Ind. Congress candidates debate health care issues

The “Community Health Care Conversation” was sponsored by Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan and the League of Women Voters for Bloomington Monroe County.

The candidates, who were asked to avoid campaign speeches and distributing campaign materials, included Democrats Jonathan George, Shelli Yoder, John Miller, John Tilford and Robert Winningham.

“We believe that it’s time for the U.S. to create a modern health care system like the rest of the developed democracies and capitalists democracies in the world and create a national health program where everyone is included,” said Karen Stone, the coordinator for community education and outreach for HCHP.

HCHP Director Rob Stone showed PowerPoint slides that compared the amount of money the U.S. spends on health care to how much other democratic countries spend. 

“That’s a really big problem for a number of reasons,” he said. “And that really sets us apart as a nation.”

Audience members were given a chance to write questions on notecards that Rob gave each candidate to answer.

 “This is sort of us coming together when we all have a keen interest in taking care of each other, but then we’re speaking amongst the choir,” George said. “I don’t think it’s a contentious issue with any of us.”

Winningham, who said his family once had a hard time paying medical bills, said, “There’s a certain unfairness that we’re dealing with as a family.”

Yoder, associate director of professional development of the IU Kelley School of Business, said health care is a right and not a privilege and that health care and jobs go hand in hand.

“You should get it as a human right,” Miller said. “That’s where I stand on that. I don’t really feel like government is serving us right at all, and I want to make sure that the congressman we elect in Southern Indiana is going to make a difference and change things in Washington.”

Both Miller and Yoder said people need to fight together to bring change. But Tilford said Congress will not likely pass a single-payer plan.

George said it takes a good leader to overcome failures and setbacks, and he will inspire confidence and winning.

“That comes down to you, folks,” he said. “I don’t want people to talk away from this discouraged, thinking that we’re going to give up.”

The last question Rob asked is why the candidates believe the Affordable Care Act is unpopular.

“I kind of hope it gets overturned, which is probably heresy amongst Democrats,” Tilford said.

Jonathan said the ACA has gotten slammed by people who don’t have invested interested in seeing the health care system changed.

“Change is scary,” Winningham said.

Yoder asked the audience members to close their eyes and say the word “mandate” to themselves and then to say “option.”

“How different that feels,” she said. “You tell people what to do, they don’t want to do it. You give them the option, they like to do it.”

Monroe County Commissioner Mark Stoop said he expected the candidates to insert political statements.

“Overall, they focused on health care,” Stoop said. “I appreciated that they stuck to the message that single-payer is the way to go.”

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