Worries over the increasing costs of health insurance brought about 150 people out last night to hear three ideas for making care more affordable.
Rep. Beverly B. Byron, who is seeking an eighth term in the 6th District, explained three solutions being considered in Congress.
The town meeting, at Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Junior College,was one of about 200 sponsored across the country last night by legislators seeking input from constituents.
"It's not at all an issuethat will go away easily," said Byron, 59, a Frederick resident.
About 34 million Americans have no health insurance. Twelve percent of Marylanders are uninsured, she said.
"As your elected representative, it's important to me to hear from you," Byron said.
"Tonightyour voices will be heard. My mind is open. I have serious concerns about cost. I have serious concerns about delivery."
She heard stories from people who have lost their insurance or are worried they won't be able to afford care much longer. She heard the frustration in their voices and tried to assure them that legislators are working toward solutions.
A nurse practitioner from Frederick said she struggles every day to provide basic care -- immunizations for children, mammograms for women -- in ways people can afford.
James Rowe of Union Bridge, a state-employed nurse who works with AIDS patients, saidhe sees patients in different counties being charged widely varying prices for the same services.
The "little guys" are suffering, he said. "I see a lot of neglect in the American health care system."
Byron said a combination of the three proposals being considered is needed. The proposals are:
* Medicare for All Health Care -- All permanent residents would be covered by a single public plan that would provide Medicare-like benefits, with a $250 individual and $500 family deduction.
The plan would place limits on out-of-pocket expenses -- $2,500 for individuals and $3,000 for families.
* Employer-Based Health Care -- Employers would provide health-care coverage for employers or would pay 9 percent of their payroll to a public insurance program.
The plan would use the same limits and deductibles as the first plan.
* Fully Public, Single-Payer Health Care -- Out-of-pocket costs to individuals would be eliminated. Comprehensive benefits would include prescription drugs and long-term care without deductibles.
Byron criticized the Canadian health-care system, under which citizens are taxed for health-care services.
"It is a rationedhealth-care plan," she said. "It's a marvelous plan if you're not ill."
Cherie W. Jenkins, a Westminster insurance agent, offered Byron several ideas for reform, including making the public understand that lifestyle choices have impacts on others' health-care costs. "Those who choose unhealthy lifestyles should be expected to pay more for their health care," she said.