Snowe takes to the street, talks health care

LEWISTON — A "Main Street walk" turned into a Main Street stop for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe on Lisbon Street on Tuesday, as Mainers intent on selling their influential senator on the merits of a public-option health-care plan crowded around her.

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Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Paul Poliquin, owner of Paul's Clothing and Shoe Store, speaks with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, about the current health-care system at Poliquin's store on Lisbon Street in Lewiston on Tuesday.

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Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, shares a laugh with people who gathered on Lisbon Street in Lewiston to talk about the current health-care system on Tuesday.

Instead of strolling down the street as planned, the Maine Republican stayed in one location and engaged in a substantive, respectful back-and-forth on the subject. The exchanges were in sharp contrast to news reports nationally of the angry protests other members of Congress have experienced while home for the August recess.

"That you can stand on the street corner and generate what I think was a very high level of discussion — it was very impressive on their part, and informative," said Snowe, a member of a small group of senators working to craft a bipartisan health-care reform proposal.

Katherine Missal of Woolwich pressed Snowe on several points, including how health care availability would change without a "public option" — a government-run health-care plan competing alongside private insurance.

"We really need a public option, it is the most important thing," Missal said, after telling Snowe that the six months she and her husband spent without health-care coverage was "the most frightening experience for us."

Snowe agreed with Missal that the status quo is unacceptable, but pushed back on the public-option idea.

"I just don't know if that's what our country could digest at this moment, making such a transformational change to our health-care system," Snowe said in an interview afterward. "There's merit to a lot of what they are saying. The question is, can it be accomplished in a different way because of my reservations about whether or not government can tackle this type of endeavor and do it right and well?"

Missal asked Snowe when a plan would emerge from Snowe's committee, and the senator elicited laughter from the crowd when she said President Barack Obama was also curious about that. Though four of the five congressional committees charged with developing a policy have reported out their bills, Snowe's Senate Finance Committee has not.

At the end of the exchange, which had both Missal and Snowe speaking over each other at times, Missal thanked the senator.

"Because the rhetoric out there is so horrible right now towards the representatives and the senators from the people who don't want this to happen, it's important that we let her know that we support all the work she's doing," Missal said. "She's done a lot for the state of Maine and even though she's a Republican and I'm a die-hard Democrat, I still respect her for the work she's done."

Paul Poliquin, owner of Paul's Clothing and Shoe Store on Lisbon Street where the group of about 15 people gathered, said he was sick of the scare tactics being used by both parties to influence the debate.

"Why is it there has to be a party at fault?" he asked. "It's always somebody's fault. Why can't Democrats and Republicans and all of us just work together on a good plan?" He added that he's not concerned about the country's poor or wealthy as much as the "folks in the middle."

"The government will take care of the poor and the wealthy can afford plans, but what about the rest of us?" Poliquin said. "I had a good insurance plan for my employees five years ago, and every year it's been scaled back." 

Poliquin's frustrations stem from the problems she's looking to solve, Snowe said.

"We want to build upon the employer-provided model, but it's got to be affordable, and that's the key," she said.

Snowe said in her more than 30 years of public service, she's come to expect informative discussions with Mainers about issues.

"They are very much engaged in the specificity and the reasons and the rationale for their positions," she said. "They're passionate about what they believe, but they can do it in a very constructive fashion."

rmetzler@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Looks like the Dems are

Looks like the Dems are going to use the nuclear option. All by themselves. Go ahead.

People get the government they deserve.

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

CharlieBrown, Vets rate

CharlieBrown,
Vets rate their health care as far superior to private insurance. If you think its tough for vets use my insurance. Prescriptions are expensive for patented drugs and the list of drugs that can not be prescribed is a mile long.
While no one can say what form the public option will take if any, the current discussions are to model it after the Federal Government employee health insurance. I believe that some differences will exist because employees have different status (labor contracts) than people buying insurance. Still needs to be a lot of discussion on the public option. The hope of everyone who supports Obama is that it will be as close to the federal programs as legally possible.
Jon Albrecht Dixfield

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

skippy, Everything you say

skippy,
Everything you say you want except debtor's prison which we haven't had for 100's of years, is in the Congress' bill. Why would you oppose it.
Jon Albrecht Dixfield

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

Obama derangement syndrome

Obama derangement syndrome much in evidence today.
The elderly have to die because he wants to insure illegals???? This conclusion is simply a lie. No provision requires the elderly to die. The provision that required Medicare to pay for patient requested living will and other end of life consultations has been removed from the bill. The provision was authored by you guessed it a conservative Republican. Illegals are barred from this bill although current Federal law requires that US residents(legal or not) must be cared for. I have been unable to find any references to illegal in the bill. But that's the point there is no change here. illegals are get care now they may get care under the new bill. No additional cost.
"Obama is giving all our money to other countries." Again another completely ridiculous conclusion. The neo fascist right is complaining that he is spending too much in the US. Fact remains only the $787 stimulous bill which is just now kicking in and has stopped the depression is Obama's. The $700 bank bailout was Bushes as well as the $12.8 trillion financial system bailout.
The only thing that susan2 wrote that made sense is the things that everyone agrees to. With the exception of Tort Reform *no one agrees to this) but its necessary and should be part of the health care reform package. Otherwise everything susan2 lists is in the Health Care Reform package of Congress. Does it make sense to so ridiculously attack the President and then write that you agree with his goals on his highest priority? I don't think you understand what's going on.
Jon Albrecht Dixfield

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

It is great that the Senator

It is great that the Senator takes the time and interest to listen to her constituents. Personally I wish the government would keep its hands off my health care. The only thing government should do is to mandate that insurance companies take all applicants and allow the companies to charge more for those with existing conditions. Also, once one buys and maintains insurance they should be guaranteed the right to continue buying same as long as they want regardless of their health. It is only those who chance it and then want to buy in that should be made to pay for their problem. Either having insurance should be mandated or an easier way for hospitals and health care providers to collect unpaid bills must be provided. It may sound cruel, but debtor's prisons of 30 to 40 years ago usually got the scoundrels to pay. We all have to live up to our responsibilities. It is time that people forget about getting someone else to pay their bills and take over their responsibility.

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

Michaud is having a

Michaud is having a telephone town hall on the 26rh I believe.
Jon Albrecht Dixfield

JONATHAN ALBRECHT's picture

The people who want Town

The people who want Town Hall's just want to ambush Sen Snowe so their faces can go on TV. They have no interest in a discuss. No interest in presenting their problems. There only desire is to create the false impression that there is opposition to health care reform. They want to prevent discussion.
Why yell at Snowe? She has and is doing all she can to protect the Health Care industries profits and billion dollar salary packages. I'm sure Govt2big wants his share.
Jon Albrecht Dixfield

DENIS E FORTIER's picture

What she did yesterday was

What she did yesterday was probably far more productive than a Town Hall meeting, because she was getting real feedback from individuals willing to be more respectful in a give-and-take discussion. Bravo to Senator Snowe.

 's picture

Shame on Senator Snowe, as

Shame on Senator Snowe, as Maine taxpayers have a right to meet with her for a Town Hall discussion.

 's picture

Shame on Senator Snowe, as

Shame on Senator Snowe, as Maine taxpayers have a right to meet with her for a Town Hall discussion.

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