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Foster talks reform: Congressman has eschewed town halls for 3-minute, one-on-one chats

DIXON – U.S. Rep. Bill Foster said Monday that he supports a public option when it comes to the ongoing debate on health care reform.

During a brief visit to KSB Hospital, Foster, D-Geneva, spoke in support of the public option because it would make sure there is competition for insurance companies, some of which control up to 90 percent of the market in some states, he said.

“I think, in principle, it’s a good idea in many places, especially in states where there is effectively only one insurance company,” Foster said. “The reason you do it is only to save on consumer cost.”

He does think individual states should be able to decide whether to have a public option.

Foster has avoided holding town hall meetings on health care, preferring to have brief one-on-one sessions with constituents for 3 minutes at a time.

“I get to have a personal conversation with people,” he said. “I think I learn a lot more in that venue. You don’t have people grandstanding for the camera.”

Foster plans to hold a telephonic town hall meeting, but has yet to schedule a date, said Dan McDonald, the congressman’s deputy communications director.

To help pay for the health care reform, Foster said, he favors raising taxes on the richest 1 percent of taxpayers to the levels seen during the Clinton presidency, as opposed to taxing employee-based health benefits.

Insurance rates could go down if everyone has insurance, Foster said. Expenses charged by hospitals have to be higher than their usual cost because it helps cover those without insurance and who don’t have the money to pay for care, he said.

“This is a complicated problem we’re trying to address,” Foster said. “We have to be careful when we solve the problem of pre-existing conditions and people that are uninsurable. We don’t [want to] damage the parts of the system that are working well.”

Three House committees – Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor – all have passed versions of the heath care reform bill. Foster does not serve on any of those committees.

Democratic leaders are working to combine those versions into one that Foster said, he hopes to “start digging my teeth into and forming an opinion on.”

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