Citizens opposed to pending health care reform bills may be shouting down some congressmen, but it was a different scene Monday in Canton, Ohio, where U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, and those who have demonstrated recently against his votes in Congress talked out their differences.
Citizens opposed to pending health care reform bills may be shouting down some congressmen, but it was a different scene Monday in Canton where U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, and those who have demonstrated recently against his votes in Congress talked out their differences.
Boccieri invited seven “Tea Party” activists who are opposed to Democratic health care proposals in Congress to a 90-minute meeting with him to discuss the issue in his district office.
One of them was Dianna Greenwood, the executive director for the Ashland-based group New American Patriots. She had led a “respectful” protest of about 24 people more than two weeks ago against Boccieri’s positions on the stimulus and cap and trade bills. They demonstrated at the Ashland site where Boccieri attended the groundbreaking for a new Barbasol shaving cream plant.
But by the time the meeting Monday concluded, her tone had softened despite their “fundamental differences.”
“He was very open. More open than I thought he would be,” said Greenwood, “He gave us more time than we thought he would. ... (And) he’s a much more informed congressman than congressmen I’ve worked with in the past.”
“I think they’re good and decent people,” said Boccieri. “They care about the direction of their country.”
Jason Wise, the Canton Tea Party organizer who attended the meeting and organized a mass protest against Boccieri in July, said that while “it was nice he had a chance to sit down with some of the constituents,” Boccieri tended to give a “canned answer.”
Wise added, “He says we currently have an inefficient system, but how can the government make anything efficient?”
“I disagreed with him,” Boccieri said Monday evening, as he traveled to meet with doctors of the Stark County Medical Society in North Canton. “I’m not a government hater. The government provides for our national defense. The government provides for clean water. ... the government has the constitutional authority, it’s enumerated, to regulate commerce.”
Wise, who said he owns a trucking business in Cleveland, said he told Boccieri that he couldn’t afford to buy health insurance for his eight employees because corporate taxes are too high.
Jim Woods, of Medina, the founder of the “conservative grassroots” group Medina County Friends and Neighbors, called it a “cordial dialogue,” but he wishes there was more discussion on how Congress was going to finance subsidies to help low-income people afford health insurance. Calling the proposed legislation a “bad bill,” Woods was dissatisfied with Boccieri’s answer that the costs could be entirely funded by reducing waste in the health care system.
Greenwood said she and the congressman discussed malpractice tort reform, health savings accounts, excessive government regulation, encouraging people to take responsibility for their health, the use of co-pays and deductibles to discourage people from seeking unnecessary treatment and the inability of health insurers to compete across state lines.
Boccieri said caps on malpractice awards in Ohio have not held down health care costs, he supported the use of health savings accounts but believes they can’t help someone with a catastrophic condition, and the health care bill would create a public exchange that would allow insurers to seek customers in other states.
During the meeting, eight protesters demonstrated outside against Boccieri’s votes in Congress.
Greenwood said to picket while she and her group was having a dialogue with Boccieri was “counterproductive and rude.”