With grace and style, United States House of Representatives Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky (D-9th) conducted her town hall meeting in a Skokie, Illinois high school on August 31 (a northern suburb of Chicago). Perhaps the largest such gathering of its kind in the Chicagoland area held during the August recess, a packed audience of 1300 listened and then debated through their questions whether, and to what extent, health care reform, should come about. Another 600 or so remained outside because no more room was left to seat them.
There were more cheers than jeers for her remarks that health care reform with a public option will be accomplished by year's end. She clearly recognized the need for reform, the need for all Americans to have access and be afforded health care together with health care insurance, and, in particular, that the public option cannot be a tool of compromise in order to obtain more regulation on the insurance industry that offers health care coverage. She clearly knew that eliminating the public option cannot be done in order to mandate that pre-existing conditions be eliminated; that there be no more caps on coverage; that there be a limit on out of pocket expenses; and that an insurer cannot rescind coverage after treatment is given. All such regulations place added exposure on the insurance industry and the only effective means to combat this is through higher insurance premiums. Without the public option there will be no check on such premium increases. She also was aware that bureaucrats get in the way of the doctor-patient relationship today.
The Congresswoman was not "at the ready" when asked a question about a provision in the House bill about reporting requirements to the I.R.S. But she did show sincerity by trying to get at the page in the bill (she had all 1,000 pages+ at her side) that disputed what the questioner raised.
As with all town hall meetings on health care reform throughout the nation last month, there was considerable passion and emotion shown through the questions asked, and the crowd's responses, both pro and con. There was much applauding of points, some booing, including when invoking the name of the late Senator Kennedy, heckling, and even standing ovations for items raised. Outside the hall, there were also advocates strongly supporting reform, but so, too, signs by opponents, including those depicting "Obamacare" with a Hitler-type mustache painted on a photo of our President - - - which comes about as close to breaching what the First Amendment is all about and what it is intended for as one could imagine.
In the end, the balance for this debate stood on two competing notions: the ethical and moral obligation to ensure health care for every single American (one questioner declared it should be a right) with whether there remains trust in the federal government to craft a bill worthy of providing such relief in a believable way. Rep. Schakowski was quite articulate in trying to assure her audience that what she said will do no harm to Americans in her Congressional district and elsewhere, but emphasizing that the lies spewed forth about the reform bill by opponents and their supporters must stop. It was quite an evening, but one handled well by this Member of the Congress.
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