Candidates for US Congress debate healthcare, law in Vero Beach

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Four candidates running for seats in the US Congress spent Tuesday evening fielding questions regarding Obamacare – known as the Affordable Health Care for America Act – and debating the role of the federal government in medicine in front of a 70-member audience at the Vero Beach Elks Club.

The recently-formed Association of Medical Professionals held the candidate forum as a way to help educate the public on the candidates and healthcare issues.

“I’m very pleased,” said organizer Rosemarie Frigerio of how the night’s event turned out. She said she hopes to hold other such events in the future.

Candidates who attended included current Sebastian City Councilman Richard Gillmor, former US Representative Dave Weldon, Shannon Roberts, and US Representative Bill Posey’s campaign manager Amber Frisco.

Gillmor and Roberts are running for Posey’s seat in the District 8 US House of Representatives. Gillmor has filed as an Independent, while Roberts is a Democrat.

Posey declined to attend, sending instead his campaign manager, who read his responses to the provided questions. Frisco explained that Posey had to be in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening for a few votes.

Weldon is running for US Senate. He was the only Senate candidate to attend the forum.

The candidates were asked a range of questions, though none were asked the same question. The questions included their thoughts on whether or not the Affordable Health Care for America Act – Obamacare – should be repealed in its entirety, whether they believe Medicaid and Medicare should be replaced, and if they agreed with a push to put all medical records into one centralized database.

“I thought it was interesting and informative,” said audience member Martha Barrett, who attended the forum with her husband, Ed, and their friend Mary Grace Hektner.

Hektner agreed.

Ed Barrett said he believed Weldon and Posey’s representative performed well, but criticized Gillmor.

“It was embarrassing to me,” Barrett said of Gillmor speaking on the Affordable Health Care for America Act but admitting he hadn’t read the entire 2,700-page bill. “How can you speak on it?”

All three agreed that by the time the forum ended, they had a better idea as to who they would vote for come the election.

“They cemented it,” Ed Barrett said of the candidates.

Gillmor was the first to address the audience. He was asked if he would vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care for America Act in its entirety.

Gillmor said he would not support a full repeal of the law.

“There are some good parts in the bill,” he said, explaining that he thought the law was right to protect those with pre-existing conditions, eliminating coverage caps and extending the age of dependent coverage to 26. “We should keep what’s good.”

Weldon was asked if he agreed with proposals that would increase health care coverage by expanding the Medicaid system.

He responded, saying that Medicaid had been designed to help the poor, but as much as 26 percent of the funding in Florida is used to pay for longterm care for the elderly – paying for retirement homes.

“There should be a different way to do that,” he said.

Weldon added that community health clinics could be used to serve the poor and have a history of being more cost efficient and, as non-profits, could receive revenues from donations rather than tax dollars.

Roberts was asked if she would favor a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget except for during times of declared wars.

She said she would not favor such an amendment. Roberts explained that a mandated balanced budget would limit the country’s ability to find constructive solutions to various challenges.

“It really does tie our hands with progress,” she said. Forcing a balanced budget could mean cuts to “investments” such as infrastructure, education and research and development, she added.

Posey’s representative, Campaign Manager Amber Frisco, read his written responses to the questions posed.

One such question pertained to placing all medical records into a single database.

Frisco said Posey’s response was one of opposition – that putting all records into one database would jeopardize people’s medical privacy. He pointed to issues of cybercrime and attacks on bank records.

The forum’s host, the Association of Medical Professionals, consists of both health care professionals and the general public. For more information about the organization, visit www.AMPforHealth.com, email ampforhealth@gmail.com, or call (772) 234-3883.

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