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Capito hears an earful during stop at area medical center

April 15, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito got her share of advice and questions Monday when local residents packed the lobby of a local medical center to vent their frustrations about several issues, including the cost of prescription medicine and their inability to get medical insurance.

Much of the concern at the meeting at the Shenandoah Valley Medical Center focused on how senior citizens are dealing with high medical care costs, but John Restaino said many "working poor" face the same problems.

"No one's talking about it. It's all about seniors. Where's the leadership? There is none," Restaino said.

The appearance by Capito, R-W.Va., at the medical center on Shepherdstown Road came at the beginning of the congresswoman's yearlong tour of health-care centers to learn about constituents' top health care concerns.

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One woman, who declined to give her name after the meeting, said it was typical for insurance companies to turn down prescription insurance to people after their retire, especially if they have a medical history.

The woman told Capito she is paying about $1,000 a month for prescriptions for herself and her daughter.

"You can't pay for insurance. You have no security," the woman said.

The woman and others said it is not fair that Americans are being forced to pay high prescription medicine costs while the same medicines are significantly cheaper in some Asian countries and Canada.

Capito assured those in attendance she would look into some of the issues discussed.

"Obviously, I've got my marching orders for today," Capito said.

Capito sympathized with the people's frustration over prescription costs and said senior citizens are "really getting gouged in a lot of cases."

Capito said she supported a proposal in Congress for the "re-import" of cheaper drugs from countries like Canada. But she said the effort failed because there was concern that authorities would not be able to track a batch of bad medicine from a foreign country under the proposal.

Capito said she expects the bill to come up for consideration again and plans to support it.

Capito said one reason prescription drugs are more expensive in the United States is because there are more safeguards on the medicine.

The response from the crowd was one of skepticism.

Speakers covered a variety of issues, raising concerns about military spending and recent actions by President Bush.

Capito tried to assure the crowd that their Social Security is safe.

Denise Leith of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said it "took my breath away" when Bush cut the veterans budget by $15 billion after the start of the war. Leith said she could not believe the cuts were made, especially when some in Washington turn around and say, "Oh, we're so proud of them and we're going to take care of our GIs."

Vince George said cutting taxes and increasing military spending is a dangerous trend.

"We are having deficits larger than any we saw in the Reagan years," George said.

Capito started the day holding a similar meeting at the Mountaineer Community Center in Paw Paw, W.Va., in Morgan County.

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