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Democrat Mike Thompson Visits Voters in Ukiah, Ca.
North Coasts 1st District Congressional Representative meets with constituents and discusses health care among other local concerns.
1st District congressional representative Democrat Mike Thompson met recently with constituents in Ukiah. People packed the house at the Ukiah Conference Center to standing room only and voiced their concerns. A large portion of the dialogue centered around last years health care reform, called the Affordable Care Act.
The health care plan was forced down our throats," said one man in the crowd, angrily.
"What you're angry about is the BS you heard about the health care reform bill," responded Thompson, who has represented District 1 since 1998. At times he was frank, short, and other times he was clearly politicking.
Trying to appease discontented voters, Thompson said, the health care reform package was "not the bill I would have written had I been in charge," though he later admitted, "I wrote part of the bill."
According to the Blue Dog Democrat, known for fiscal conservatism, the new health care reform package has some benefits. He said, the new bill is more like insurance reform, that health care reform.
"Not only can [insurance companies] not throw you off if you get sick, but 85% of premiums have to go to health care, rather than swell corporate profits," said Thompson.
According to Thompson, insurance companies cannot exclude people with preexisting health care conditions, starting in 2014. Currently children with preexisting medical problems, cannot be denied health insurance. Thompson also said the health care reform act, requires preemptive health care without premiums.
But, the Affordable Care Act doesn't' go far enough for some consituents who want to see congress enact a single payer health care system. Advocates model the concept after medicare-a government run health care program for the poor and medicaid-a government run health care program for the elderly.
"Single payer health care was taken off the table because someone decried 'socialized medicine,'" complained one woman in the crowd. Various other speakers spoke in favor of a single payer health care system, to which Mike Thompson did not directly respond.
Medicare may be the country's most successful 'socialized' health care program. But according to Thompson, congress isn't sold on extending that to the average citizen.
"There wasn't the support to do a public option let alone change to 'single payer' so it was politically unachievable," said Thompson as I caught him leaving the days event.
Thompson said he supports privatized health care. Some of his largest supporters come from the insurance industry-like New York Life Insurance, and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Each group invested $10,000 in Thompsons' campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a congressional and lobbying watchdog non-profit organization, Mike Thompsons largest campaign contributors are the beer, wine and liquor industry, and the health care, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries.
Thompsons other financiers include the labor movement. Unions like Unite HERE and the IBEW, international brotherhood of electrical workers donated $10,000 to Thompson's campaign last year. While a few IBEW locals support single payer health care, the union hasn't made a stance.
Members of the local teamsters union attended the meeting, threatening to shut down Mendocino County's criminal justice court system, due to a proposed 20% reduction in pay from the board of supervisors.
"This will result in a strike by our union and will constitute a serious interruption in the local superior court," warned Mendocino county deputy public defender, Angelina Potter.
The Mendocino County Public Attorneys Association may be the strongest local union. Members of the Teamsters, the association includes public defenders, district attorneys and juvenile attorneys. If the county succeeds in reducing their pay by 20% it will likely happen to other county employees, one public defender told me.
Ominisouly missing from the community dialogue were the wars in the Middle East. While the conversation around health care discussed numbers and the economy, no one mentioned the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and military actions in Pakistan.
According the cost of war.com from the National Priorities Project the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the US more than 1.1 Trillion dollars. The cost to california? 144 billion dollars are going to subsidize wars in the middle east. Mendocino County has lost roughly $250,000 to finance the wars.
While one of his large contributors is the military contractor Ratheon,Thompson says he supports bringing our troops home, when I asked him, what he's doing to end the wars in the Middle East.
"You know what I've done," he replied, "I've voted against he appropriations bill to continue funding that stuff, i think we should get them home. I think we should change this counter insurgency program that we have now to a counter terrorism program, bring our troops home and do that," he said.
While he said he supports ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said little about Pakistan. Thompson, who sits on the house House Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence says Pakistan is in a 'scary situation,' with "nuclear capabilities and a near failed state," he said.