08/23/09 — Read their signs ... 'no' to government

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Read their signs ... 'no' to government

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 23, 2009 2:00 AM

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Frank Drohan, left, addresses a crowd of close to 100 people who attended a Saturday morning rally in downtown Goldsboro to protest the federal health care reform bill. Along with voicing opposition to the bill, several people expressed fear that the government is attempting to exercise too much control over people. Some people did speak in favor of the bill.

A crowd of about 100 mostly white, mostly older and retired people, including many from the military, gathered early Saturday morning in downtown Goldsboro to protest the federal health care bill.

The health care bill wasn't the only target -- many expressed fear, anger and frustration over what they see as an out-of-touch government trying to exert more control over the people whose best interest it is supposed to be looking out for.

Saturday's rally was fairly low key after a few tense moments early on when two men, one black, one white, stood nose to nose before cooling down and backing away. Police were not on hand at that time, but arrived shortly thereafter.

While emotions did not reach that fever pitch again, there was some shouting -- some in favor, some in opposition as speakers said their piece.

Those attending were given an opportunity to speak -- the vast majority of whom were against the plan. Both sides agreed that health care needs to be addressed, but were divided over how that should be achieved. It was even suggested local residents might want to carry their concerns to Washington, D.C., possibly by planning a bus trip.

Many held small flags that were distributed as they arrived. Others wore patriotic clothing.

Rally organizer Frank Drohan, president of GOECO, said prior to the rally that residents are not only angry, but fearful.

"This is not a demonstration. This is just to make the citizens aware and mindful of what is happening to our country where there is a lot of turmoil right now," he said. "I think we do need a good medical plan, some kind of reform, but it should be done right. It should not be forced upon anybody and they (Congress) do represent us."

State Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne one of the few local lawmakers present, said he is concerned about how the proposal would affect the Tricare for Life insurance plan for retired military personnel.

"Retired military people should be given the benefits that they were promised," he said. "This (bill) could mean they would have to pay the same extra Medicare premiums as everyone else who has never done anything as far as the country is concerned."

Sager carried with him a letter from woman from the town of Franklin in the western part of the state. She is the widow of a retired veteran who died thinking she was going to be taken care of, Sager said.

"That is what really concerns me," he said. "I am totally opposed to government getting involved and taking care of health care because private industry can do a better job. I am not saying that we don't need to be doing something as far as getting health care premiums down, but that is the wrong thing for the government to get involved in."

People in the crowd shouted out their agreement when Drohan asked if they were fearful.

"How many are fearful of this (health care) document?" he said. "How many of you are fearful of the direction of our country right now -- I am, too."

As Drohan was speaking ,James Williams was in the background shouting and asking the Republicans where they where when a prescription drug plan was "pushed down our throats" and where they were when the country got involved in Iraq.

"Can you believe all these lies," he said. "What about the health insurance companies. All lies. Where were they at when Bush got us in this war? Listen."

"They don't need Republicans, they have enough votes to pass this," Drohan continued.

"Amen," Williams said.

The exchange led to some tense moments as one supporter, Jim Barnwell, rushed to confront Williams. The stare down ended peaceably, and the rally continued.

Drohan said Congress, not the president, can approve any budget it wanted to and that if the president vetoes it, they will pass it over his veto.

"I can't think of any single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to these 545 men and women (in Congress)," Drohan said. "When you grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

"Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to the bureaucrats whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish to lobby us. Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like the economy, inflation, politics that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do. These 545 people, they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power, and they and they alone should be held accountable by you and me and all of the people in this country who are their bosses. I think they have forgotten we are the bosses. We have allowed these people to take over our country and set us against one another by race, economics and religion. This is our country. We are America. The silent majority fell asleep, and you can see what happened."

His comments were greeted by applause and shouts of support.

Williams said "everybody out here knows what people control health care -- they are the insurance companies."

He said he suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes. He also is a cancer survivor. Because of the cancer, the insurance company wanted to "cut him off."

"You can't blame everything on the president and Congress," he said.

Some military retirees said they had served in England and had experience with that country's socialized health program and did not like the experience.

"It did not work there, and it will not work here," Barnwell said.

He added it will mean the government, "taxing the hell out of you."

"Those retired military know that what the government promises and what they keep are two different things," Dr. Jim Atkins said. "So we have to be aware that what the government promises us today may not be what the government gives us tomorrow. Do we need reform? Yes we do. I need to be allowed to give patients certain drugs that your last name does not have to be Gates or Rockefeller to pay for."

Atkins said some drugs for cancer patients can cost $9,000 a month.

"That is ridiculous," he said. "Who is making the money on that? Not me. Yet, we have some of the best drugs in cancer therapy that we have ever had."

He agreed that some form of catastrophic insurance is needed so that people do not lose their house or car or destroy the financial structure of their family

"But I do not think we need what the government is doing," he said. "I do hope the grassroots effort will move forward. If you don't speak up, you will get what they give us."

Nurse practitioner Phyllis Merritt-James quoting from a song said, "I need you, and you need me."

However, she still was the subject of catcalls as she expressed her supportive views on the bill and state of the health care system.

The bill, she said, would not take way anyone's choices. It would, she said, help catch those who fall through the cracks -- including the gaps in Medicare.

People have different options and that will continue under the proposal, she said.

Former medical administrator Bob White said the bill is actually one of five bills spanning more than 1,000 pages. It is made up of a lot details that individually might not mean a lot, but put together, are catastrophic, he said.

He said he had been told that more than 50 percent of the savings the bill claims to generate would be taken from Medicare.

It will, he said, take money away from specialists, the people who actually cure people, and transfer it over to doctors who are supposed to be engaged in identifying problems and preventing them.

Gail Ward said she had read that 47 million people lack health care. About 12 million are illegal aliens and many others are young people who think they "will live for ever" and don't want insurance even though they can afford it.

Ms. Ward said she cannot comprehend the trillion dollar price tag and that she didn't think those in charge could either.

"I think we would all agree our health care system as it is has problems," veteran Dave Galloway said. "I don't think any of us disagree with that. I think a lot of us would think that the government does not have any business running our health care system. We need to work out problems and make it better than it is now. I just think the way we are going about it now is not the right way."

Galloway encouraged those in the crowd to write their representatives in Congress.

After the rally Atkins said he had been pleased with the turnout -- and the discussion.

"People were able to voice their opinions, and I think it was good," he said. "This kind of information needs to get out. We all need to be aware. Knowledge is power."

The problem with the bill is that it is hard to understand, which makes it even more important for citizens to share their understanding of its provisions.

"What I see is a bill to allow people to get in line for health care," he said. "I don't see it as a bill to allow health care, only to get in line. The bill, the way it is written, there will be an increase in the shortage of physicians.

"We do need reform, but we need to make sure that our people in Congress reform it in a way that will be beneficial for everybody. To pass something quickly, this is not a bill that should be passed over a period of 30, 60 or 90 days, this is a bill that should need to have people have serious input and thought into."