Cohocton Wind Watch: Health care again hot topic in Massa’s 54th town hall session
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Health care again hot topic in Massa’s 54th town hall session

Hornell, N.Y.

It was a relatively relaxing night for U.S. Rep. Eric Massa.

Fewer than 80 people attended a town hall-style meeting Thursday evening at Hornell High School, a light night in comparison with the crowds of more than 1,000 in other locations in the past weeks.

Massa, D-29 of Corning, took questions for around three and a half hours from the audience.

The only rule for the meeting was having no attacks between attendees because of different ideals.

“I would rather you hold off and direct your frustrations back to me,” Massa said. “I’ve been called a lot of things in the last five weeks. This is my 54th town hall meeting.”

Many questions centered on the health care debate embroiling the country this summer, revolving around H.R. 3200, which proposes changes to the health care system.

But now, Massa said, the debate is being stalled because President Barack Obama will address a joint session of Congress Wednesday to discuss health care.

“What I believe is this is off the table,” Massa said, holding up a copy of H.R. 3200 to applause from the room.

Now Massa said, the best bet for reform is trying to make small changes to the health care system, rather than one big package that could be flawed.

Some proposed changes Massa said he would support include forcing prescription drug companies to competitively bid for Medicare contracts, overturning a law exempting insurance companies from the Sherman Antitrust Act and banning prescription drug advertisements on television.

While some in attendance questioned future reforms including single-payer health care reform — which Massa favors — one person who is used to the European health care system asked Massa to defend it.

Jan Wessel, a Dutch immigrant, said Americans have no idea what European countries have set up for health care, which is often called socialist.

“Why do Congress, like you ... do not dispel the lies or distruths circulating in this?” Wessel said, adding he feels many of the false arguments show “prejudice” against Europeans.

Massa said he has been combating lies by having town hall meetings and showing evidence proving rumors are wrong.

And while the European systems may have flaws, the U.S. should copy one country — Taiwan — for how it decided how to set up its health care system.

“They went around the world, looked at the best of all the systems, and blatantly copied it,” Massa said.

But any solution for the U.S. will be very unique.

“We are so much bigger, we are so much more diverse,” he added.

And there would likely be tough choices coming down the line, like raising Medicare withholdings on paychecks from 1.45 percent to 2.45 percent to cover any shortfall.

“Any politician who sponsored that legislation, they’d be out of there,” Massa said, “but the time is coming to look at hard decisions.”

While health care dominated questions, others focused on the economy, energy and other topics.

Peter Gardner asked Massa if there would be any action to force natural gas drillers on the Marcellus Shale to follow the Clean Water Act of 1972.

The Marcellus Shale, he said, is a natural gas deposit that can only be unlocked by hydrofracking — forcing high-pressure water into the ground to crack the gas pockets. The problem, he added, is hydrofracking uses many toxic chemicals which could potentially pollute underground aquifers and drinking water wells if protections are not in place.

“In New York now, there are no rules about hydrofracking,” Massa said, adding a 2004 bill exempts hydrofracking from the Clean Water Act. “It’s more important that we do it right, rather than do it fast.”

Massa said many times the environment has been damaged because of a rush for development, citing toxic waste at the Love Canal site as an example.

Jim Hall, who has been a petitioner in four failed lawsuits to stop wind development in Cohocton, asked Massa if he would ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate wind development in upstate New York following a $74.6 million stimulus-funded grant for the project.

“This money has nothing to do with creating jobs,” Massa said, adding the government has not been able to spend a few million dollars to finish the Interstate 99 project from Lindley to Presho, “but $74.6 million can magically fall from the sky” for the Cohocton wind project.

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