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Constituents talk Medicare for all at town hall with Congressman Peterson

Congressman Collin Peterson speaks during a town hall event on health care at Horizon Middle School on Monday, April 10, 2017. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 4
Congressman Collin Peterson listens to a speaker during a town hall event on health care at Horizon Middle School on Monday, April 10, 2017. David Samson /Forum News Service2 / 4
Congressman Collin Peterson speaks during a town hall event on health care at Horizon Middle School on Monday, April 10, 2017. David Samson / Forum News Service3 / 4
Congressman Collin Peterson speaks during a town hall event on health care at Horizon Middle School on Monday, April 10, 2017. David Samson / Forum News Service4 / 4

MOORHEAD, Minn. — U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., met with constituents in Moorhead Monday evening, April 10, to come up with a "magical" health care solution during a time when he says the country has never been more polarized .

"I'm here to see if anybody has got the magic solution," Peterson said in front of a crowd of more than 100 people. "If you do, I would love to hear it. We need to do something to help these people who are hurting.

"If we're ever going to solve the health care thing ... we need to get to a point where we have buy-in from both parties," he said. "How we get there, I'm not sure I have the answer to that. Right now it's about as polarized as I've ever seen it."

Peterson's town hall at Horizon Middle School focused on health care in the 7th District, comprised of 38 counties that span western Minnesota from the Canadian border through the Red River Valley and nearly all the way to the Iowa border.

As Congress enters its Easter break, members are setting up meetings in their respective districts. Many members of Congress have dealt with contentious crowds mainly consumed by health care issues at town halls this spring.

At a February town hall in south Fargo, Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., drew a raucous overflow crowd. Although his town hall wasn't set exclusively to discuss health care, the topic dominated an event featuring high emotions and frequent shouting.

It was a different scene on Monday in Moorhead. A calm, collected line formed in the middle of the room as people waited to propose their solutions or express concerns, with many comments receiving applause. There was little to no negativity presented by Peterson or the crowd.

About half of the room raised their hands when Peterson asked for a show of hands how many were on Medicare.

"I'm on Medicare. It works," Peterson said.

Several people suggested the most "magical" health care solution of them all: Medicare for all.

Nicole Mattson, organizer with Indivisible F-M, a national movement with local chapters fighting President Donald Trump's agenda, said that would be her suggestion.

Peterson said there is a bill out there that attempts to achieve just that. But overall, he said he is "very doubtful they are able to put anything together."

What a lot of folks don't realize, Peterson said, is that the U.S. has had universal health care since 1976 when a law was passed that basically said anyone entering an emergency room who needs to get taken care of wouldn't get turned away.

Mattson brought up Peterson's vote against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and asked the congressman what he was against and what parts of it he liked.

"I've been beat up for the last number of years because I would not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act," he said, adding that parts of the program are "good safeguards," including coverage for pre-existing conditions, children staying on their parent's policy until the age of 26 and limiting how much providers can charge.

A bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, failed last month in Congress. Peterson opposed the bill, which was pulled before it came to a vote. He said he thought the bill failed because it was trying to solve a political problem rather than improve care and reduce costs.

Former Concordia College President Paul Dovre told Peterson "our country is hungry for bipartisanship," and that is exactly what the congressman said is needed to find fix issues surrounding health care.

Other ideas suggested to Peterson were dropping Medicare age to 55, focusing on mental health when discussing disabilities and commending the recent changes with MNsure, which Peterson said is the best system he's seen around the country.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyat is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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