Thousands of Minnesotans from around the state took part in a telephone town hall meeting on health care reform Sunday evening, hosted by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
The town hall was intended to give people a chance to ask questions and get information on the health care reform plans being considered in Congress. More than 10,000 people participated in the call, which also included the CEO of the Mayo Clinic and the highest ranking nurse in the federal government.
Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said she supports health care reform that would regulate insurance companies, increase competition, focus on high-quality care and prohibit discrimination against people with pre-existing health conditions.
Callers asked questions about cost containment, pre-existing conditions, Medicare and the "public option" plan.
One caller, Rita from Oakdale, asked whether health care reform will help people who cannot afford health care.
"If the new plan will address this issue at all to help people not have to choose between health and food?"
"Obviously, that is what we are trying to solve here," Klobuchar responded. "It's getting harder and harder for people to afford care and their premiums have been going up. it's a bigger and bigger slice of their family budget."
Small business owners also talked about their rising health insurance premiums.
Klobuchar said it's critical that the voices of small business owners be heard as Congress hashes out plans to overhaul the nation's health care system.
"We've got small businesses struggling to make ends meet. We've got big businesses having trouble competing internationally. So whatever we do has to be meaningful and it has to reduce costs. [It] has to make it more affordable and it has to make it higher quality care for the people of this country. Otherwise we should not do it."
Health insurance premiums have doubled since 2000 and are expected to double again in the next 10 years. Small businesses are estimated to pay 20 percent more than big businesses for employees health insurance.
Klobuchar said a plan that focuses on quality care and payment reform, along with more regulation of insurance companies to prevent discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, will help bring health care costs down over the long term.