'Invitation-only' event shows stage of defining health care reform

Posted3/30/2010 12:01 AM

The battle over public opinion on the new health care reform law is starting anew in the suburbs.

U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean, a Barrington Democrat, is hosting the first of three round tables today to sell the law to constituents in her Northwest suburban 8th District.


U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Batavia Democrat, is expected to follow suit with his own events in the far West suburban 14th District.

Both representatives voted for the legislation that, in part, bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, mandates the purchase of health insurance, provides tax credits and will eventually create an exchange intended to increase access and lower premium costs.

But as the two Democrats hold meetings to explain the law to suburbanites, don't expect any raucous town hall-type attractions like those that dominated the summer news. Bean's events are "by invitation only," meaning her office has hand-picked the attendees.

Bean's attendees include those who spokesman Jonathan Lipman says are "seniors, business owners and families who have been in touch with us this past year with their questions and stories about health care, and whose concerns we believe are addressed in this new law."

Foster's events are expected to be similarly managed, though details are not yet public.

Bean and Foster have largely shunned the town hall-style format since representatives across the country became slammed by shouting opponents of the measure last summer. But they have reached out to constituents directly through tele-town halls, which call into tens of thousands of homes, allowing residents to listen in and ask questions when selected.

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The push by local Democrats to increase support for the law comes after months of suburban Republicans beating up on the measure in their own public events.

Most recently, U.S. Reps. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Mark Kirk of Highland Park held anti-reform tele-town halls last weekend specifically targeting residents in the districts of Bean and Foster.

Kirk is running for U.S. Senate.

Bean's event at 9 a.m. today at 1701 E. Woodfield Road in Schaumburg will feature speakers from the AARP. The round-table tour continues Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. with small-business owners at McGonigal's Pub in Barrington and at 1:30 p.m. in Schaumburg at Roosevelt University.