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The Health Care Debate Comes to Queens

It is hard to imagine any place better than Queens to send up a trial balloon on President Barack Obama’s health-care reform. In this borough, registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans and voters here came out in large numbers for Obama last November.

But for the most part, these are working-class Democrats who come down on the conservative side on many issues. If Obama wants his reform to succeed, these are the people he will have to convince.

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner found this out earlier this month when he held town hall meetings in his district, which includes parts of Queens and Brooklyn. The forum in Fresh Meadows got off to a bad start when Weiner aides informed a crew from CBS 2 that they could not cover the meeting at the IBEW. When the congressman arrived on the scene, he reportedly told the crew, “This isn’t for Channel 2. This is for my constituents.”

This is America, congressman. The press plays an important role in the democratic process. We understand that at town hall meetings across America opponents of health-care reform have performed outrageously for the cameras. But that is a risk politicians take when they hold town hall meetings.

Making it clear he stands to the left of the president, Weiner said he favors a government-run, single-payer system similar to the systems in parts of Europe. In both Queens and Brooklyn, he found little support for this concept. Even the president has hinted he is willing to remove the far less-radical “public option” from his proposal.

While we share the public’s skepticism about putting health care totally in the hands of government bureaucrats, we applaud Weiner for holding the town halls and being honest about his position on reform.

We do not presume to know the best answer for health-care reform, but we do know there are thousands, perhaps millions, of people falling through the cracks. There are Americans who cannot afford the care they need for a variety of reasons. We are hopeful that through the dialogue that has begun, their needs will be addressed.

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