Progressives Carry the Day at Loebsack Town Hall Trish Nelson reported from Iowa City, IA, as part of HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Town Hall Watch. You know you're in Iowa City when someone shouts, "Socialism!" and the room applauds. Note to conservatives: Please do not freak out, we were just joking. It's just Iowans' way of injecting humor into a "debate" that has begun to feel like one bad, long, headache. It was surprisingly quiet outside of McBride Hall before the start of Rep. Dave Loebsack's town hall in Iowa City on August 22nd. I saw two pro-health care groups. One group was for single payer, and the other group told me they were a group of UI health care workers, associated with SEIU. Faux hospital shirts with "Every Patient Matters" printed on the front were hung on a clothesline, and anyone could go up and write their health care message on a shirt. The plan was to collect as many shirts as possible with the messages and deliver them to Senator Grassley. I looked around McBride Hall: from my vantage point on the first floor, it looked like there were more pro- than anti-reform signs. There was a pro-health care sign hanging over an anti-health care banner: "Reform Now - Insure People Not Profits." Other signs included: "Senator Grassley - Produce or Retire"; "Health Care - Not War in Iraq"; and "Hands off My Health Care." There was a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, "It's Okay To Be a Christian." The congressman received thunderous applause upon being introduced, and quite a few people stood up. He opened with some remarks and, bless him, actually invited people to share comments as well as ask questions. He gave a brief overview of the legislative process so far on health care. Holding a copy of HR 3200 up before the crowd, he said, "I voted for this bill," which garnered another round of enthusiastic and grateful applause. The congressman shared a thumbnail version of the very basics of the bill. - If you are uninsured, you will have the opportunity to get insurance (applause). - Under this bill, you cannot be denied for a pre-existing condition (applause). - Insurance companies cannot drop you if you get sick (applause). - There will be caps on out-of-pocket expenses, $5,000 for individuals/$10,000 per family and no bankruptcy due to medical reasons (applause). This took just a few minutes, and then he went right to questions. Cards had been handed out and were then drawn by random members of the audience. Loebsack staffers did a very able job of keeping the meeting going in spite of intermittent verbal outbursts from the crowd. (The congressman later said that this meeting had the fewest interruptions they'd seen so far at their town halls.) The audience quickly shushed those who spoke out of turn, but there was still plenty of parliament-style yelling and shouting. The first question was more of a comment, articulated as a concern, basically about abortions and euthanasia. The congressman reiterated that (1) there is nothing in the bill mandating coverage for abortions. He mentioned that there is a lack of information out there and people were hearing things that just weren't true; that (2) there is nothing in the bill that forces a doctor to provide an abortion. The Congressman said the Hyde Amendment, a provision that bans federal funding for abortions, would apply to this bill, and (3) there is nothing in the bill that calls for euthanasia. He alluded to "some politicians out there stoking the fire," but the only thing the bill does is allow doctors to talk to patients about a living will, end of life planning, etc., if patients request it. Rep. Loebsack did point out that the bill, if passed, would not take effect until 2013. There was a lot of applause again when Loebsack pointed out that he was a co-sponsor of HR 676, the single payer bill that he described as Medicare for all. He emphasized that this is NOT a government take-over, that it is publicly funded, but privately delivered. This was when someone shouted, "Socialism!" and the crowd applauded ... then laughed, so chill, conservatives. Someone shared a health care horror story about being denied coverage because her son had a pre-existing condition: acne. Loebsack said simply that the bill he voted for would not allow that. Loebsack described his own health insurance plan, sharing that when he arrived in Congress he had as many as twelve to fourteen plan options. He said that as a congressman, he got a good deal, and that he wants everyone to have at least that good of a deal, and that a public option should be one of the choices. Loebsack said the Congressional Budget Office, which does pretty well at being non-partisan, estimated that by 2019 only 4 percent of the population, or 12 million people, would be on the public plan. He explained that the public option would be one of several options under the health insurance exchange. Loebsack said and that the program would be paid for by premiums and will be self-generating. Loebsack reminded the audience, "Iowa is one of the oldest states in the nation - we are the highest in the country for residents 85 and over - I don't want to take this opportunity away from individuals and families." The congressman thanked the audience for attending, and invited the crowd to give itself a hand for participating in the democratic process.