Almost 600 crowd Wyden health-care reform meeting

Nearly 600 people came to Medford's Abraham Lincoln Elementary School today to hear Sen. Ron Wyden talk about health-care reform in a town-hall meeting.

Questions from the spirited crowd reflected the range of issues in the national debate about how to make health care affordable and available. The Oregon Democrat said everyone will have to give up something in the effort, which he noted has been a work in progress since Harry Truman was president.

Wyden repeatedly turned the conversation to his own health care reform proposal, the Healthy Americans Act, which has support from both Democrats and Republicans. Wyden acknowledged that even his bill draws the ire of many interest groups.

"Every bit of what I say is controversial," he said. "That's why we've been working on it for 70 years."

The angry outbursts that have characterized many town-hall meetings about health care were mostly absent. People who wanted to ask a question were given a ticket with a number, and a stub with the same number went into a box. Medford School Superintendent Phil Long drew the numbers that determined who asked questions.

Partisans on both sides of the debates cheered or booed when a question reflected their point of view. When one woman demanded a right to ask a question even though her number hadn't been drawn, Wyden said he would not abandon the ground rules for the meeting.

— Bill Kettler

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