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Health Debate Heated But Civil At Cleaver Coffeehouse


Lee's Summit, MO – Local town hall meetings across the country are becoming a flashpoint in the national debate on health care. In St. Louis last week, Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan held a forum on Aging, but it ended with six arrests and one person going to the hospital.

That type of turmoil wasn't the case in Lee's Summit this weekend, where hundreds of people attended Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver's monthly coffeehouse event. KCUR's Elana Gordon has more.

Individual meetings are the typical format of Cleaver's coffeehouses, but many people didn't get a chance to talk with the Congressman because of the high turnout. Still, most stuck around anyway to express their views on health care.

Keith Baze stood outside the coffee shop chanting "Kill the Bill" with some people. Baze says Congress is moving too fast in developing legislation, and not doing enough to reduce government waste.

BAZE: "I believe everyone should have some sort of health care. I have a daughter who's disabled, so I understand that. But I think there's got to be some sort of common sense to the program they put in place, and it's not a rush to judgment."

Jacquee Gafford was one of the first people to speak with Cleaver. The former Obama campaign volunteer says the current health care proposals, though not perfect, are an important first step. Gafford says that's in part because she worries about how right insurance is currently able to change without notice the types of medical supplies it covers.

GAFFORD: "I have a condition that causes me to have large sores and the insurance company at one point would pay for bandages because these wounds have to be covered. And they simply decided to that they were going to drop that service."

Exchanges between people were at times heated, but remained pretty civil. Cleaver offered few words to the crowd as a whole about health care, but emphasized there's no official bill in the house right now.

A few days earlier, Cleaver fielded questions about health care through a tele-forum with more than 5,000 residents tuned in by phone from the Independence area. He says he may do another forum like that in the future.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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