By Leslie Jorgensen
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
WOODLAND PARK — Several hundred folks flocked to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s first public meeting on the proposed government health care plan, and House Resolution 3200 elicited equally passionate rhetoric in this northern El Paso County suburb as it did at other meetings being held around the country.
Lamborn’s meeting, however, was less a debate than a massive support group where conservatives shared their rage against big government.
The 5th Congressional District’s representative opened the meeting at the Woodland Park City Council Chambers by heaving the 1,000-page health care bill onto the lectern and unfolding a yellow-lined page of HR 3200 handwritten talking points.
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“I haven’t read the whole bill, but I’m reading it,” said Lamborn, grinning and patting the 8-inch-thick bill, which will continue to be debated in the House when Congress reconvenes next month.
“I’ve got 10 reasons why I don’t like this bill,” the 5th Congressional District representative declared.
“One of the biggest reasons is the cost of it,” he said. “It’s going to make taxes and the debt go up tremendously!”
From the back of the council chambers on Monday afternoon, people shouted, “We want to hear! We want to hear!”
The first of three town hall meetings planned this month by Lamborn drew more than 250 people, a crowd that filled the chamber room far beyond its capacity. The overflow crowd listened through an open door in a packed-to-capacity lobby. Another 50 or so people who had been at the end of the line gave up and went home.
Lamborn turned up the microphone and the message — telling folks that the government health care plan will cost an estimated $1.3 trillion to $3.5 trillion — or much more. He reminded listeners that the cost of Medicare, originally projected at $9 billion, had skyrocketed to $110 billion.
“Those who say there is no cost involved, they are out of touch with reality,” said Lamborn.
“Yeah! Yeah!” chimed in several people in the audience.
Lamborn said the plan will be paid by an 8 percent payroll penalty levied against businesses that don’t offer health care coverage, a 2 percent tax on individuals who don’t have coverage, and higher income taxes.
Employers either will have to provide health coverage deemed acceptable by the government or pay an 8 percent payroll penalty for failing to do so. Either way, Lamborn said, the cost will result in a loss of jobs, and that will hurt the economy.
“Taxes will have to go up or we’ll have more deficit spending” to pay for the government health plan, said Lamborn, adding that he’s adamantly opposed to Congress ringing up more debt.
“I’m concerned about the young people and their future,” declared Lamborn.
Again and again throughout the one-hour meeting, the boisterous crowd cheered and applauded their Republican congressman — and booed President Barack Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
“I don’t think we should revamp our nation’s health care for 2 percent of the country,” said Lamborn.
The congressman whittled the number of uninsured from 47 million to 6 million people by eliminating those who chose not to buy health insurance, “illegal aliens” and individuals who are eligible but haven’t qualified for existing government-funded programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
“They just haven’t taken the trouble to sign up for one,” asserted Lamborn.
If a government health care plan is passed, Lamborn said, “It will be the gorilla in the room. It doesn’t have to answer to shareholders. It doesn’t have to have a balanced budget each year. It doesn’t have to make a profit. It can run a perpetual deficit.”
He cited Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service as examples of costly, inefficient government programs.
The government, Lamborn warned, will create an uneven playing field that will eventually drive private health insurers into extinction.
After his 22-minute speech, Lamborn opened the floor for questions — and even solicited comments from those who support the government plan. All but a half dozen people appeared to oppose the health care plan — and only one individual posed a question after disrupting another man’s rambling comments on the bill.
“What’s the question? Get to your question!” shouted James Tucker, who publishes the African-American Voice monthly newspaper in Colorado Springs.
“Get him out of here!” a man growled at Tucker.
“Let him ask the question, and then he’ll shut up,” a woman shot back.
The crowd applauded when Tucker said he was a military veteran — then groaned when they read his poster, “Don’t be an Insurance Industry Puppet… Think For Yourself!”
Tucker asked why the United States can fund health care for those living in Afghanistan and Iraq — but not for Americans.
“I really don’t see the connection between that and our ongoing future as a country with 300 million people living here and at peace,” responded Lamborn.
Wendy Ruuamau said it’s hypocritical for the government to allow a woman the right to choose abortion while — if the government plan rations medical care — choosing which body parts are entitled to treatment.
“It is my body, and you cannot tell me what to do!” she declared.
Lamborn empathized and criticized a provision in the health care bill that prohibits only “public”
funded abortions — and does not mention “private-funded” abortions.
“Given the fact that President Obama seems to be a pathological liar, how can we trust the president — let alone Congress — to do what they’re supposed to do — which is to defend the United States Constitution?” asked Jon Jackson.
“They’re trampling all over the Constitution every day!” yelled Jackson, who deemed government health care “unconstitutional!”
Lamborn said the best way to counter this and other bills steamrolling through Congress is to elect more conservative Republicans.
“Whether you’re for or against this — most of us don’t like something in this bill,” said a woman. “What can we do?”
The congressman encouraged the members of the audience to communicate their opposition to Colorado’s Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.
“We have!” shouted several people.
“It doesn’t do any good!” yelled a man.
“Do it every day! Every day!” shouted several folks.
“If we do that, will our names wind up some kind enemies list?” asked a young man.
“Only if you contact the White House!” cracked Lamborn, alluding to the rumor that the Obama administration had asked Americans to forward “fishy” e-mails to them.
White House blogger Macon Phillips had complained about the misinformation swirling about the proposed health insurance reforms.
“These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain e-mails or through casual conversation,” blogged Phillips. “Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an e-mail or see something on the Web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.’’
That’s one e-mail address that Lamborn’s conservative constituents will bypass for preventive care.