Crowded Health Care Forum in Rockford

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

More than one thousand people turn out for a town hall meeting on health care reform at Rockford's NIU campus Wednesday night. Hundreds of those citizens were turned away and the rest joined in a fiery debate.

"That's pretty concerning." Rockford residents add their voices to the debate over president Obama's health care reform proposals. More than 400 people packed the auditorium at Rockford's NIU campus for a town hall hosted by Congressman Don Manzullo. The audience clashed at times, but close to 700 people who never made it in the doors were even more upset.

"Obviously I'm disappointed in not being able to be involved in the process," says Ivan Brown, a concerned citizen.

"Health care is a major issue. Don Manzullo, he should know that a lot of people were going to turn out for this. He should have had a venue that was big enough to hold enough people so we can have a real debate on this issue," says Charles Laskonis, another man who was turned away.

Manzullo says he's excited so many people want to share their views.
"As you see we're all very passionate here and concerned," says one speaker.

There will be another town hall Thursday night, and possibly a third on Saturday. "Americans want information," says Congressman Manzullo.

Manzullo sorted through the massive House bill up for debate right now. Like most Republicans, he believes it's too costly and his main concerns center around the proposal for a government-run public option. Manzullo believes that would ultimately drive private insurers out of business; while supporters say a public system is the only way to provide fair insurance rates for every American.

"Every industrialized nation in the world except the United States has a public option," says Laskonis.

The public option may make or break President Obama's hopes for health care reform and in recent days he's backed off that subject slightly, considering instead a co-op plan of non-profit insurance providers. But Manzullo doesn't like that idea either. He says, "The Health Cost Commissioner will fix the prices, he'll fix the amount of coverage and so it's another form of a government-run plan."

Manzullo says the health care system needs change, but he says that should be done without injecting more bureaucrats into the system.

Many community members said they're worried about losing their current insurance, but President Obama says that won't happen with his proposal. He says if you like your insurance you will be able to keep it and your co-pay will decrease.

Thursday night's forum will be back at NIU Rockford. Three hundred people were able to sign up Wednesday night and the meeting is now full. No one else will be able to join in. Manzullo is searching for a larger forum for a possible meeting Saturday.


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