Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in SE Missouri

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KAIT) - Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill held the first town hall meetings on health care reform in Region 8 Monday. Early in the morning, she made a stop in Kennett to address concerns over the Senate's version of the bill before traveling to Poplar Bluff.

Before the debate, Region 8 News caught up with a few people in attendance. Both Kay Plummer and Susan Dungan of Dexter, MO, said they were not in support of a plan which takes away their right to choose health providers and insurance.

"People with regular polices now, they're going to be forced to give them up. Not right away, they get to keep them until there's a policy change and then they lose them so that's not fair," said Plummer. "I feel like the government is intruding on my personal life and I want them to back off."

"There's things that need to be addressed and addressed quickly, but I do think this is something that is going to be tremendously life changing and if for any reason you do not feel like you can live with those changes, any of us that were signed in the United States right now, then it's not anything that we need to do," said Dungan. "I think one of my greatest concerns is I'm aging. How am I going to be dealt with when I'm 75-80-85 years old?"

Dungan also expressed anger over how quickly congress seems to be pushing through health care legislation.

"My concerns are the process by how quickly this health care reform is passing through. It seems to be moving quickly. That always sends up red flags to me because I'm thinking, why are we moving so fast?" said Dungan. "It concerns me a lot of times when things are pushed through that quickly. You wonder what types of things are trying to be hidden and maybe things the general population wouldn't agree with."

McCaskill allowed members of the town hall to write down questions on cards, which were mixed into a bowl. A member of the audience, who voiced anger with Sen. McCaskill at times, was allowed to choose the cards from the bowl. McCaskill would then either allow the person who wrote the question to read it aloud or she'd do it herself.

The loudest round of applause happened when one man said he was no longer a member of AARP.

McCaskill also voiced her concerns on health care reform in the way of government rationing, which she said she would not vote for. She cited her 81 year old mother as the greatest generation.

Region 8 News was the first media outlet allowed to ask Sen. McCaskill questions after the Poplar Bluff town hall, which was held at Three Rivers Community College.

"First of all, there's a lot of misinformation out there and I don't mind anybody disagreeing with anything. I just want to make sure they got the facts," said McCaskill.

"There will not be government overtaking health care in this country. It remains to be seen whether there will be a public option in the healthcare arena but clearly we need health insurance reform," said McCaskill.

McCaskill said during the town hall end of life care would allow the doctor to be reimbursed for treatment at the end of a person's life. She said the doctor would still be able to maintain a one-on-one relationship.

"Costs are going up. The profits are through the roof for private insurance companies and people are getting cut off their insurance, many times just for having the audacity to get really sick so we got to do insurance reform to provide stability to American families," said McCaskill about health insurance reform.

The Poplar Bluff town hall meeting was much more difficult with Sen. McCaskill than was Kennett. At times, the crowd would voice their displeasure with health care reform.

"I think the people have passionate feelings. I think these are all great Americans who care deeply about their country. We've had 2 today, and there were some people who got a little impatient here in Poplar Bluff but that's okay, it's not bad. This is what it's about," said McCaskill.

McCaskill also met with healthcare providers from Pemiscot County. She talked about the challenges rural hospitals have. McCaskill said it's important for Washington to understand their struggles.

"I listened a lot today. I learned a lot today and now we got to get back there eventually and see if we can't reform insurance in this country as it refers to health care," said McCaskill.

"We thought it was such a crucial issue for our country and that's health care reform and health insurance reform," said Carolyn Johnson, who attended the Poplar Bluff town hall. "What I noticed from a lot of the questions, some people genuinely want to find out what's happening with it and what the prospects are and others, I would say, are pretty ignorant about their government."

"I think there's a lot of anger out there. I think we've seen something disturbing in our country that we probably haven't seen for over ten years," said Dungan.

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