Passions flare up at health care forums

"Obviously, there's a lot of anger and frustration out there with what's going on in Washington," said Dent, a GOP centrist who voted this year to expand children's health care.

At Perriello's forum, there were signs that some members of the audience were talking as much to YouTube as each other. Video cameras and cellphones were trained on every exchange with the congressman.

One questioner, Justin Smith, 27, who told Perriello that his Social Security money is "being stolen from me," carried a book by conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck. Beck's website carries a list of congressional forums and urges fans to "join the health care debate."

Perriello dismissed the notion that he was the victim of an organized ambush. "We helped organize it," he said after the meeting. "We sent out cards."

Underlying some of the stagier aspects of the meeting lurked an intense concern about the cost and long-term implications of the health care bill.

Machinist David Saunders, 48, has to rely on his wife's health insurance. "My boss can't afford it," he said. He worries that requiring employers to provide it would force the layoffs of some of his younger colleagues. And he worries that small companies such as his "will shovel me onto a government program whether I like it or not," he said. "I'd much rather be in control of my own health."

Perriello said he heard a different story in the meetings he has been holding throughout the district with AARP chapters and local business leaders.

"The more they hear about the bill," he said, "the more they remember why they want health reform."

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