United State Representative Chet Edwards (D-Waco) began a three-week stint of meetings with constituents throughout the District 17 counties on Monday. Edwards will discuss the proposed health care plan with residents, doctors, nurses, health care providers and local journalists. He will discuss ideas, inputs and concerns on the health care bill.

Three regional town hall meetings will be held in Brazos, McLennan and Johnson counties later this month. The dates and times of these meetings will be announced at a later date. For individuals not able to make those meetings, Edwards will host a town hall meeting via telephone on Thursday from 6:30-8 p.m., which will dial more than 200,000 homes in the district.

“I think that is a good way to start this process because it starts a discussion with all 12 counties,” he said.

Residents wishing to participate in the telephone town hall will simply have to stay on the line once they receive the initial phone call. A notification call will also be may on Wednesday night to remind residents of the meeting.

Edwards’ meetings with local health care providers began in Glen Rose on Monday.

“Our goal was not to come to one conclusion but to share ideas and concerns,” Edwards said.

The overwhelming majority of attendees wanted to know if the cost savings in the bill were legitimate or if the savings would ultimately result in a cut of services. As proposed, the bill would save $100 billion per year through MediCare, drugs and hospital visits, funding half of the project. The half of the budget would be fulfilled from a MediCare surtax, which would be charged to individuals and families with an annual income that exceeds $350,000.

Edwards said he wants his constituents to know that he is researching the bill thoroughly, a feat that is daunting because the bill is more than 1,000 pages in length. He is also against a plan that would propose a one-size-fits-all strategy.

“I will not vote for any plan that is a Canadian-style, socialized, one-style-fits-all health plan,” Edwards said. “I will not make a commitment until I have reviewed it carefully. I will purposely stay open-minded until I have read the bill.”

One major theme in the bill so far is the reform of health insurance companies, which often provide a service that is out of the price range for many individuals, leaving them uninsured entirely. Uninsured children in Somervell County account for 18 percent of the total child population, with a head count of 395. The adults in Somervell County without health insurance is estimated at 1,400 or 27.7 percent of the population.

“The problem with the uninsured is not just the challenges those families face, but the insured are paying a hidden fee of $1,800 per year to get coverage for those uninsured,” Edwards said.

The average Texas family will pay an estimated amount of $24,000 annually by the year 2016 if health care continues on its current path.

“The costs are not sustainable,” Edwards said. “The general feeling that doing nothing is not an option.”

Insurance reform in the bill will include allowing individuals to carry insurance from one job to another and will attempt to end penalties for small businesses seeking insurance coverage for its employees.

Edwards said the bill has four other major categories that address health care concerns. Among them are personal responsibility, cost containment, employer responsibility and making the deficit neutral, proving savings within the system.

Although his meetings have just begun in District 17, Edwards said he has had an overwhelming number of individuals tell him that their major concern with the bill is preventing it from raising the national debt.

“There is a strong interest in our district to not have this increase our federal deficit,” he said.

Edwards is encouraging all residents to voice their questions, concerns and ideas through the town hall meetings, which will be held during the upcoming weeks, while he works from his side to educate himself on the bill and what his constituents desire.

“I have serious questions about this bill and what I am about to ask in the near future,” Edwards said.

The proposed health care bill, which is pending, will be discussed during September and October in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate has not yet passed a proposed health care bill submitted by a committee.