Residents air health care concerns at Weiner talk

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) got an earful in Fresh Meadows Tuesday from several residents who were concerned about the congressional health care reform that is being discussed by legislators and constituents across the country.

Although Weiner did not face anything like the crowds of protesters who greeted President Barack Obama outside his town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday, several residents outside the Key Food grocery store in Fresh Meadows voiced worries about both Weiner’s proposal to implement a single-payer health care plan and Obama’s push to offer a public option for individuals who do not want or cannot afford to purchase private insurance.

“I’m extremely happy with my Medicare, but I know we need to do something about health care in this country,” said Fresh Meadows resident Paul Pane. “But I’m worried Congress is going to push health care through before it’s ready.”

As Weiner began to address the health care reform members of Congress are now discussing with constituents throughout the country, he was interrupted with one person shouting, “No socialized health care!”

“We don’t want to be like Canada,” another person yelled.

“A lot has been said, and little has been right, about health care,” Weiner told about 15 people who attended Tuesday’s event, sponsored by the Forest Hills congressman. “I wanted to tell you what the president is doing, and honestly, about a better plan I have.”

Weiner has called for an overhaul of the country’s health care program and advocated for a single-payer health care plan, which has been supported by more liberal Democrats.

“I’ve never had a single constituent tell me Medicare denied them coverage,” Weiner added. “But insurance companies? Every single week.”

Obama has proposed Americans must be insured similar to how drivers are required to purchase car insurance. Individuals could retain their private health insurance or have the option to join a government-run insurance group, which the president and Weiner have said would drive down health care costs and force insurance companies to provide more competitive and affordable prices.

Fresh Meadows resident John Amato said Weiner was “doing a good job,” but expressed reservations about Congress being able to fund his single-payer plan.

“It’s a good idea, but where is the money going to come from?” Amato asked.

Weiner argued money would be saved simply by having Americans be a part of a government plan that would not be as top-heavy as the private insurance companies. In addition, Weiner said funds would be saved by having a plan that would emphasize precautionary measures to keep patients out of hospitals.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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