2009-10-07 / Features

Health Care Generates 'Lot Of Din And Noise' Crowley Says

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

Assemblymember Michael Gianaris addresses health concerns of the audience at the October meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA) as (l. to r.) UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and state Senator George Onorato look on. Assemblymember Michael Gianaris addresses health concerns of the audience at the October meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA) as (l. to r.) UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and state Senator George Onorato look on. After a summer filled with similar encounters that often turned ugly, a peaceful and informative town hall meeting on healthcare reform was hosted by the United Community Civic Association last week with Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D- Queens, The Bronx) as the featured guest speaker.

UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo described the reform effort as an ambitious proposal that has sometimes generated "raucous and unruly public sentiment" at other public town hall meetings held across the country.

"We all have concerns. Do not be shy—speak your mind tonight," she told the audience at Augustana Lutheran Church at Hazen Street and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria Heights.

Crowley, first elected to represent the 7th Congressional District in 1998 and now in his sixth term of office, holds a seat on the influential House Committee on Ways and Means, one of three House committees working on a healthcare bill. The House and the Senate are still working on their separate plans to reform health care.

"There's been a lot of din and noise created," Crowley said, acknowledging people may have concerns about proposed legislation.

Crowley said he would like to see changes in both the quality and cost of healthcare services and an increase in the opportunities for more people to be able to afford to pay for those services. He favors the so-called public option. "The public option is for those who don't have healthcare coverage today," he said.

In addition, he favors ending insurance practices allowing companies to drop people due to illness or prevent people from getting insurance because of an existing illness.

Holding a copy of HR 3200, a bill

several inches thick

that his committee is working on, Crowley said, "45 million don't have healthcare coverage today and when [people without insurance] go for care, [people with coverage] end up paying for it."

Asked if existing healthcare benefits through employment or union membership would be affected, Crowley said that coverage would not change. "The beauty of this plan is if you have coverage, you don't have to change at all."

Crowley addressed concern about Medicare under the reform, saying, "We are not trying to dismantle Medicare." Under the bill he favors, Crowley said Medicare benefits will broaden to eliminate gaps in drug coverage.

Questioning the number without healthcare insurance, one man said 45 million people is roughly one in six Americans. "That's a little high," he said. "I don't know anybody who doesn't have health care (and) you're telling me this is a crisis [but] I don't trust people in Congress."

"Much of the angst people are experiencing is [due] to the economy as well," Crowley replied. "People are out of work [and] I think there is a crisis in terms of control of cost. The cost of health care is growing exponentially."

Fran Luhman McDonald, a Community Board 1 member, questioned the timing. "We're in a hole [and] I really feel the Obama Administration is offering us a shovel. You don't dig yourself out of a hole."

"When people lose their jobs, do they have healthcare insurance?" asked Crowley. "This is a time when we really need to look at this. Families are concerned about health care."

Dr. Bhupendra Patel, Chief of Medicine, and Judy Trilivas, Chief Operating Officer Mount Sinai Queens also provided information on H1N1 flu. Mount Sinai Queens has ordered H1N1 vaccine that will be available soon, and plans increases in staffing and additional facilities.

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