Sessions discusses health care issues at forum

Published 11:58 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ANDALUSIA — U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) listened to a dozen speakers express their views on health care, the president, cap-and-trade legislation, the CIA, individual rights and God during a town-hall style meeting billed as a “health care listening forum” here Wednesday.

About 350 people attended the forum, for which there was heavy security.

Sessions opened with comments about Congress, stating first, “We’re spending too much money.”

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“The U.S. Congress is not able to take over health care and rewrite it in a few months time,” Sessions said. “It is unimaginable that we would have the brain power to take it over and run it in that period of time.

“The great free-market system we have exceeds anything we’re gonna have (from the government).”

Sessions said he opposed the bailout package approved in the Bush administration last fall, opposed the stimulus package approved when the Obama administration took over, and that he has opposed the president’s energy bill, known as cap-and-trade.

“Basically, it’s a sales tax on energy that will have one certain result,” Sessions said. “It will drive up the price of energy for every American.”

The senator said that when the new administration couldn’t get cap-and-trade passed, it moved on to health care reform.

Congress has stalled the reform movement, he said, and now “American people’s voices are being heard.”

Andalusia resident Harry Hinson asked, “Does anybody in Congress or anywhere else understand that ridiculous bill?”

Hinson said he had read portions of the bills and is concerned that in one bill, it states the Secretary of Health and Human Services will write the rules and regulations “for the bill no one understands.”

He also stated that he believes the bill will provide health care to illegal aliens.

Hinson said, “We need to reform Medicare, we need tort reform, and we need some changes in insurance.”

Sessions said, “About a fourth of the people who are uninsured are here in the country illegally. We need to quit rewarding illegal entry (by allowing health care).”

Dr. Ab St. John of Andalusia introduced himself as a retired physician.

“I’ve been a provider and a receiver of Medicare,” he said. “My wife is a pharmacist.

When I retired, I paid $5,600 a year for Blue Cross Blue Shield for my family. Last year, my costs were $13,000, and I don’t know what they’ll be next year.”

St. John said Washington needs to address the cost of health care “for people like us trying to make health care premiums.”

“Doctors do way too many tests,” he said. “I know. I am one.”

He said many of those costs get passed on to private insurance providers.

“We need a bipartisan or non-partisan committee to look at the true costs in the country, and tell Congress what doesn’t work,” Dr. St. John said, “Until we know the problems, it’s a waste of time to propose bills and it could make the system worse.”

Sessions agreed and said that Congress should, “go back, start over, and get expert opinions.

“This is a really complex matter,” he said. “No (health care) bill should pass that doesn’t have liability reform.”

Sessions said experts estimate 5 to 30 percent of the costs of health care could be saved with liability reform.

One person who had a turn at the mike expressed concern about the “so-called CIA investigations.”

Sessions said that the “good intelligence” provided by the CIA is the “best thing we have to protect this country.”

He said he visited with CIA agents in a Middle East country after 9-11.

“They are targets in that country,” he said. “They are soldiers as much as the soldiers who walk the streets in Afghanistan.”

Another man said he believed there is an “anti-God movement in government. What can we do about that?”

Sessions, a Methodist who often references his Sunday School class, said his teacher recently led a study on the Ten Commandments.

“If you don’t believe in God, you don’t believe in truth, I suppose,” he said.

He added that he believes values help people live a rich and full life.

“Dr. Pierce tells me I can’t fix everything and the Lord’s in charge of that,” he quipped.

Another man expressed concern about Obama’s plan to address school children in a television broadcast this month. The White House says the speech will be about working hard and doing well in school, but critics say that the president will try to get children to encourage their parents to support his agenda.

“Our president has surrounded himself with radicals and on Sept. 8, he’s going in to my children’s schools and address my children,” the man said. “We need to get in his way, and put up a roadblock.”

The senator concluded the meeting by saying that Congress needs to “take time, and start back from square one” on health care.

“What has made me feel best is the spontaneous rising of the American people who know in their gut this is not good,” he said. “If we can’t run the post office, they don’t trust us to run health care.”

Sessions, who previously held a similar session in Huntsville, will hold his final forum in Mobile today, Thurs., Sept. 3, before returning to Washington.