WASHINGTON -- Rep. Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, made a vigorous ideological defense of ending Medicare as it currently exists, telling seniors at a local town hall that they ought not look to the government to provide health care for the elderly just because their private employer doesn't offer health benefits for retirees.
A Woodall constituent raised a practical obstacle to obtaining coverage in the private market within the confines of an employer-based health insurance system: What happens when you retire?
"The private corporation that I retired from does not give medical benefits to retirees," the woman told the congressman in video captured a local Patch reporter in Dacula, Ga.
"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"
Large portions of the crowd responded enthusiastically to the congressman's barb, with some giving him a standing ovation, underscoring the fierce divisions within the electorate.
William Robert Woodall III, who goes by "Rob," doesn't appear to have been referring literally to himself, but rather speaking figuratively. It's a good thing, because financial records show the 41-year-old congressman has done very little to take care of himself in his retirement. Woodall's 2009 financial disclosure forms, filed with the House of Representatives, show that his two largest IRAs have between $15,000 and $50,000 worth of assets, hardly the type of nest egg that would be able to cover the health care costs associated with aging absent government health care.
Woodall was chief of staff to former Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), a job taxpayers shelled out more than $100,000 a year for in 2002, rising to more than $150,000 in 2009, plus gold-plated health and retirement benefits. Woodall, who has taken his former boss's seat, now makes $174,000 a year with generous benefits.
Another woman at the Woodall town hall told the congressman that it was unrealistic to think that the market would provide affordable policies to the elderly.
"When you become a senior, you will not be created equal when they take away your Medicare," she said.
Another woman told the congressman that Medicare provides peace of mind to her children, who would be on the hook for her care otherwise, much as they were before the social safety net was stitched together.
"I'm fine with my Medicare, and my children and my grand children -- my children especially -- would have a lot of heartburn if they know that I'm not on Medicare, because that voucher is not going to go very far,” said the woman.
Across the country, Republicans have faced hostile town hall attendees angered by the House vote to end Medicare for people under 55 and replace it with a voucher system that would not rise with health care costs, leaving it to cover less and less treatment as the years go on.
Woodall suggested that the woman concerned about vouchers might find the type of health care system she and her children approve of in Canada or another industrialized nation.
"If you want a socialized health care program, there are lots of places to find that," he said. "But, for your children's sake, I beg you: There aren't many places to find the freedom to succeed by the sweat of your brow like we have here.”
"We consider overall the town hall pretty good stuff,” said Jennifer Drogus, a spokeswoman for Woodall contacted by HuffPost. "Folks who were misinformed and guided by the scare politics of the left hopefully left better informed."
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