By Erica Schroeder
Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, attended the Del Mar-Solana Beach Optimist Club meeting last Wednesday as a guest speaker and engaged the club in a question-and-answer session in which debate quickly erupted over the prospect of a federally funded health care system.
"I'm in favor of looking at portability ... more cost-effective quality control ... and prevention in any health care plan," Bilbray said.
He said the priority should be improving any healthcare system, be it the existing system or one of the proposals facing Congress, by allowing for state-to-state and job-to-job portability. He also said doctors should be liable for providing better care, regardless of the patient's health care plan.
One concern voiced by some at the meeting is that taxpayers would foot the bill for people who need care because of unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Bilbray said he is not concerned about that happening under a federally run system.
"If we start paying the bills we have the right to tell people what to do," Bilbray said. He said he believes that people using a federally funded health care plan should be held accountable for unhealthy lifestyle choices they make, such as smoking and drinking heavily. He said this would help to lessen the future fiscal impact on a taxpayer-funded plan.
Many in the audience grew frustrated with some of Bilbray's responses. Some attendees said he wasn't being direct in answering their questions or showing that he understood the heart of the issue.
"Bilbray never once referred to the millions of Americans who are suffering without health care," Marilee McLean said. "He seems very detached from the segments of our population who are dying because they don't have the proper care or who have gone bankrupt because of a serious health problem that led to exorbitantly expensive medical bills," she said. McLean is part of Organizing for America's Health Policy Team in the 50th District.
Bilbray did not show support for the current reform bills on the table, but also did not offer any other possible solutions. The congressman offered more anecdotes and personal stories than facts or answers.
Bilbray also talked about the current state of affairs in government from his perspective, touching on the recent government bailouts and environmental concerns
Lastly Bilbray responded to the frustration felt by attendees with the lack of action by the federal government. "There is a real credibility gap between what Washington will say and will do," he said.