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In Dartmouth, Frank defends health overhaul

Associated Press / August 19, 2009

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DARTMOUTH - The recession has fueled skepticism of a proposed federal health care overhaul as people worry about how the government will cover the costs associated with reshaping the $2.5 trillion health system, US Representative Barney Frank said yesterday at a raucous meeting here.

Frank, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, sought to assure more than 500 people attending a rowdy town hall-style meeting in a Southeastern Massachusetts senior center that the average taxpayer would not be hurt by plans currently under consideration in Congress.

Frank said some money could come from a tax hike on people making more than $325,000 a year and clamping down on foreign tax havens used by companies operating in the country.

Pulling US troops from Iraq before the end of 2011, as President Obama plans, also might save money that could be used to fund the changes, Frank said.

‘‘We are still there as referee in an internal fight,’’ Frank said, referring to a power struggle between Iraq’s Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Kurds.

Proposals to overhaul the health care system have generated controversy among Democrats and near unanimous opposition among Republicans. Extra police were assigned to yesterday’s meeting because angry protesters have turned up at widely publicized town hall events held by Democratic lawmakers.

Some of those attending the meeting organized by the Democratic Town Committee of Dartmouth shouted and booed as Frank and others spoke.

Several people wanted to know how the government would pay for the changes without worsening a growing federal budget deficit.

At least two dozen protesters gathered in small groups outside, handing out pamphlets and holding signs criticizing the proposal, Obama, and Frank. Some of the posters read: ‘‘It’s the economy stupid, stop the spending.’’

Audrey Steele, 82, from New Bedford, said she does not want the government to get involved with health care because ‘‘they just make a mess of everything,’’ referring to the $700 billion bailout of financial institutions that was used to pay for lavish conferences and hefty executive compensation.

Others were more supportive.

Dr. Sheila Levitt, a physician from Newton, said she hoped for changes that would support primary care physicians who are not paid as much as specialists. She said some of the rowdy critics at the meeting appeared to be using the same ‘‘talking points’’ as those who showed up at similar meetings around the country.

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