailing address in Hilton but would not say where she lives. She runs the Web site

Ken Preston of Irondequoit, who campaigned for President Barack Obama and was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, was pleased with the bill. Preston runs a grassroots advocacy group for health care reform called Rochester for Change.

He said he hopes the hallmarks of H.R. 3962, including the public option, will remain in the final version of the legislation.

“I’m confident it will only get better,” he said.

Some of those who e-mailed with Preston on Sunday felt the bill did not have a strong enough public option, Preston said. Others were upset that the bill did not allow federal financing for abortions. Preston said he still stands behind it: “I know that not everything you fight for or ask for you’re going to get.”

Chris Hood of Penfield, an anti-abortion Democrat, supported the amendment that kept federal money from going toward abortions. He said he was also pleased that the bill included a public option, because he feels that everyone is entitled to health insurance.

“It’s a justice issue,” he said.