Hastert holds meetings throughout district

By Markos Moulitsas

U.S. Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill, met with some of his concerned constituents Saturday at the Sycamore Community Center.

Hastert held three town hall meetings throughout his district in order to “hear what people have to say.”

He opened the meeting by defining his position on the health care reform debate. Hastert has been appointed by House Republicans to serve on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Health Care Task Force.

“While the details of the Clinton plan are being worked out behind closed doors and have not been shared with … (Senate Minority Leader Robert) Dole and me, I have met weekly with Task Force Executive Director Ira Magaziner to outline reforms that I believe … can improve American health care,” he said.

Explaining a major Republican objection to the Clinton administration’s likely proposal, Hastert displayed a flow chart taken from the Wall Street Journal.

“There is not much sense or simplicity at all … and there must be a much simpler way of doing it,” he said. Hastert pointed out such complexity would preclude people from even choosing their own doctor, something he deemed unacceptable.

Among possible solutions he cited were “approving 100 percent tax deductibility of premiums for all Americans, allowing the self-employed or small companies to band together in purchasing cooperatives … (and) reforming malpractice laws.”

Hastert pointed out that under current malpractice insurance laws, 25-30 percent of the price of delivering a baby covers the malpractice premiums and during a gall bladder operation, between $6,000 and $7,000 in unnecessary tests are ordered to cover the doctor in case a patient is sued.

Hastert then took aim at the Clinton administration for its proposed budget. Reminding the audience of his promise to cut $2 for every $1 in tax raises, he said under the proposed budget there are $6 in tax raises for every $1 in budget cuts.

“One of the things we won’t want to do, is put so much of the money that we invest to create jobs and drive the economy, and take it and put it in taxes,” Hastert said.

During the closing of the meeting Hastert agreed with public sentiments toward the welfare system’s need for reform and attitudes against the Clinton administration’s refusal to appeal a court decision to allow HIV infected Haitian refugees into the United States.

He acknowledged these refugees would soon be drawing welfare, and the taxpayers would eventually have to foot their HIV-related health costs.