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Rep. Jan Schakowsky held a town hall meeting in Skokie on Monday to discuss healthcare reform.

But much of the “discussion” was going on outside, and some Evanston residents stood among the throngs of finger-pointed, sign-toting demonstrators that came to support reform or lash it.

“Healthcare for all!” one crowd chanted, getting the occasional beep of solidarity from drivers passing Niles West High School, where Schakowsky held the meeting. The school wasn’t taking any more people in – the town hall meeting was packed – but that didn’t mean they were just going to go home.

Especially because an entirely different pack of people congregated on the sidewalk next the school, somewhat outnumbered but not to be outdone, crying “No Obama, keep the change!” Some had taken sharpies to the president’s upper lip to get their point across.

“It’s a euthanasia bill, and we’ve got to smash it,” said Anthony DeFranco, 52, of Chicago. “Hitler’s killing machines started with euthanasia.”

But Juli Pacheco, Evanston, 41, of 1032 Ashland Ave., said the country is ready for healthcare reform.

“It’s about time that we start taking care of our people,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that are paying way too high for premiums for their healthcare.”

Helen Crowley, 46, of 1318 Cleveland St. said that the United States, as the wealthiest nation in the world, has an obligation to provide healthcare for everyone.

“The idea that we cannot find a way to provide quality, affordable access for everyone in this country is unconscionable,” she said.

Linda LaFianza, an Evanston Township Republican Committeewoman, said that this isn’t really about providing access.

“This isn’t reform,” she said. “This is a power grab.”

Individual arguments started off here and there. Some debates retained their initial civility; others turned into shouting matches. And, of course, some “debates” were shouting matches to begin with.

The two factions came steadily closer as the town hall meeting continued inside, eventually coming face-to-face on a road that was part of the Niles West High School parking lot.

At one point, people from either side had to hold two men back who were getting a little too into it. And when the meeting began to wind down inside and police tried to clear the road, the impassioned crowd would only disperse when a police car gradually rolled though them.

Evanston resident Paul Jacobs, 36, of 900 Washington St., said many of the anti-reform demonstrators at the scene weren’t thinking for themselves.

“A lot of these people are just taking statements that other people have given them and haven’t really thought it through,” he said.

Meanwhile, the other side accuses reform supporters of the same ignorance. “I’m not sure how much they think,” Rick Reitze, 63, of Rogers Park said. “It may be just that they’re part of a group.”

More photos from the event:

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14 Comments

    1. deregulation
      Of course, the Republicans are evil and have no realistic alternatives to the President’s plan. They just want to protect their evil insurance company masters and thwart the President. And the teabaggers with the ‘Obama=Hitler’ posters demonstrate how scary and crazy the Republicans are. Still, there are problems with the Democrats’ approach.

      I think that the real solution to the health care problem is deregulation. The AMA has done a good job of stifling competition by limiting the number of candidates admitted to medical schools, stopping the creation of new med schools, and even calling price competition ‘unethical’.

      The insurance companies too – like Blue Cross – don’t really want competition. Blue Cross is the modern day equivalent of AT&T , pre-breakup.

      I would like competition in the health industry. Let’s have Wal~Mart have a medical department, where one could get a bypass surgery while shopping for televisions or laundry soap. GEICO could sell health insurance.

      The competition from Wal~Mart and GEICO and others would drive prices down. Salaries for doctors would plummet too. Look at what happened to the airplane pilots after the FAA deregulated everything. There would be peace, prosperity, better health, and more NPV throughout the land.

      All of the enemies of real reform – like the AMA and insurance companies and pharma companies – would be begging for more regulation to protect their profit margins.

      1. Protestors
        While I agree with your point of competition in the industry – I do love how when Republicans protest its just those “crazy Republicans.” When Democrats protest it’s “those gentle-hearted individuals who are so thoughtful enough to be holding nice signs on the street.” I guess free speech is only considered sane if you’re a Democrat…because no protester ever had an image of Bush with a Hitler mustache.

    2. no one is asking for a free lunch…
      There is no provision in the Health Care Reform bill that allows for free health care. The Public Option plan has premiums that have to be paid, just as you do with private insurance. The difference between private and public is that the public plan does not have to produce obscene profits of 25 – 30% that most major private insurance providers thirst for, therefore allowing for much lower premium payments.

      Stop buying into the fear mongering of the well-organized corporate lobbyists and read the actual facts of what the Health Care Reform bill is really all about.

      1. May I have a free lunch?
        I wouldn’t mind a free lunch. Pancakes at IHOP would be nice, but I would settle for a delicious enchilada and a beer at the Las Palmas sidewalk cafe.

      2. Obscene profit
        Obscene profit is now 25%? If my company made that low of a profit I think we would all be canned. How come the people of Evanston aren’t protesting the local shops for making margins MUCH larger than that.

        50% of Americans don’t pay taxes and receive all sorts of benefits. …so they aren’t paying for it.

        The biggest screw up in current insurance industry is the pre-existing condition clause – now that is not right.

        1. pre existing condition
          Tony says:

          “The biggest screw up in current insurance industry is the pre-existing condition clause – now that is not right”

          But it is necessary. With it, people would wait until they need health insurance before they buy it.

      3. no one is asking for a free lunch…
        If you check the records, you will see that for profit insurnace is 4-6% and for non-profits 2-4%. Someone always seems to come up with these wild profit numbers for companies without ever doing their homework.

  1. Astroturfs
    I was outside at the event and if you noticed these pics, the pro-reformers had professionally-made signs, many of which were the same ones, while the anti-reformers had makeshift signs.

    So tell me, at this event, which side was astroturf and which side was grassroots?

    The side that was organized and well-coordinated with buttons and professional signs or the people who came with their makeshift signs and no buttons to speak of?

    Oh, the pro-reformers outnumbered those opposed and certainly outshouted and outyelled the opposition. I wonder if Nancy Pelosi would call the pro-reformers Nazi sympathizers?

  2. if you think healthcare is expensive now…wait ’till it is free
    Well looks like market forces have really done a terrific job of reigning in costs, improving quality, and creating efficient insurance products for every market. That’s why no one is ever denied coverage. That’s why we have the lowest maternal and infant death rates. That’s why we have no class based health disparities in the U.S. Oops! Time to wake up.

    Not in this country. There is not and will never be a pure free market for health care in the U.S. and there is no point of wishing for a system that would leave more people out than people in. We all are paying for the uninsured, for the underinsured, and for wasteful procedures (yes, a private “competitive” system has delivered a lot of waste).

    I do think health care is expensive now. A lot of the money does not go to improving or ensuring quality health care. If the government can do what the private sector has failed to do–and over a decade of double digit inflation is only one example of the failure–then I say let’s get on with it.

  3. Have a friend who lives in Europe?
    I do, and European every day, ordinary Health Care puts America’s to shame. I have friends who return to Europe every year to get dental care, fertility care, and safe and effective treatments that are not available here. In Sweden a woman can get an effective birth control treatment that lasts for a whole year with one application, for free.

    I have a friend who’s wife was dealing with severe and complicated health issues that could not be cured in their area of the U.S. and was not covered by their health insurance. She returned to her homeland, Colombia, and with her duel citizenship was able to be treated, affordably.

    Our family (and employer) pay close to $12,000 a year in health insurance for four people, and we have an excellent program, as long as we stay healthy. Do you think we use $12,000 a health care a year with our yearly physicals and generic prescriptions? How much of that 12K goes to huge CEO salaries and profits?

    How much do you really pay for the health care YOU get? Do you know?

  4. “free”
    Europes tax rates are ridiculous – so it’s not technically “free.” Maybe if 2/3’s of Americans weren’t obese our health care wouldn’t be so damn expensive. The same people who have obesity related sickness are the ones saying they want health care for free as they eat Krispy Creme donuts. I agree that everyone needs healthcare – and everyone should pay for it. We’re running out of those ever so evil rich people to pay for our necessities.

    Why do people always bring up the salaries of CEO’s? Who cares? Why don’t people ever complain that teachers have the entire summer off? Exactly how much is too much? Is this for the govt to decide or just jealous people complaining? I would rather the govt tell people what they can and can’t eat then set salary requirements (I guess with all of the new bad-food taxes they are really pushing people anyway).

    Look at Canada – they have free healthcare and one year maternity leave! Wow! Simply amazing that all of Canada is probably less productive than 1/10th of Manhattan.

    Disclaimer – I am a very independent voter and think all politicians are motivated for themselves. I have nothing against Moses (our current president) so no need for excessive backlash.

  5. You get what you pay for
    Racer X says – “The difference between private and public is that the public plan does not have to produce obscene profits of 25 – 30% that most major private insurance providers thirst for, therefore allowing for much lower premium payments.”

    Wrong. The difference is between a government bureaucracy and a private insurance industry with decades of experience running health insurance programs. More and more doctors are refusing Medicare and Medicaid treatment because it pays way to low.

    Based on your logic, why doesn’t the government just take over the oil companies? You want to talk about obscene profits.

    Or, let’s have Uncle Sammy take over private farms – we shouldn’t let farmers acquire profits from land that is all of ours.

    We can see what government does with Medicare, Medicaid, the Post Office, drivers license and so on.

    You get what you pay for.

    BTW-Mr Who Knows, the Republicans DO have a health reform plan. Look it up.

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