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Cheers & Jeers: Feingold listens in New Richmond

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A raucous crowd of about 150 people attended Wednesday's "Listening Session" planned by U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in New Richmond.

The health care debate took up the majority of the nearly two-hour exchange, although other issues of concern for those who spoke included U.S. relations with Israel, the climbing federal debt, cap and trade legislation, voter identification and abortion.

Feingold opened the morning session by welcoming the crowd, then adding that there was a "rumor that the subject of health care could come up here." Audience members laughed.

"In fact, health care is the issue that has most come up in the 17 years I've been doing these meetings," he said.

Audience members wasted no time before voicing their opinions on the matter. Some said they oppose government-controlled health care while others applauded efforts to provide a "public option" for health coverage.

While Feingold tried his best to keep the discussion moving ahead and in a civil manner, at times audience members shouted down those who were speaking or yelled out comments while others were speaking.

Ingrid Kizen, New Richmond, spoke in favor of congressional efforts to reform health care. She said the existing federal health plans (including the Veterans Administration and Medicare) work well, so there's no reason to believe a new public system open to everyone won't work.

"I really fear for our democratic system of government," she said. "When the Republican party tries to defeat the President's health reform plan, not because reform is not needed, but only because they don't want a Democratic president to succeed."

Lorraine Goodlad, Star Prairie, refuted estimates that 47 million people are without health coverage due to high costs.

She said included in that number are illegal immigrants and those people who choose not to be covered.

Taking those two groups out of the equation, Goodlad said, that leaves maybe 5 million uninsured in the nation. She said the cost of the current health reform proposal is too high when it only solves the problem for 5 million people.

In closing, Feingold thanked everyone for the "lively" discussion.

"This is actually is democracy and I'm proud to be part of a system of government where this is what we do," he said.

See the attached video. For a complete story, see next week's New Richmond News.