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Political notebook: Johnson: Public needs to be part of health care reform

While some say a public option could be cut from the federal health care reform bills, a local congressman said that is a bad idea.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, who held a public town hall meeting earlier this month on the issue, said a robust public option is the best way to reform "our broken health care system."

"The thing that must be done to reform the health care system is to get a handle on the insurance companies and the massive profits they make," said Johnson, whose 4th District includes parts of Lilburn and Norcross. "More than 70 percent of every health care dollar spent goes to administrative expenses. So if that 70 percent was reduced, you would be able to get more people affordable health care."

Johnson said the public option would have minimal regulation but would allow many of the 47 million currently uninsured to have access to health care. He also said claims the option would run insurance companies out of business were unfounded.

"Skyrocketing health care costs are crippling individuals and small businesses. I respectfully disagree with folks who say a robust public option is not the answer," he said. "Reform with a viable public plan will buoy small businesses and uninsured or underinsured citizens by allowing them to purchase plans through an insurance exchange and by providing tax credits to help them provide benefits."

In his district alone, America's Affordable Health Choices Act would give 14,200 small businesses tax credits to provide coverage for their employees and 109,000 uninsured people would get access to insurance. The bill could also help families and seniors cover health care costs and give providers $98 million in uncompensated care each year, he said.

"It is time that we move beyond the politics of the situation and really pull up our sleeves and help Americans now," the Democrat from Stone Mountain said. "I support the president's agenda on health care and believe its time that the American people get the relief that they deserve."

Want a chance to dunk Clay Cox?

The Lilburn legislator decided to risk getting wet to help out Arcado Elementary. He'll be in the dunking booth at 1 p.m. Saturday at the school's annual Back-to-School Bash.

"As a product of Gwinnett Public Schools, and the son of a career Gwinnett educator, I understand the essential role public education plays in a free society, and the great challenges that our teachers face each day," Cox said in a press release. "As education dollars, along with all state funds, become more restricted, I know that the success of fund raisers at the local school level is critical. So, if being dunked in cold water over and over helps my local elementary school - I'm there. I would have preferred working the cake walk or musical chairs, but oh well."

Principal Joe Ahrens, who has already vowed to jump out of a plan if the school reaches its PTA goal of 100 percent membership, will also take a turn in the dunking booth.

The free event begins with a yard sale, raffle and silent auctions at 8 a.m. Family activities, including bouncers, face painting and carnival games, begin at

9 a.m. Tickets for those activities will be sold on site.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.