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Like national pundits, local residents split on passage of reform plan

Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta

Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Alfred Stewart isn't sure what to think of a massive health care reform measure passed in Congress on Sunday.

But as he left Gwinnett Medical Center on Monday after visiting a friend, he knew one thing: He hopes it will help the thousands of people who don't have health insurance.

"I think what they are trying to do is give everybody insurance. Everybody deserves it," he said. "I hope it's good. We've got to do something."

For more than a year, the national health care debate has divided people, especially politicians.

Of Gwinnett's two representatives in Congress, one voted no on Sunday and one voted yes. The tally, like much of the country, went along party lines.

"Years from now, we will wonder what all the fuss was about," said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat whose 4th District includes Lilburn and Norcross as well as DeKalb. "This historic bill will be remembered with Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights and the GI Bill as evidence of American progress and humanity. It protects Americans from health insurance company abuses, reins in spiraling insurance rates, insures 32 million more Americans and is projected to reduce the deficit substantially over the next two decades.

"This is a victory for America's working families. It is our responsibility to protect hard-working Americans and their children. No family should go bankrupt because of illness."

Republican U.S. Rep. John Linder, whose 7th District encompasses the remainder of Gwinnett along with all of Barrow and Walton counties and portions of Newton and Forsyth, said deals struck on Capitol Hill will hurt Georgians while helping other parts of the country.

"Today, President Obama failed the American people," Linder said. "Over $592 billion in new taxes will fall on every American taxpayer, breaking the president's promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Over $500 billion in Medicare cuts that will not extend the life of Medicare but will pay for a massive new health care entitlement, thus breaking the president's promise to our seniors. And all for one purpose -- government control of our lives."

Delaney Griggs, a Lilburn woman who led her mother from the hospital after a mammography appointment, had the same sentiments.

"We think it's horrible," she said, speaking for them both. "I think it's going to make people's insurance premiums go up, benefits go down. I think it's going to cost us more than we realize."

Since the bill's passage, at least nine states' attorneys general said they would file suit, and Republicans in the Senate are planning political maneuvers to halt a companion bill, the Associated Press reported Monday. The debate, the AP said, could continue into the upcoming political season.

For Lawrenceville woman Virginia Byers, the political fighting has gone on long enough.

"There's a lot of things we really don't know and understand about it. But we need to care for people who can't afford (insurance)," she said. "There are a lot of people out here who it will help."