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Get ready to rumble: health care meetings in SLO 

Across the country, as members of Congress have held town hall meetings on health care, the events have turned into cable-news-friendly flashpoints over President Obama’s reform plans, with organized opponents and supporters competing for attention.


Now SLO County will get its own moments in the spotlight, with both of its U.S. representatives holding upcoming meetings on the topic.


Democratic Congresswoman Lois Capps of Santa Barbara is expected to hold a public meeting in SLO County to discuss the federal health care bill she helped author, although she hasn’t announced where and precisely when it will occur.


Capps, who is one of three nurses in Congress, has made health care a major issue in her political career, but critics recently picketed her Santa Barbara office because she hadn’t held a town hall meeting. A spokesman for Capps said she is planning a public meeting in SLO County during the first week of September, either in San Luis Obispo or Morro Bay. The event will be free and open to the public, with Capps answering questions.


 A spokesman for Capps dismissed criticism over Capps’ participation in the debate, saying Capps has been to more than 40 hearings on the subject, and authored 12 provisions in the current plan. Among those provisions is a controversial abortion amendment that would allow private insurers, working with the government, to provide coverage for abortion procedures, but not allow federal funds to pay for them. There was also an amendment to fund programs that can prove reduced teen pregnancy and STD infection rates. Another measure would call for an update to the Medicare reimbursement system. Under the current system, local doctors are paid at a lower rural reimbursement rate, despite the high cost of living in SLO County.


Bakersfield-based Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, has nailed down plans for his own health care meeting. At 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Atascadero Lake Pavilion, McCarthy will “listen to local residents’ concerns …” on the plan. But it’s clear what McCarthy, a vocal opponent of the plan, expects to hear:


“I am fighting to keep families in control of decisions, not bureaucrats,” he said in a recent statement that also noted media is welcome at the event.

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