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Health care rally draws big crowd

About 150 protesters gather in Winchester in hopes of persuading Webb, Warner to vote against reform

By Garren Shipley -- gshipley@nvdaily.com

Health care might need reform, but not the type pending before Congress.

That was the message from a crowd of about 150 protesters in downtown Winchester on Friday afternoon.

Organizers said they hoped the rally, organized by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, would persuade Virginia's Democratic U.S. senators, Mark R. Warner and Jim Webb, to vote against reform.

America's health care situation isn't the crisis it's made out to be, said Kate Obenshain, former chairwoman of the Republican Party of Virginia, addressing the crowd.

"Of the American people, 91 percent are insured. Of those, 84 percent are happy with their insurance," she said.

Out of the 9 percent that don't have health insurance, "one-fifth of them are illegal immigrants. Three-fifths of them make enough to buy health insurance, but for some reason choose not to," Obenshain said.

When all the numbers shake out, only 2 percent of Americans who want insurance can't get it, she said.

"Two percent is a problem, it's not a crisis," she said.

Both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate are working on legislation that would completely reorder the way health insurance and services are delivered.

President Obama and congressional Democrats argue that the country must do something to slow the rise in health spending, some 17 percent of the nation's total economic output in 2007.

Failure to act would further cripple the U.S. economy, according to advocates.

While details of the Senate bill are in flux, the House bill would put an end to private health insurance, save for plans that meet standards set by the federal government and purchased through state level "exchanges."

Employers would be mandated to provide health insurance, and individuals would be required to purchase health insurance, or pay a penalty on their income taxes, according to the House bill.

Obenshain and protesters also had no love for a "public option" that some congressional Democrats say must be a part of any health care reform.

Said simply, the private sector can't compete with the federal government, Obenshain said.

"That means there will no longer be private options. That means there will be a board determining whether or not you get health services," she said.

"We need conservative, free market solutions to those problems, not a government takeover of health care," she said.

Congress will likely take up the matter again when it returns from its August recess.



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