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Healthy Debate

Focus on health care as 15th Dist. Congressman Tim Johnson holds town hall in Pontiac.
/ Source: WEEK-TV

A large crowd of people gathered outside the Pontiac City Hall this evening, hoping to get a seat front row and center for a town hall meeting held by Congressman Tim Johnson.

More than 200 people from as far away as Urbana crowded into a stifling room- their number one concern? Healthcare reform.

"We do not want it changed, we do not want forced into anything, we do believe in the American way and we believe in freedom of choice"said one Pontiac resident.

Mayor Bob Russell said, "I think that the government can't do anything as well as private industry can do it. Every time the government tends to get into things, they tend to mess it up".

Although this meeting wasn't as contentious as others taking place around the country, tensions flared when one man tried to engage in a discussion with Congressman Tim Johnson. Johnson responded saying, "I'm not here to debate you, you asked me a question, I'll respond to it, but this is not a back and forth debate".

The majority in attendance seemed to be against healthcare reform, but Judy Henderson who has a 34-year-old son with severe disabilities says her family is in dire need of a national option.

"He's been in and out the last month to the emergency room because that's the only place we can take him since he has no insurance, the hospital will give him a charity application".

And Johnson assured her and others, while he is not for the reform that the Obama administration is backing, he does believe reform is necessary.

"There's going to be massive tax increases not only for higher income Americans, but for middle class Americans",said Johnson.

And amidst concerns that republicans aren't coming up with other solutions to the healthcare discussion, Johnson says they're outnumbered on the hill. "At the end of the day this bill is going to be passed with no input from the minority, no opportunity to amend it, no opportunity to be heard on it, no opportunity for committal or otherwise".

Though healthcare was the main topic tonight, people did ask questions regarding education, lawmaker salaries, and the cap and trade bill.