Two Vero Beach panelists address 2,500 at healthcare town hall

By Lisa Zahner

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — More than 2,500 people attended Congressman Bill Posey’s town hall meeting at the King Center in Melbourne to hear a panel of healthcare experts, including two Vero Beach residents.

An Indian River County delegation of about 30 people, mostly members from the Club Change and Tea Party groups, joined the hordes of citizens filled the King Center to fire capacity and spilled over into another hall equipped with jumbo screens to watch the program.After brief introductions, a panel of healthcare providers and administrators, including Don Loftus and James Newbrough, both of Vero Beach, were given a few minutes each to outline the top three things they wanted Congressman Posey and his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to include in (or exclude from) the healthcare reform bill.

Loftus, former owner of Home Instead Senior Care and current CEO of Treasure Coast Community Health, with clinics in Fellsmere and Gifford, spoke about his concerns.

 “I hope you take the composite of this difficult, cumbersome information and make people understand the implications of it,” he said. “Take the time to tell us what you think.”Loftus was booed by the mostly conservative crowd when he described his idea of how the use of electronic data tools could save money and make healthcare more efficient. Upon citing the example of a microchip, similar to those implanted in dogs for identification, the crowd swiftly shut Loftus down.

“I’m suggesting the use of information. If we just use the technology we already have to make the paper part of this easier, that’s all I’m saying,” stated Loftus, in his defense to the angry crowd.

Jim Newbrough, the President and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast, spoke on home health and hospice care. He said legislators would be remiss if they allowed a bill to pass which reduced access to home health and hospice care because those services actually reduce costs and patients’ time in hospitals and nursing homes. He said tens of billions can be saved each year by expanding home health.

“The cuts that are currently proposed in HR 3200 are disproportionate in home health and will reduce spending by 18 percent,” he said. “That would mean reduced revenue of $1 million in Vero Beach alone.”

He stated that not only does the access to home health and hospice care need to be expanded, but the Medicaid reimbursements for it — $31 per visit now — need to be upped as one of his wish list items.

“Expanding the program without increasing reimbursements would be compounding the problem,” Newbrough said.

After the panelists and the keynote speaker, Posey read questions from constituents, which were written on index cards. Many of the questions addressed issues of fairness and the level of commitment Congress has to reforms, up to and including agreeing to adopt as their own insurance plan whatever “public option” is passed, if any. Posey has introduced a bill that would require members of Congress to do so.

Posey explained that there are multiple bills floating around and that a lot may change when members return to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

“In so many cases, we can tell you what’s here now, but we have no idea what the final bill will be,” Posey said as he held up the 1,000-page bill.

The Republican Congressman said he actually agrees with President Obama on one thing, his assertion that people who like their current healthcare will be able to keep it.

“I applaud where the President wants to go, but it does not seem that the legislation is matching where he wants to go,” Posey said.

Posey said he’s answered thousands of emails and letters about healthcare since the issue came to the forefront. He has toured various health facilities, including the Indian River County Health Department, Vero Radiology and the Treasure Coast Health Centers and held a healthcare round table meeting in Vero last week.

Indian River County is on the south end of Rep. Posey’s district and there is no Congressional town hall meeting scheduled in Vero Beach, though Posey’s staffers had said they would try to organize such an event.

Rose Spytek of Vero Beach, a member of the Indian River County Taxpayers’ Association and the IRC Republican Executive Committee, attended the meeting with family members. She said she intends to report back to both clubs about the issues discussed at the town hall. In her personal opinion, Spytek said a period of widespread economic recession is not the time to take on an expensive overhaul of the healthcare system, but she appreciated the exchange of ideas.

“It was very informative and I’m very happy that it was well attended, well organized and it wasn’t nasty in any way,” she said. “It was what it should have been, people were able to ask questions and he was able to answer them.”

A handful of protestors gathered outside the center in the drizzling rain, undeterred by the inclement weather. Anyone waving signs was relegated about 200 yards from the auditorium entrance. Signs were not permitted in the hall for security reasons, so anyone going through the doors was greeted by a City of Melbourne police officer and told they had to either abandon their signs or not enter the hall.

For more information about the proposed health care reform issue or to voice your opinion to the Congressman, contact call Rep. Posey’s office at (321) 632-1776 or go to

Related Articles

Comments are closed.