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Sestak says he ‘will not budge’ on public option for health care

Sestak says he ‘will not budge’ on public option for health care

PHILADELPHIA—Fielding emotionally charged questions from a group of more than 500, Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) jumped into the heated debate over health care reform at a town-hall style meeting here Wednesday night.

At the Broad Street Ministry in Center City, Sestak weathered a barrage of criticism from concerned Philadelphians and members of his own suburban Congressional district, but still faced a somewhat less hostile reception than many of his colleagues have during the August recess.

“This reform is good and right, even for our pocketbooks,” Sestak said during the forum, which drew a crowd so large the church had to open a lower-level adjoining room to contain the spillover.

“I am a person who believes in a mandate, that everyone should be covered, like car insurance,” Sestak said. “I will not budge on the public health care option.”

Asked by an audience member if he would accept the public option for his own brain-cancer-stricken daughter to whom he has often referred, Sestak paused, but said he would only accept the plan on the condition that she could keep her original doctor. It was an unexpected answer, considering that Sestak has so often said he is running for the Senate because of how grateful he is for the public health care provided to her during his military service. And his response drew stark criticism from audience members, many of whom walked out.

A moment later, one audience member rushed the stage shouting profanities at Sestak. Once subdued by security, he questioned if Sestak understood the legal jargon contained in the House legislation.

“Nobody knows what it means,” the man insisted. “You don’t even know what it means either. I want the insurance I have because I pay for it. How can you tell me my employer won’t write it off the bottom line and tell us all we are going to the public option?”

Sestak responded: “Because [the bill] mandates that the employer has to keep its health insurance plan.”

With the line to get in snaking around the block, Sestak took questions for hours, and the event ran so long that a scheduled press availability was largely cut off. He told constituents and members of the audience that he would try and hold a second meeting soon to address the continuing concerns about health care reform.

August 12, 2009 at 11:59 pm

--Jenny DeHuff


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