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Health care on the agenda

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They must be mighty confident that their health care won’t be impacted.

Seniors at the Bay Ridge Community Service Center, Fourth and Ovington Avenues, were extraordinarily blasé when Representative Michael McMahon stopped by for a visit, this past Monday, with the purpose of speaking about the government’s plans to revamp the country’s health care system.

Some chatted while McMahon spoke; others kept playing cards. Even those who interacted with the congressman seemed generally unconcerned, as a conversation that in other venues, with other elected officials, has turned into a shouting match, was over quietly in 20 minutes.

And, not because McMahon didn’t keep bringing the subject up.

At least three times, the congressman tossed the ball to the seniors, and got his biggest rise when one person asked him about cap and trade policies, which are aimed at reducing pollution and dependence on foreign oil, and which the speaker was afraid would raise her utility bills.

Not so, said McMahon. In fact, he told the group, the Congressional Budget Office and Con Edison had both determined that the implementation of cap and trade would actually bring prices down in New York.

In addition, he urged, “We don’t want to give any more money” to countries that sponsor groups such as Al Qaeda and Hamas.

“No,” replied a chorus of listeners, while one woman lifted her head from her card game to chime in, “We don’t want to give it to Verizon either.”

As for health care, McMahon assured his listeners that he would not support a bill that would negatively impact elderly constituents in the 13th C.D., which includes a swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge through Gravesend and Bensonhurst, as well as all of Staten Island.

Why? His parents are in their 80s, McMahon said, and he hears from them what their concerns are.

As of now, McMahon stressed, the health care legislation being developed in Washington is in flux. “I’ll be back to talk to you before any vote,” he promised, urging the group to “tell me what you like about Medicare and what you don’t like about it. I won’t vote for any bill that changes what you like.”

The doughnut hole in the Medicare prescription plan is an issue, one woman said. “That’s something we need to work on to fix,” he affirmed.

One man brought up a fear that people would be pushed from private plans to a public plan, should that option be available. “That’s one of the greatest concerns,” McMahon agreed, noting subsequently that an issue, in his eyes, was, with a public option, whether the government would be “just throwing money at a problem or redesigning how we deliver health care.

“We certainly need to reform health insurance, and make sure people can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions or eliminated from their policy because of catastrophic occurrences,” he added.

Though you wouldn’t have known it from the Bay Ridge session, the debate has sparked a lot of angry rhetoric, because of what McMahon called “myths” perpetrated by those who are determined to derail change. “They talk about death panels and nonsense like that,” he noted. “All of that is not true.”

So, why wasn’t there the sort of ruckus that has made headlines at some well-publicized forums?

“People have concerns,” McMahon replied. “It’s important to disagree, but they didn’t all come here with an agenda. They came to have a reasonable and respectful discussion. These are everyday people in an everyday setting, not a small vocal minority seeking to boisterously hijack the proceedings.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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