While U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers travels across Eastern Washington discussing health care reform, one of her only stops in Spokane was a closed affair Wednesday in a Browne’s Addition church with invited members of two special interest groups.
Across the street in Coeur d’Alene Park, nearly 200 people, organized by MoveOn.org, rallied in support of a public health care option that McMorris Rogers opposes.
“It is the biggest leverage we have to change private insurance practices,” one of the demonstrators, Hope Busto-Keyes, a family nurse practitioner, said of the public option, a proposed government-run insurance program, like Medicare, that would be open to anyone.
Busto-Keyes said she and her physician husband, both in private practice, pay about $1,300 a month for health insurance.
McMorris Rogers spoke at All Saints Lutheran Church to about 50 people representing the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and the AARP, the national advocacy group for people 50 and older.
Although the media were not allowed to attend, a few people who did said afterward that health care was the primary topic of discussion and that a woman in the audience who spoke in favor of the public option received the loudest applause.
One MoveOn member, Cynthia Hamilton, questioned why McMorris Rodgers would not hold an open meeting in the biggest city in the 5th Congressional District.
“I think she’s nervous about it. Everything on her Web site is right out of a Frank Luntz memo,” said Hamilton, referring to the conservative political consultant who has advised Republicans how to fend off Democratic health care reform.
In a news conference after the meeting, McMorris said she favors health care reform but not government-run health care, which she believes would result in people fleeing private insurers by the millions.
She said the Democrats are offering a “one-size-fits-all” plan that would come at the expense of Medicare.
As far as the 47 million uninsured in America, McMorris Rodgers said that number includes illegal immigrants and 18- to 35-year-olds who can afford insurance but just don’t bother.
One of those who attended the McMorris Rogers event was Susie Seher, of Colbert, who recently lost her job with a small Spokane business that did not provide health insurance for its employees.
Seher said even after being laid off she managed to afford catastrophic insurance coverage for $175 a month. But after Group Health raised her rates by 43 percent, she had to drop it. Now she’s uninsured.
“That’s why I want a public option,” she said.
In a meeting with The Spokesman-Review editorial board on Wednesday – her other Spokane visit – McMorris Rodgers said she is often asked about health insurance provided to members of Congress. The federally funded system offers several choices. McMorris Rodgers chose Blue Cross/Blue Shield and pays $400 monthly for health coverage and another $200 monthly for dental and vision care. She said she actually received better coverage when she was a member of the Washington Legislature.
McMorris Rodgers offered no prediction on what Congress may eventually do about health care reform, but she acknowledged the confusion.
“It’s impossible for anyone to know everything,” she said. “There are so many versions.”