Burlington County Times

Adler Defends 'No' Vote On Health Care Reform At Willingboro Town Hall Meeting

Burlington County Times — Saturday, November 14, 2009

BCT staff writer David Levinsky

Congressman John Adler may have voted against a House health care reform bill, but the freshman Democrat says he's confident he'll have the opportunity to vote again on a much improved version of reform legislation later after the Senate votes.

"I'm really hopeful still to vote for a bill that gives Americans the health care system we deserve," Adler, D-3rd of Cherry Hill, said today during a town hall meeting at the Kennedy Center in Willingboro.

The meeting was the first held by Adler since the previous weekend when the freshman congressman broke with his party and voted against a Democratic-written health care reform bill.

The legislation passed, but Adler was one of 39 Democrats in the House, and the only one from New Jersey, to vote against the bill.

Adler defended his vote to the angry meeting crowd, arguing that while the House bill addressed most health insurance company abuses and the need to extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, he felt it did not do enough to control rising health care costs.

"We're not solving the problem if we don't make (health care) more affordable two or five years from now," Adler said, arguing that small businesses will no longer be able to afford to provide employees' insurance if the cost of premiums continues to increase.

"There's a social justice to having access to health insurance and primary care, but there's also social justice to have access to a job. Both are profound," the congressman said.

Nearly all of the several dozen residents that spoke at the meeting expressed support for the House bill, arguing that some type of health care reform is desperately needed. Several of the people in the crowd carried signs with messages such as "Health Care Now!" and "Big Insurance: Sick of It."

"I know that when something is seriously broken the first thing to do is to put a band-aid on and then get to the root of the problem," said a woman from Edgewater Park. "We need a band-aid right now."

"I was around during the Clinton administration when we tried to get health care reform and we got nothing," added a Riverside man.

Mount Holly resident Evelyn Liebman, who is a leader with the progressive group NJ Citizen Action, urged Adler to reconsider his opposition once an expected Senate version is passed and representatives are asked to vote on a conference legislation combining the two chambers respective bills.

"I urge you to reconsider your vote so you will be on the right side of history," Liebman said.

The Senate is expected to begin debating health care reform legislation later this year, and Adler said he believes some of the cost control measures he is seeking will be included in its legislation. He said the expected conference bill will likely come up for vote either in late December or early next year.

"We can still do better at a lower cost," he said.

Other speakers at the meeting reminded Adler that they supported him during his campaign last year because they believed he would support President Barack Obama's reform agenda.

You were one of the first to support Barack Obama, and we looked at you as our Democratic congressman who would vote to make a change," said Rev. Charles Levi Martin of Willingboro. "I love you, but I don't like your vote. You gotta change your vote."

Adler, who is up for re-election next year, said he spoke personally with the president about the health care bill and noted that Obama asked Congress for legislation with a smaller price tag than the House bill's estimated $1.25 trillion cost.

Adler also said he has expressed support for including a government-run insurance option in the reform legislation, commonly called the "public option", and has also voted in favor of Obama initiatives such as the stimulus package, a new energy bill, and stricter government oversight of banks and lending institutions.

"I've been booed at a lot of my other town hall meetings for these things," he said.

One unidentified speaker who identified himself as a North Jersey resident attempted to express opposition to reform legislation, however, his statements were soon drowned out by shouting from members of the audience.

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