Health care fever hits

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All in all, it amounted to a couple of dozen protesters holding signs and American flags, marching and chanting outside the Bay Ridge office of Rep. Michael McMahon.

The protesters, who were brought together by the chairpeople of Brooklyn’s Republican and Conservative Parties, rallied outside 8505 Fourth Avenue to demand that McMahon hold a town hall on health care and to express their opposition to the plan currently under discussion in Washington.

They also demanded that he take a position on proposals to revamp health insurance in this country, a key goal of which is making sure that the 40-million-plus Americans who are now uninsured can get coverage.

“What do we want? A town hall. When do we want it? Now,” the protesters repeated as they walked in a narrow circle between the police lines and the curb, switching after a few minutes to a different theme: “Government control of health care -- no.”

Their signs reiterated their spoken words. “Where do you stand, Mike?” read one, while another contended, “In God we trust -- in Obama and Congress not so much.”

Another sign read, “Those 40 million Americans -- who are they anyway?”

McMahon, a Democrat, is on record as being in favor of some sort of health insurance reform. During a recent visit to the Bay Ridge Community Service Center, he said, “We certainly need to reform health insurance, and make sure people can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions or eliminated from their policy because of catastrophic occurrences,” though he urged constituents to let him know what they favored, and noted that he would not support a bill that would negatively impact elderly constituents in the 13th C.D., which includes a swath of Brooklyn from Bay Ridge through Gravesend and Bensonhurst, as well as all of Staten Island.

But, the protesters wanted more, specifically for him to renounce proposals that will increase government involvement in the health care arena.

“Adding millions of newly insured patients will overwhelm doctors, nurses, technicians and medical facilities from coast to coast,” contended Craig Eaton, the chair of the borough’s GOP. “Congress cannot magically add the thousands of new doctors, nurses and facilities that will be needed to treat these new patients.

“This bill is not about health care or insurance,” Eaton also said. “It is about increasing government power over the health care sector of the economy, and we don’t need hospitals run like the post office.”

Jerry Kassar, the chair of the Brooklyn Conservative Party, urged the protesters to repeat their demands till they grew hoarse. “Losing our voices today might be the only way our voices will ever be heard,” he warned.

“Congressman McMahon owes us a town hall,” Kassar went on. “Congressman McMahon owes us an explanation.” And, contending that McMahon was “on both sides of the issue,” Kassar said, “We have to lock him down on a position, opposition to any plan that costs more than a trillion dollars.”

If McMahon doesn’t schedule a town hall, then the protesters will, warned Clorinda Annarummo, the Republican district leader in the 46th A.D. “We will schedule one according to your availabili­ty,” she asserted. “Should you not show up, we will speak to your empty chair.”

Asked to respond, Lauren Amendolara, McMahon’s communications director, said that the call for a town hall on the issue was premature. While, she stressed, “Congressman McMahon always appreciates hearing from his constituen­ts,” she pointed out, “The congressman has been analyzing the constantly-evolving health care reform bill and will address his constituents on the issue after Congress reconvenes and the bill comes together in its final form.It will be a much more fruitful conversation once the hypotheticals are cleared up and the bill is more definitive.”

Updated 3:40 pm, October 19, 2011
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