Vigorous debate on health care for Biggert, Kirk
U.S. Reps. Mark Kirk and Judy Biggert lambasted President Barack Obama's health care reform Wednesday at a hearing in Naperville Wednesday, claiming it will lead to a European-style system of high taxes and treatment rationing.
"We are not going to have the kind of insurance that we have now," Biggert told scores of people who had preregistered to attend the event sponsored by the Naperville Chamber of Commerce. "Everybody will have the same plan."
The chamber event marks one of the few times in recent weeks suburban lawmakers have attended public forums specifically on the issue of Obama's government-run health insurance proposal.
Some town hall-style events in other states have devolved into shouting and screaming - captured on camera and replayed on the Internet and 24-hour news channels. Wednesday's discussion in Naperville was relatively calm, albeit opinionated.
Still, much is at stake politically.
Kirk of Highland Park is running for Senate and Biggert of Hinsdale faces a second challenge from Democrat Scott Harper, who showed an ability to raise cash and organize supporters in 2008.
Both suburban lawmakers have taken a stand against Obama's plan, asserting it will bankrupt the nation and fail to provide the coverage Obama promises.
"It costs too much, has too much government control and threatens the long-term relationship between you and your doctors," Kirk said.
Yet, Biggert and Kirk were keen on the fact that many polls continue to show voters unhappy with the current health care system, especially when it comes to the possibility of losing insurance just when they need it most.
To that end, Kirk and Biggert outlined their own proposal for reform Wednesday, a plan pushed by a centrist GOP coalition in the House. The plan calls for a national limit on jury awards in malpractice cases, mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions, expanding coverage pools and breaking up insurance monopolies.
"I would say that a lot of people that are coming to town halls agree with Judy and I on health care," Kirk said before Wednesday's forum at the Hotel Arista in Naperville.
Certainly, many, though not all, of those who attended Wednesday's event agreed with Kirk and Biggert. Yet about half of the dozen questioners spoke in favor of Obama's plan and accused the representatives of distorting the truth, particularly on whether the proposal would lead to the end of private insurance coverage.
Versions of legislation say nothing about banning private insurance coverage.
Biggert and Kirk argue a government-run insurance plan for the middle class and poor - as opposed to options already available to the disabled and seniors - would be so cheap it will run private companies out of business. Additionally, they pointed to a proposal to force private insurers to abide by government standards, making it harder for them to turn a profit. "Everyone will be required to go into this plan," Biggert insisted.
One Wheaton businessman, Richard Godwin of Collector's Guide Publishing, said he thinks it shouldn't be an employer's responsibility to provide health insurance. Hailing from London, Godwin said he has found it easier to start companies in countries with government-run health care because of the reduced cost to employee workers.
"The people of the country should be able to count on government," he said.
Kirk rebutted by pointing out one proposal would levy an 8 percent payroll tax on employers to fund the plan. Kirk also said patrons of Canada's system continually cross into the U.S. for better, faster treatment.
"If we have government take control of our health care ... where are we going to drive?" Kirk asked to laughter.
Many attendees spoke against Obama's plan as well and praised Biggert and Kirk for opposing it. Some couldn't get into the meeting because of registration requirements and limited seating.
Lisa Page of Aurora showed up with her 3-year-old son wearing a Spider Man shirt and carrying a small cardboard sign that read "Obamacare" crossed out. She hoped protests would form outside the hotel, but the event was tightly managed hotel security and chamber workers.
"I don't want the government involved in health care at all," she said. "This will be the end of private insurance."
Naperville Chamber CEO John Schmitt said he was concerned about the event turning into one those featured on TV news shows.
"I do watch the news," he said. "We didn't want any one to feel intimidated."
Schmitt banned video cameras from the meeting. And he admonished those in attendance to be respectful.
"We understand ... passions are high," he said, adding that outbursts "won't be tolerated."