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Gillibrand hosts town hall meeting at UB North Campus

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand hosted a town hall meeting on the University at Buffalo's North Campus Friday afternoon, covering topics ranging from health care to jobs to immigration.

Gillibrand listed education, health care and jobs as her top priorities in Washington. After making brief remarks, the town hall meeting was a question and answer format. Guests who wished to ask a question arrived to receive blue raffle tickets, which were used in a lottery to select the order of those asking questions.

When asked about health care, Gillibrand suggested cutting insurance companies from the decision-making process would help. She said insurance companies are for-profit entities who are obligated to shareholders and, thus, are not necessarily putting the needs of the patient first.

"They have to deliver a rate of return for their shareholders every year. It's required by corporate law. And so, when they're deciding 'am I going to give you the second day in the hospital' or 'am I going to give you access to this drug,' they're not deciding based on what your doctor suggests or what is best to keep you healthy," she said. "They're deciding based on what's best for their bottom line. And so, it's a misalignment of goals that is fundamentally harming the health care system in America today."

Gillibrand also took on the topic of immigration and the migrants and refugees who are marching north toward the United States from their native countries in Central America. The senator was critical of the Trump Administration and its policies toward immigrants and refugees, saying the president has undermined the entire asylum process. She also spoke to clarify the Democratic Party's position on borders, saying they favor immigration reform and do not believe in having open borders, contrary to what their critics accuse them of supporting.

"We need to re-imagine how we do immigration in this country. We need comprehensive immigration reform. But we really need to have a value statement that we value immigrants, that we will give proper review for asylum seekers," Gillibrand said. "We do not believe in open borders. Democrats don't believe in open borders. Nobody believes in open borders. But we do believe in a humane process. What President Trump is doing at the border, separating mothers from children, is not only inhumane but is immoral."

While she did not discuss it during her meeting, Gillibrand later met with news reporters to address developments in a series of mail bombs delivered to many of her Democratic colleagues. News of the arrest of a suspect was breaking as her meeting was getting underway. Following the conclusion of her town hall meeting and a meet-and-greet period with her guests, she expressed gratitude to the law enforcers who worked to make the arrest.

"We are very blessed that no one was killed through these bombing attempts," she said. "Obviously, the suspect is being accused of terrorism. These were terrorist acts and it's very concerning, because he's trying to take on elected leaders, presidents, people who are in public service trying to serve the public. It just undermines our democracy."

But she then stated that the nation is strong, stands up to terrorism and will become stronger.

Friday's event was the ninth town hall meeting Gillibrand has hosted throughout the state this year.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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