Friday, June 5, 2009

Queens Residents Call for Better Healthcare at Weiner Talk by Anna Gustafson -

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Congress should enact sweeping health care reform and cover millions of the country’s uninsured and under−insured individuals, said many Queens residents who spoke at a health care forum held by U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D−Forest Hills) in Forest Hills last week.

“Corporate America is not interested in taking care of us,” Ozone Park resident David Quintana said. “We need mandated coverage.”

Hours after announcing he would not continue his bid for mayor, Weiner sponsored the forum in Forest Hills’ Queens Community House May 27.

Congress returned from a week−long recess Monday, and Weiner said lawmakers planned to begin discussing proposals that would provide universal health care coverage.

“For years we’ve had a weird dichotomy,” Weiner told the crowd of about 40 people. “We’ve had the best health care in the world … but we also have a system that’s left many, many people uninsured or under−insured. We are one of the few industrialized nations with no comprehensive health care coverage.”

According to the 2007 U.S. Census, more than 46 million Americans lack insurance.

Weiner has basically backed President Barack Obama’s proposal to mandate Americans to be insured, similar to how all drivers must purchase car insurance. Individuals would have the option to join a government−run insurance group, which Weiner said would force private insurance companies to provide more competitive and affordable prices.

“What’s going to happen is if you have health insurance you like, nothing is going to change that,” Weiner said. “If you have Medicare, we’ll try to improve that. We’ll get all the uninsured people in a pool and tell insurance companies to bid for their business. We’ll have different plans poor people can choose from, and we’ll give citizens the option to join the plan, like what federal employers have.”

He added. “When someone walks into Jamaica Hospital and they don’t have health insurance, it’s not the Bill Fairy that pays the bill, it’s all of us.”

Forest Hills resident Josephine Donahue, a representative of the AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, said she was especially concerned about residents over the age of 50.

“People in the over−50 group are more likely to be laid off and lose their insurance,” Donahue said. “We want affordable, quality insurance for all Americans.”

Photo caption:
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner speaks at a forum on health care in Forest Hills. Photo by Anna Gustafson

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.