MINNEOLA — A capacity crowd kept the shouting to a minimum Monday at a health care forum sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, who received a standing ovation as a vocal foe to President Barack Obama's reform plans.
In ardent language, the Brooksville Republican and a panel of health care professionals disparaged the Democratic-led proposals, warning of massive cuts to Medicare budgets, rationing and lower-quality care.
"I think everybody agrees that changes do need to be made to our health care system," Brown-Waite said in her opening remarks. "But I think instead of reinventing the wheel, we should focus on parts of our system that actually need fixing.
"From the very beginning, I have said I think we need to fix Medicare first … before providing additional entitlements."
The mostly gray-haired crowd of 650 filled the council chambers and an adjacent gymnasium at Minneola City Hall in Lake County that sits on the edge of Brown-Waite's sprawling eight-county district.
The audience applauded loudly as she promised to protect the relationship between doctors and patients and booed when a questioner suggested a single-payer plan.
The rancor that has marked meetings like this around the country was absent Monday in part because of steps Brown-Waite's staffers took to control audience participation.
The staff collected written questions in advance and screened them, and then the representative read them aloud.
Some of the answers fed on the growing uncertainty about provisions in House Bill 3200, which Brown-Waite voted against, particularly concerns about illegal aliens and the government's ability to manage such a program.
Brown-Waite warned that a public option would lead people to lose their current coverage when private insurers dumped them into the new system, disputing Obama's promise that people would be able to keep their insurance if they want.
"We are being told if you like it, you can keep it," Brown-Waite said. "But that isn't going to be the case."
Answering one question, Brown-Waite refuted persistent rumors that the government would sponsor "death panels."
"That is not in this bill," she said.