Last evening 9th District Republican Congressional nominee Joel Pollak held a Health Care Forum in the packed Grand Ballroom of the Hilton Orrington Evanston hotel. The event featured Pollak and two highly credentialed health sector experts discussing aspects of the recently passed health care legislation along with their proposals for "repealing and replacing" it.
The discussion was factually based, reasoned, and well-received by those in attendance. After the presentation, a long line of citizens queued up at the microphone to ask questions and have their voices heard. Although most of the 250 or so seats were taken, the doors to the venue remained open throughout allowing latecomers access to the event.
Compare that to the health care pep rally sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky last year. Billed as a Health Care Town hall and jointly planned and organized with President Obama's Organizing for America and Healthcare for America Now, the event at Niles West High School was not so much a forum for informing the electorate or discussing the issue as much as an effort to create an Astro Turf experience aimed at convincing voters that Schakowsky's goal of establishing a "public option" in health care had wide support.
Hundreds of volunteers, supporters, and union members were bused in and the venue quickly filled up, causing many district residents to be shut out. Pollak and a friend captured event organizers on video passing out signs and instructing attendees how to block the cameras if health care opponents had the temerity to ask questions challenging Schakowsky's vision. To her credit, the Congresswoman did answer these questions, but the circumstances of this event propelled Pollak to launch his campaign. As he put it, "She was no longer representing the people to Washington; she was representing Washington to the people."
Last evening's event was moderated by Arie Friedman, M.D. a pediatrician and health care advisor to the National Republican Congressional Committee. The featured speaker was Tevi Troy, Ph.D. a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dr. Troy noted that many of the promises that Democrats like Schakowsky made to get the current health care law passed have already been broken. Among these was the myth that if you liked your current plan you could keep it, that health care costs for the average family would decrease, and that the measure would "bend the cost curve down." As many companies are canceling or changing their insurance programs and rate increases have actually accelerated, even many supporters of reform are disillusioned. As to claims that those that favor repeal of the current law do not care about reforming the system, Troy had a one word response: "Bogus."
As for Pollak, he praised President Obama's analysis of the situation in determining that health care in America was becoming too costly and that access was too limited. He just believes that the current law is bad policy reflecting the bad process that was used to ram it through Congress. He prefers a process of incremental experimentation quoting Justice Louis Brandeis as saying, "States are the laboratory of policy experimentation." Mr. Pollak would prefer a more gradual process of reform utilizing the experience of various states and countries that have already experienced successes (and failures) with their own health care reform.
Toward that end, Pollak believes that we may actually be able to replace many of the existing features of the current law before we can fully repeal it. He believes in a value driven health care system that utilizes Health Savings Accounts, competition for insurance across state lines and tort reform.
For her part, Rep. Schakowsky plans to introduce legislation designed to resurrect the big-government, one-size-fits-all public option.