JACKSONVILLE, FL --
Despite an apparent bump in the road in President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul, many local residents expect that Congress will eventually pass a health reform package.
In the meantime, local folks are paying attention.
"It will affect absolutely everybody," said Al Cummings of Marietta. "It will affect not only the people who have good (health) insurance now, but those who have none."
Senate Democrats told Obama Thursday to slow down in his push for an August vote, but spoke optimistically of wrapping up the bipartisan bill in two weeks.
An August vote is not likely to happen, the president was told.
"We wasted a lot of time over several administrations and something should have been done about health care a long time ago," Cummings, 78, said. "They've dragged their feet for years."
With a combination of Medicare, a government plan for seniors, and a supplemental private insurance, Cummings feels secure now, but wonders what Obama's plan will contain.
"I have been following it right along, but sometimes it's all too deep for the average person to understand," he said. "They talk in riddles sometimes."
He would like to know exactly what the new proposal will cover and what it will mean to him.
Overall, many are questioning the engineering of House and Senate committee bills on health care that have emerged in recent weeks. Doubts revolve around costs to taxpayers and the reach of government. In the House, moderate and conservative Democrats bucked against legislation written with a liberal tilt by party elders. In the Senate, moderate Democrats are insisting on trying to work out a deal with a handful of Republicans willing to talk.
Cummings has concerns.
"At this point, we don't need to join a government plan, we have a good one with my retirement plan, but what if my company decides they don't have to pay out what we've paid into the plan?" he said. "I'm not quite sure how all this will work out."
Shelley Elliott of Devola thinks she knows what the future holds and she is deeply concerned.
Elliott, 55, fears that the Obama health plan will go the same way as health coverage in England, where many close relatives live.
"I am watching it closely and I am worried," she said. "My family is from England and I've lost several very close relatives to heart disease and cancer because their treatment was delayed. They were on a list and it takes forever to get in. That is fact."
Elliott, who has dual citizenship (she was born in the U.S.), said she has relatives who have been told by the system, "You are older and you can wait."
"A necessary drug might be too expensive or certain tests people need are not allowed because of age - you are either too young or too old," she said. "My relatives cannot believe that Americans would let this happen."
Elliott wants fellow Americans to pay more attention to the Obama health care plan - look at the facts, and read information about it, before making a decision.
"We've got to stop it," she said. "For some reason, nobody is believing what they are told by people from England and Canada about their health care system. Nobody is paying attention."
When you are 20 years old and never sick a day in your life, you might not think health insurance applies to you.
Tyler West, 20, of Little Hocking was of that mindset until he was admitted to the hospital recently.
"I don't have health insurance," West said. "It's too expensive for me with all my other bills to pay. I did go to the hospital because I was sick and it's pretty pricey."
He ended up with a payment plan to the hospital to meet his obligation.
West expects a government health care plan would work for him.
"It all depends on the price," he said.
Retired physician Russell Schreiber of Marietta said America needs to look at what's worked and what has not worked in other countries to craft a comprehensive health care plan here.
"We should follow the lead of other industrialized nations," said Schreiber, an Obama supporter. "We should take a world view."
His daughter recently gave birth in a New Zealand hospital, a country with full government health care. Attention to both mother and child was excellent, Schreiber said.
"It did not cost her a penny," he said.
Maureen Olander, 54, of Devola, is an ardent supporter of the president's health care initiative and the legislation can't come soon enough for her.
"The state of health care in this country is a national and international disgrace," Olander said. "It doesn't cover the people who need it. I hope it does go through this summer - if not in August, then in September."
Olander said her two adult children, 22 and 25 years old, are currently not covered by health insurance.
"Once they graduate from college, they can no longer be on our health insurance and even with their jobs, they can't afford the premiums," she said.
Olander said sometimes she feels guilty that she and her husband have good health insurance when so many others, including their children, do not.
"I encounter this every day in my office," she said. "I want a public alternative. It's important. If this doesn't go through, there will be a huge price to pay."
She doesn't know the details of the Obama health plan, but she supports it, regardless.
"I trust President Obama," Olander said.
In the midst of a family health care issue now, Robert Davis, a retired engineer and teacher, let his supplemental health insurance go. He and his wife have Medicare coverage, but the added coverage is too expensive, he said.
"My supplemental skyrocketed in the past two years," Davis said. "I dropped it and I am paying out of pocket for my wife's health care needs."
He is paying close attention to Obama's health proposals.
"I voted against him, but I decided to let him have a chance to prove his point," he said. "Now, I don't think that he has the depth of experience and knowledge someone should have to be president."
Davis is concerned about the price tag of the current legislation - trillions of dollars, he said.
"I agree that everybody ought to be entitled to health care, but I don't think that this country can support it," he said. "It will be a matter of raising taxes on everyone."
This former International Telephone & Telegraph engineer, who returned to Marietta from California for retirement, does not believe the health plan in its current form stands much chance.
"I don't think it will fly at this point in time," Davis said. "There may be some compromise as time goes on. I certainly hope so."
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