When Larry Dust, CEO of Key Benefit Administrators, thanked Rep. Mike Pence for his vote against the House's health care reform legislation, the crowd at Tuesday night's health care reform panel reacted like Congress during the State of the Union Address.
Half sat quietly in protest, while the other clapped loudly in approval.
The reaction mirrored the highly partisan 220-215 Democrat victory in the House Saturday night.
"People defiantly came in with their opinions already made," Muncie local Ray Smith said.
The approximate 300-person crowd at Pruis Hall consisted largely of Muncie residents along with Ball state University students and faculty.
The panel consisted of Ear, Nose and Throat specialist Dr. Thomas Whiteman, Economics professor Cecil Bohanon, IUPUI Law and Medicine professor Dr. David Orentlicher, Pence (R-Ind), whose district includes Muncie and Dust.
Each panel member gave an opening statement about their position on the issue and discussed some of the questions brought up in the debate.
Orentlicher said he doesn't support the reform bills because they are funded similar to medicare and federal housing programs.
Throughout the two-hour time span, most panel members admitted they were against the Congressional reform bills.
"We just don't do a good job keeping funding in a program over time," Orentlicher said.
Pence said he has received more phone calls over the costs of health insurance through his years as a representative than any other issue.
He said the recently passed Democrat bill focused on coverage instead of the real problem, costs.
"Health insurance costs are breaking the back of small town America," Pence said. "A focus on costs is more online with the American people."
Dust argued against the current legislation from a health insurance provider's perspective. Key Benefit Administrators is the health care administrative agent for most Ball State employees.
He said the public option could lead to the death of private insurance because of the government's ability to consistently under-price the market. Even the yearly fine for not having insurance is too low to pay for a public mandate, causing premiums to rise, he said.
"We need to do everything we can to say no to the public option. Period," he said.
Whiteman said the number of new doctors entering the profession is also becoming a problem, saying the U.S. may not even have the physician workforce for these plans in a few years.
Bohanon admitted health care reform is a complex issue that the expert panel only began discussing.
"We could sit here for hours and not begin to cover everything in this issue," Bohanon said.