Moran listening stop draws record turnout

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Judging by the record turnout of around 200 people, and the dominant topic of conversation, folks in Marion County care about health-care reform efforts in Washington, too.

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Rep. Jerry Moran indicates the thickness of the health-care reform bill that is igniting debate around the county. He said at Thursday?s tour stop in Marion County that he hasn?t found much in the legislation that will benefit rural health care.

In that regard, Jerry Moran?s Marion County listening-tour stop Thursday on the Tabor College campus in Hillsboro reflected the response of voters nationwide as many lawmakers host townhall meetings during the congressional recess.

But the tenor of this gathering in the Wohlgemuth Music Education Center was markedly atypical of the boisterous and sometimes crude interchanges captured by the national media.

While energetic, this gathering was cordial, with crowd emotions limited to a few ?Amens? and the occasional outbreak of applause in affirmation of shared convictions about the direction of health-care reform and the federal government in general.

Positive reinforcement of the Republican congressman?s stand surfaced in his opening remarks, which were greeted with strong applause.

?There?s a lot going on in Washington, D.C., as you know,? Moran said. ?Much of it I disagree with. I?m one who hasn?t voted for a single bail out or stimulus plan yet.

?Clearly we?re spending money that we don?t have and there are economic consequences of doing that?and there?s a moral component of this to me. We?re asking something of the next generation that no generation before us has ever asked….

?We are creating a circumstance in which our kids and grandkids have much less opportunity than we have had in our lives.?

During a 121⁄2 minute opening preamble, Moran outlined his perspective on the health-care agenda being debated in Washington.

The seven-term representative, now running for the Senate seat of gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback, made one brief reference to cap-and-trade legislation, calling it ?one of the most devastating, damaging pieces of legislation that has ever passed during my time in the House of Representa?tives.?

But Moran focused on health-care reform. He said it was hard enough to interpret the wording of the 1,017-page bill, but he was more concerned with its long?term economic effect on the nation and specifically it?s negative impact on rural health care in Kansas.

When Moran invited questions from the audience, State Rep. Bob Brookens from Marion started the discussion on that point: ?What in this package is (good) for rural health care??

Moran mentioned the 340-B program, which would require drug companies to provided prescription drugs at a lower cost to rural hospitals than they presently are.

But, he added, ?That?s as close as I can come to anything that is specifically related to improving rural health care.?

Succeeding questions covered a gamut of health-care issues, ranging from the makeup of the 13 percent of Americans who are uninsured, to efforts to change the size of insurance pools, to including coverage for illegal immigrants.

In other responses, Moran countered claims about the emergence of a ?death panel? of government bureaucrats that would decide the future of the elderly, but he did see the possibility of rationing health care in order to save money.

Asked about potential funding for abortions, Moran said the current bill does not specify federal funding for abortions, but the wording could be interpreted to allow for that possibility.

Several questioners expressed concern about the ?socialist direction? of the country. But one person asked if those who harbored such fears were ready to give up their Medicare benefits and other popular federal programs that were once considered socialist.

One person asked what Moran and other Republicans can realistically expect to accomplish when the White House and both houses of Congress are in solid Demo?cratic control.

Moran said too much of the debate in Washington is being cast as a battle between Demo?crats and Republicans rather than what was best for all Americans.

He said the best way to work toward a ?common-sense approach? to health care and other national issues, was to do what his listeners had done: to speak up in townhall meetings and make their views known to Washington lawmakers.

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