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Big crowd for Peterson's town hall forum on health care

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Rep. Collin Peterson
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a DFLer who represents Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, talks to constituents Friday at a town hall meeting in Willmar, Minn.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

Several hundred people turned out this afternoon in Willmar for a town hall meeting on health care reform, called by 7th District U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson -- and some of them were angry about the plans being debated in Washington. 

West central Minnesota residents began showing up for the health care town hall meeting more than an hour before it started. By the time it was underway, there was standing room only and three rooms of overflow space were needed. 

Many of the people who spoke voiced concern about the cost of health care reform. Others said they feared government was trying to take over health care. 

Ron Christianson described himself as a Willmar small business owner.

"I don't believe the present bill is about health care at all. It's about controlling the people of these United States," said Christianson. 

Peterson said he agreed with some critics of the reform proposals. Peterson said it shouldn't take more money to reform the nation's health care system.

"I think that we've got this thing screwed up,  the way we're doing it," said Peterson. "It almost seems like if you put more money in the system without fixing the underlying problems, it's like putting gas on the fire."

But Peterson also challenged the assertion that government can't do anything right. 

He cited Medicare and the VA medical system as examples of successful health care programs run by the federal government, although he criticized disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates which pay Minnesota hospitals less than those in other states. 

Peterson said he believes there is enough money currently in the health system to pay for reform. 

Several people at the meeting did cite the need for changes, saying the current health care system isn't working and needs to be fixed. 

Peterson is scheduled to hold another forum Monday in Bemidji.