Two Fairfax County Forums Present Both Side of Health-Care Debate

Supporters of health-care reform rally at the Government Center. Both sides were represented at forums last week.
Supporters of health-care reform rally at the Government Center. Both sides were represented at forums last week. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)
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By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2009

Northern Virginia residents met last week in Fairfax County at two back-to-back events on health-care overhaul.

Billed as forums rather than rallies, they were notably calm events and offered vastly different perspectives on the proposals, showing just how widely and passionately the region's residents disagree over how to fix health care.

"I read the entire [health-care reform] bill, more than a thousand pages, and it scared the crap out of me," said Scott Lawler of Fairfax, owner of Lightspeed Technologies, a network security company near Dulles. "I would be unable to hire people because of the recordkeeping and bureaucracy required in the bill; it will kill my business."

Lawler attended Tuesday's forum, which was organized by Keith Fimian, a Republican who lost the 2008 U.S. House race to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.).

"Health-care reform, I don't think anyone would argue, is necessary," said Fimian, who has filed to run for the House again in 2010 and who advocated Tuesday for rolling out health-care measures in one pilot state rather than nationally. "You have one-sixth of the economy at stake here. You make a mistake, and you've made a colossal mistake."

Fimian's event at the Fairfax County Government Center barred political signs and slogans. But its bent was clearly toward small government and a free market. It featured three panelists from conservative think tanks: Grace Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, Jim Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Thomas Miller of the American Enterprise Institute. The event attracted about 300 people, many of whom applauded panelists' criticisms that reforms would result in more taxes and less patient control over care.

"This plan is certainly not about health care," audience member David Swink of Vienna said. "It's all about power."

Audience member Michael Freeland of Burke asked panelists whether the insulin pump that changed his diabetic brother's life would have been invented under the current proposals.

"That kind of innovation is going to suffer" because doctors will be rewarded for following government rules rather than creating technologies, Turner said.

Josh Taylor of Gainesville works in construction and said he's healthy and doesn't want to be forced to buy insurance. "I've never been to a town hall; this is a first," said Taylor, 24. "Hopefully we can change [lawmakers'] minds so they can see that the general public is not for health-care reform."

That sentiment -- showing up to sway the congressional vote -- was echoed Wednesday night when the Government Center was again filled with about 300 people, this time in support of the proposed overhaul. Attendees said they wanted to remind President Obama of his campaign pledge to pass meaningful health-care reform.

"I just hope he maintains the intestinal fortitude to maintain what he's promised," said John DeNoyer, 83, of Herndon.

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