Politics & Government

Alaska's Murkowski criticizes health care plan at town hall

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski criticized Democratic plans to change health care before a crowd of hundreds Thursday night at a town hall meeting in Anchorage, while President Obama scrambled more than 3,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., to regain momentum for the effort.

"We can go ahead and promise you a card and say you're now covered. But if we can't give you the care that you need, if you can't get into see a doctor, we can't help you," Murkowski told a crowd gathered at the Dimond High School auditorium.

Almost 700 people jammed the room to talk health care. More listened by speakers in the lobby overflow area.

Most audience members who spoke at the event shared her skepticism of the Obama administration's plan. "Every part of the government I deal with is inefficient down to the post office. Why would we want the government to be in charge of health care in the United States?" said Tom McGrath, to applause.

It was a much different crowd than the town hall meeting on the same subject that Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich held in Anchorage in June. Most of those in that audience indicated they wanted some sort of a "public option" for health care as an alternative to the nation's existing system that's based on private insurance.

Begich defined "public option" broadly, but it's generally considered to mean a government-run insurance plan that competes with private insurers to lower premiums and expand coverage.

People at the Alaska town halls were civil, in contrast to the often-hostile Lower 48 health care town hall meetings, where angry protesters have confronted lawmakers. "I think it's a great thing that Alaskans can come together and we don't look like any other state, yelling, screaming, bickering," Brendan Carpenter said Thursday night.

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