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Suspicions About Health Care Predominate at Warner Town Hall

FREDRICKSBURG, Va. — Despite Sen. Mark Warner’s (D) best efforts, his Thursday evening town hall meeting on health care periodically erupted in pandemonium as Virginians unloaded their frustration with the federal government on their freshman Senator.About 1,500 people packed the Fredericksburg Expo Center, with the crowd appearing evenly split, if judging by the signage they carried expressing support and opposition to a health care reform package backed by President Barack Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders.But by far the majority of questions asked of Warner were delivered by constituents resistant to Democratic reform proposals and low on trust for Washington, D.C.And by far, the majority of the cheering and standing ovations were reserved for those questions — and for Warner when he expressed support for conservative ideas, such as including tort reform in any health care overhaul.“I would love to be in a position where I had some confidence with what’s going on in Washington and what’s going on with the Obama administration,— one man said, as a lead-in to his question, adding that “until that day comes— he will not trust the government to overhaul health care.By contrast, when another questioner asked Warner why he opposed a government-run single payer system, there was only a light smattering of applause scattered across the convention center. Warner, a moderate Democrat, said he opposes a single payer system.Warner, at the outset of his 90-minute town hall meeting, called for civility and for people to respect the different opinions that he expected would be voiced. Democratic Members in particular have been assailed by worried conservatives during the August recess at town hall meetings across the country.The former governor and wealthy telecommunications executive laid out his three principles for health care reform: that no bill can add to the deficit, that costs must be lowered, and that the fee-for-service structure governing how health providers are paid must be overhauled.Warner discussed his opinions on what measures should be included in health care reform legislation broadly, but was not specific on some of the most contentious issues dividing Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate.When asked, for instance, Warner declined to specifically express support or opposition to a public insurance option, although he did say he opposes the bill passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July. That bill includes a robust public insurance option.“I’ve got concerns with a lot of the things happening on both sides of this debate,— Warner told the audience.Following the event, Warner told reporters that a lot of distrust with the federal government is driving the opposition to health care reform and conceded that lawmakers are at least partially to blame. But he also credited the discontent expressed during the town hall to misinformation about the proposals Obama and Congressional Democrats have been discussing.Still, the Senator took the heated, political atmosphere in stride.“If you don’t want this exchange, you shouldn’t be asked to be hired for this job,— Warner said. “This is part of it.—

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