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Aug 25, 2009 6:42 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Bishop fields questions on health care reform

Editor's Note: A recording of the congressman's teleconference can be accessed here.
Aug 25, 2009 6:42 PM

U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton held a “town hall” teleconference with more than 4,200 East End residents on Thursday, August 20, to address the ongoing debate over health care reform, among other things.

It was the second in a series of phone conferences between Mr. Bishop and his constituents about America’s Affordable Health Choices Act, the health care reform legislation pending in Congress. It preceded the congressman’s scheduled August 27 town meeting at Sachem High School East in Farmingville, where Mr. Bishop is also expected speak about health care reform. It is the first meeting he will hold since temporarily suspending his town hall meetings on health care reform after 150 protesters disrupted a June 22 meeting in Setauket.

In a separate instance in front of Mr. Bishop’s Southampton office on August 19, protesters disrupted a Southampton Town Democratic Committee press conference endorsing health care reform. Mr. Bishop was not at the press conference.

During the hourlong teleconference, the congressman fielded questions from residents about the health care reform bill pending in the House. There are also versions of the bill before the Senate Finance and Senate Health, Education and Labor committees. Congress is expected to take further action on the bills when it reconvenes in September. A chief concern people have, Mr. Bishop said, is whether the House bill will force people to switch from their current insurance provider. Mr. Bishop said that’s not so.

“The intent of the bill is to see to it that people can keep their insurance if they like it,” Mr. Bishop said.

Another myth, that the bill would result in the creation of “death panels,” is also bogus, Mr. Bishop said. The rumor is a “grotesque mischaracterization” of a provision in the House bill calling for end-of-life consultation with a physician to be funded by health care providers, he said.

Also, the government-run plan proposed by House Democrats, which has met with stiff resistance from Republicans, will not result in a “government take-over” of the health care industry, as critics of the bill have alleged, the congressman said. Instead, the public option, if created, is expected to have a peak membership of 12 million subscribers once fully enacted in 2019. Though the public option would compete with private insurance companies in hopes of controlling rising premiums, Mr. Bishop said he is open to means other than a public option to keep health care costs under control. He said he is studying a proposal by the Senate Finance Committee to create a government-run, non-profit health care cooperative to compete with private insurers.

Asked if he would vote in favor of a bill without a public insurance option, Mr. Bishop said, “I am not prepared at this point to draw a line in the sand. What I am doing is looking at the totality of the legislation. If I believe the legislation improves the status quo that many find unacceptable, I will vote for it.”

Mr. Bishop said the conference calls are “not a substitute” for regular town hall meetings, which generally attract only 100 to 150 people, but they “are a very effective way of reaching constituents.”

“I would have to do 35 town halls to reach 4,200 people, based on normal attendance,” he said.

Telephone conferences are funded by public information money allocated annually to the office budgets of each member of Congress. The August 20 call cost $4,000, according to Will Jenkins, Mr. Bishop’s aide.

To get the word out about the telephone conferences, automated calls are placed to residents a day in advance, Mr. Jenkins said. On August 19, 20,000 people in the 1st Congressional District received automated phone calls informing them of the conference and explaining how to participate.

Mr. Bishop said he has also personally called and met privately with hundreds of constituents to discuss health care reform since the House took its summer recess on July 31.

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“The intent of the bill is to see to it that people can keep their insurance if they like it,” Mr. Bishop said.

If this were true, no bill would be necessary. People not only can, but will keep their insurance if Mr. Bishop refrains from interfering.

There are several excellent paths to improving American healthcare, none of which are contained in Mr. Bishop's bill. Here's one:

If you're buying insurance for your home, your car, or even life insurance, you can choose from ...more
By RichardBlumenthal (24), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 09 10:02 PM
NYS has over regulated the health care insurance business. The business needs to have the avaiable forms loosened up, deductable options increased, and the like. The Fed. Gvt can enable this without taking over the administration of the insurance buainess. Step one is, of course, Mal Practice Tort Reform, something Mr. Bishop absolutly refuses to do.
By Lost Tribe (66), East Hampton on Aug 26, 09 4:12 PM
I do not understand all this hoopla that the government is trying to shove down our throats - they say it is to help the 47 million "Americans" that do not have health care - why don't they have health care? If they have a social secuirty # and pay their taxes there are federally funded programs for them to use - your doctor's office can help you apply. Oh wait, we aren't doing for "Americans", it would be for the illegal that DON'T have legal social security #'s and DON'T pay taxes!
By americanivory (7), east hampton on Aug 26, 09 5:47 PM
The drug companies, lobbyists, most politicians and insurance companies have conspired for a long time to make our health care a labyrinth of confusion, with profit as their only motive. We are taxed to death, including death. Medical professionals hands are tied, paperwork is to absorbent. Medical care is a birth rite and not just for you privileged bastards. The U.S. is in the stone age as far as health care reform. Politics as usual. Let the tea parties continue.
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on Aug 28, 09 11:16 AM
johnny nova..i too believe that the paperwork is too absorbent. should you need any serious medical care, you should head overseas to all of those places you can surely name where the medical care is more advanced that the us and the paperwork is not at all absorbent.

By hamptons surfer (79), southampton on Aug 30, 09 8:31 PM