Hundreds Attend Health Care Town Hall

Emotions have boiled over around U.S. at similar events

Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday night at a town-hall meeting on health care reform that was attended by Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis.

The doors opened to the public at 5:30 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center in the 4050 block of Vermont Street in Hillcrest, with the meeting kicking off an hour later.

Many people didn't make it inside the meeting because there wasn't enough room. Instead, they stood outside, holding signs and chanting.

Roger Ogden, a Hillcrest resident said, "I don't support what Obama is doing. I think it is going to be a disaster for the country."

Betsy Marro from Point Loma disagreed: "I would love to see a single payer system, but I would settle for a strong public option. At the core, we are all in the same place."

Police were on hand to keep an eye on the crowd but said there were no reported problems.

Angry crowds have put many lawmakers on the defensive as they try to talk about health care with their constituents, leading some to replace public forums with teleconferences or step up security to keep protesters at bay.
The disturbances come at a critical time as lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- return home for the August recess and host the meetings to boost support to overhaul the nation's costly health care system.

Some Republicans have seized on noisy demonstrations that disrupted several meetings and clips of clashes posted to YouTube as a sign of lagging public support for President Barack Obama's top domestic policy priority.

President Obama himself had a forum on the issue in Portsmouth, N.H., on Tuesday. He fielded nine questions in what sounded at times like a campaign event. He pointedly told the crowd of 1,800 that he welcomed disagreement, although aside from some polite questions about how the nation will pay for the program, the tone stayed friendly.

The town hall in Hillcrest wasn't the only community meeting held on the issue of health care reform in San Diego on Tuesday -- people gathered in front of the federal building in downtown earlier in the day to share stories.

"My brother Richard was 56 years old when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack," Karen McManus of the San Diego Organizing Project said.

A diabetic with high blood pressure, Richard worked as a paralegal but his job did not provide health care. 

"My brother hadn't taken his prescription for over a month because he couldn't afford it," McManus said.

McManus was joined Tuesday by about 35 others from the San Diego Organizing Project, a faith-based group representing 25 congregations.

"Our nation's health care is sick," said Pastor Wilbert Miller. "Young and old, Republican and Democrat, middle class and poor face rising health costs."

The activists called on the legislature to act now, saying that there is no recess for health care reform.

Standing by, watching it all were Betty and Bill Miller, who had heard about the gathering and came from El Cajon to see it.

"I think there is room for reform," Betty said. "I don't deny that at all, but I think this is not the way. This is not it."

The Millers said they believe Obama's plan is unclear and costly.

"It's going to bankrupt the nation," Bill said. "Our children, grandchildren and their children are going to be paying for that if the nation survives."

The Millers said that the yelling at the town halls is unnecessary but that the the emotion is real.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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