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Bring on the Debate: Sen. Ben Nelson discusses healthcare with strong crowd
Josh Moody
Antelope Staff

On Aug. 24, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson held a public meeting in Kearney at the Robert M. Merryman Performing Arts Center, with healthcare reform taking center stage. The town hall style meeting allowed those in attendance to ask Senator Nelson about the currently proposed healthcare legislation that has recently dominated the American political scene.    

H.R. 3200, the official title of the legislation, has sparked vigorous debate since its introduction.  Cable news cameras have caught the best of fiery rants, over the top speeches and even allegations of Nazism at similar events in other cities nationwide. 

Posted on a door entering the Merryman Center a sign read: “No posters, banners or political materials are allowed. Please leave them outside.” 

Inside the Merryman Center, around 600 people watched the public debate unfold. The crowd ranged in age from senior citizens to fifth grade students. Nelson began the meeting by stating his reform goals as well as outlining the need for healthcare reform. 

Nelson claimed the cost of healthcare had risen 78 percent from 2001 to 2007, and in that same time, income had only increased by 19 percent (or 17 percent when adjusted for two percent inflation). Nelson outlined his reform goals: controlling spending, reducing health care costs, improving healthcare quality, expanding coverage, helping small businesses and taking advantage of new technology. 

Nelson said that reform must work for Nebraskans and that he would not support any legislation which includes coverage for abortion or undocumented immigrants.

When Nelson opened the meeting to questions from the crowd, opinions varied. So, too, did levels of information pertaining to healthcare. 

Several in the audience questioned Nelson about the existence of “Your Life, Your Choices” which they claimed was a “death book” implemented by the Obama administration as a manual for end of life choices, including assisted suicide.

Nelson, chairman of the armed forces personnel subcommittee, stated that he had never heard of the book, which seems to have emerged as a popular scare phrase from the anti-reform camp. 

Socialized medicine, another scare phrase, soon emerged. In response, Nelson referred to insurance as a “socialistic” product, with many paying into a fund that a lesser number receives benefits from.  

As the end of the meeting drew near, some in the crowd seemed frantic to express their opinions to Senator Nelson. Amidst a crowd of waving hands, a man in the front row, eager to have his question answered, stood to his feet and loudly asked the moderator if he had a problem seeing a raised hand in the front five rows. The moderator responded by calling on an audience member in the fifth row.

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