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Aug 18, 2009 6:12 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bishop engages outspoken opponents of healthcare reform

Aug 18, 2009 6:12 PM

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop will resume holding town hall-style meetings, starting at the Brookhaven Town Hall on Thursday, August 27, despite his concerns that protesters of health care reform will try to disrupt the events as they did at his last meeting in June.

Mr. Bishop cancelled several meetings this summer after rowdy protesters at a Setauket meeting on June 22 were so disruptive—jeering, shouting and even heckling an 84-year-old woman—that numerous attendees called the police, who escorted Mr. Bishop to his car.

The meeting was one of the early examples of what became a national trend to use civil disobedience at meetings on health care reform to disrupt the debate. Internet video of the Setauket meeting went viral by the end of June and perhaps was fodder for what became a coordinated conservative effort nationwide.

“Mine was one of the first town hall meetings to be disrupted,” Mr. Bishop said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “It got all kinds of exposure on YouTube and other websites, so I don’t know whether it was the precursor or just one of the first ones that was disrupted.”

Mr. Bishop said he had held more than 100 such meetings since he was elected in 2002 and never had one disrupted until June. But he said the debate over health care reform is likewise unprecedented; 90 percent of his constituent time is occupied by health care concerns, he said.

“In the seven years that I’ve been a member of Congress, we have not dealt with an issue that has generated this much public involvement and this many questions,” Mr. Bishop said. “It stands to reason because health care affects each and every one of us. Whatever we do with health care affects every person in this country.”

Over the last two months. as Mr. Bishop has not held open meetings, he said he has reached out to constituents in other ways, such as spending an hour a day returning phone calls to people who have called his office to register complaints. Some of the people he called had asked for a call back and others, he said, he simply called at random.

“The reaction normally is surprise that a member of Congress is actually calling them individually,” Mr. Bishop said. “For the most part we’ve had constructive and civil and informed discussions.”

On July 30, Mr. Bishop held a “teletownhall,” or an hour-long meeting by telephone that focused almost entirely on health care reform. Some 3,500 people took part over the course of the hour with 750 people at the peak, the highest number listening at once.

“They allow you to reach an enormous amount of people very efficiently,” Mr. Bishop said, “particularly as it relates to the health care legislation, because there is so much misinformation out there.”

To conduct the telephone town hall meeting, a computer sends out an advisory alert to thousands of numbers and then the following day, calls those numbers when the meeting is going to start. Anyone who picks up can join.

Mr. Bishop said that he has repeatedly heard two prominent concerns that his constituents cite regarding health care reform. First, people do not want socialized medicine or nationalized health care. Mr. Bishop said he tells them that that’s not at all what the bill proposes, that it would not be the French, British or Canadian system, but an American hybrid—a combination of privately and publicly offered coverage.

“People are equating this public insurance option with nationalized health care,” he said. He also noted that a third of Americans already receive government health care coverage. Another 45 million people have Medicare, 49 million people have Medicaid, 7.5 million are covered under the Veterans’ Affairs system, and 2 million receive coverage through the United States Department of Defense. “What I find most interesting is seniors that get their health care through Medicare,” Mr. Bishop said, “but argue that they don’t want a public option or nationalized health care.”

The second concern Mr. Bishop said he frequently heard was that the government would force people to give up the health care plan and doctors that they have now. “That is simply not the case. There’s nothing in the bill that would make them give up the coverage they have now,” Mr. Bishop said.

While Mr. Bishop supports health care reform, he has not yet committed to supporting any of the specific measures proposed in Congress. He said there are several provisions he wants to see in the bill, including provisions that ensure insurance companies cannot discriminate against people who have pre-existing medical conditions, drop coverage of people who get sick, or set annual caps on payouts.

Another crucial aspect of the reform Mr. Bishop said he wants to see is a reduction in the rate at which costs are increasing. “They are going up 10 to 12 percent a year and that’s unsustainable—for Medicare and Medicaid and individual family budgets,” he said.

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It seems to me the only misinformation we are getting is from Tim and the rest of the government paid officials that did not even READ the bill!
(by the way was that the same 84yr old women that stood up at the Southampton town library meeting when Tim was going to tell us how they were going to spend our money? Was it the same 84 yr. old women that stood up in the very beginning with a wink and nod at Tim and started dividing the group with a comment about Republicans vs. Democrats? It seems ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 19, 09 5:10 AM
I think it is amazing that the anti-healthcare protesters give themselves as an example of democracy. By disrupting and stopping the give and take of meetings, they prevent anyone with a different opinion or a neutral question from participating. They are obstructionists and don't want healthcare so much that they prevent anyone else from the free exchange of ideas. That is not democracy, it is what the brownshirts did in Nazi Germany ie. breaking up meetings of those they didn't agree with. ...more
By tearsfromastar (2), Mastic Beach on Aug 19, 09 8:15 AM
If anyone wants a true analysis of the bill they can read the Kaiser Family Foundation's side by side comarison of the 4 bills. I'm not sure that Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh would want you to get unbiased information. Try it just once time though.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Aug 19, 09 7:26 PM
If anyone wants a true analysis of the bill they can read the Kaiser Family Foundation's side by side comarison of the 4 bills. I'm not sure that Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh would want you to get unbiased information. Try it just one time though.
By number19 (111), Westhampton on Aug 19, 09 7:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
Oh---here we go AGAIN---the liberal left wing nuts spouting nonsense! (that means you-tearsfromastar) Get the terminology correct than maybe you Could be part of a reasonalble debate! Just like stating incorrectly "anti-immigration"---The People are For immigration---LEGALLY!!!! Not illegal immigration!
Now We The People are saying we are for getting better healthcare for OUR COUNTRY_THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA(just in case you forgot where you are)
Therefore-you and members of Congress ...more
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on Aug 26, 09 10:59 PM
to number19, your premise is all washed up. the people that are against this so called healthcare reform understand very clearly what is in the legislation. that is why they are fuming. the kaiser comparison does nothing more than confirm that this is not about preserving the quality of healthcare, lowering the cost of healthcare or getting everyone covered. it's about giving the government overreaching powers into your fiscal life, your personal health decisions, your choices of how to care ...more
By thetruthhurts (21), southampton on Aug 27, 09 1:18 PM
If Bishop couldn't give out the proper directions to where his meeting was held this evening..how can we expect him to actually understand the language of the bill? Of course people are angry..and it isn't just about health care. NO ONE needs Beck or Limbaugh to tell them that the government has already proven they can not run a health care program...take a good look at the health care they provide for the American Indians. God help us all if we end up with a government run program.
By BeachGal (72), Hampton Bays on Aug 27, 09 11:19 PM
United states citizen, time and again your postings prove what we on the left know to be a fact: the far right is comprised of uneducated, rambling, know-nothings who scream and shout and stomp their feet, but have nothing productive to contribute to the debate. Perhaps you should find a positive way to make a difference in the country you claim to love so much. We will get meaningful health care reform in this country with or without you.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Aug 28, 09 1:29 PM