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The $1 trillion health care reform bill that passed Saturday in the House of Representatives did so without the help of Congressman Ben Chandler (D-Versailles).
Chandler was one of 39 Democrats who broke ranks with his party by voting against the measure that was narrowly approved by a 215-210 margin.
Chandler, who took heat from his constituency during Congress’ August recess for not holding health care reform town hall meetings, explained in a statement on his website why he didn’t vote for the measure.
“After hearing from many constituents on both sides, holding meetings throughout the district, and reading a 2,000-page bill which has changed dramatically in the past week, I voted against the bill because I do not believe it is the best course of action for the people of Central Kentucky, specifically our working families, small businesses and seniors,” Chandler said.
“In particular, the cost of this bill for the taxpayer is too high. We already spend more on healthcare than any other country on earth, and now we are being asked to spend a trillion dollars more.”
One Lawrenceburg woman who earlier this year had a sign in her yard that read “Where’s Ben?” said Monday that Chandler had no choice but to vote against the measure.
“I feel he had to, we have hounded him daily,” said Karen Richardson. “We still are going to vote him out. You shouldn’t have to sit on him until he yells uncle, and that is what I feel he is doing.”
Richardson added that because Chandler voted for “cap and trade” legislation supporters say will reduce greenhouse emissions and combat what they claim is global warming, Chandler is far from being off the hook.
“The millions of us in our groups are going to do everything we can and spend every waking moment with that as our goal,” she said. “Our numbers are growing. There is a second Tea Party Express going on now, and Americans are being educated on what they have to do if they want to save their families from being slaves to Washington.”
In an interview earlier this year with The Anderson News, Chandler expressed his concerns about health care reform and urged Congress and the president to slow down.
Despite making numerous appearances in his district, Chandler nevertheless drew the ire of some health care reform opponents, including at a mock town hall meeting in Lexington that featured an effigy of Chandler sitting on a stage.
The setting was mirrored across the nation, as opponents loudly voiced their displeasure with congressmen who did hold town hall meetings on the topic.
At the time, Chandler said he was willing to discuss the topic.
“To be honest, I’m looking for opportunities to have civil discourse,” he said. “That’s where I’m going to be.”
In the statement on his website, Chandler acknowledged the work done by fellow Democrats on health care reform, but said he is worried about the cost and other issues.
“The Congressional Budget Office states that the bill does not bring down the growing cost of healthcare and perpetuates a system that is fiscally unsustainable. I have serious concerns about forcing people to purchase health insurance they cannot afford, especially if we are not bringing down the costs.
“I am also concerned the reform bill would not adequately protect our rural hospitals and our small businesses — the engines of job creation. I have had these same concerns throughout this difficult debate, and in the end, do not believe this bill is the best for the Sixth Congressional District.
“I appreciate the efforts of President Obama and the Democrats to put together a bill which incorporates a number of reforms that are long overdue, including greater regulation of insurance companies, the elimination of lifetime caps on coverage, and prohibiting denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
“There is no doubt that our healthcare system is broken, but I am not convinced that this bill today would lower costs, improve coverage, and maintain quality care in the long term.”
E-mail Ben Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.