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Got health-care questions?

Vermont's three members of Congress are home for the August recess. This will provide an excellent opportunity for citizens to query them on the subject of President Obama's health care bill.

There are actually three large bills under intense development. The plan is to bring together some collection of provisions that will attract votes to pass the respective chambers. Then in the House-Senate conference, the leadership and the Obama administration will reshape the package into what they want.

With the assistance of Vermont's nonpartisan Ethan Allen Institute, we present 12 questions that concerned citizens should consider asking Congressman Peter Welch:

1. The bills impose an individual mandate on me to buy health insurance approved by the federal government. What will happen to me if I don't go along? Fines? Wage garnishment? Jail? Will these penalties also apply to millions of illegal aliens, or will they apply only to American citizens and legal aliens?

2. The bills impose a mandate on most businesses to pay for employee health insurance containing "essential benefits" approved by the federal government. If the businesses don't do so, they'll be required to pay a fine. How many small businesses in Vermont will shrink their operations, or go under, rather than pay this new penalty?

3. President Obama said that if I am happy with my coverage, I can keep it "no matter what". Now I find out that I can keep it until my employer changes or drops it, or until I change employers, or until I try to buy individual insurance. Will you stand behind the President's initial promise, or will you support Congress's action to break it?

4. The bills contain a provision allowing health insurance plans bargained by labor unions to continue unchanged-while nonunion workers are threatened with loss of coverage. Is this preference for unionized workers a result of Labor's support of Obama and fellow Democrats in the last election? Do you support the exemption?

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