It wasn't the public town hall meeting some critics have demanded, but U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean talked about President Obama's health care reform plan to a group of suburban business owners Wednesday in Kildeer.
Appearing at the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly breakfast, Bean stressed that there are several health care packages floating around the House and Senate, each with its own quirks.
"I'm waiting to see what emerges from all these bills to see what the final version is," the Barrington Democrat told the crowd of about 90 guests at the Concorde Banquets hall.
Although she supports Obama's desire to ensure all Americans have health insurance, Bean said she was among the representatives who slowed the process to study the legislation more closely.
She called the president "very ambitious."
Bean also refuted allegations that Congress wants government-run health care, a claim she called "misleading and false."
"We're not going to hire doctors," she said. "Whether or not there will or won't be a public (insurance) option has yet to be determined."
Bean talked about other subjects, too, including banking reform and the Cash for Clunkers program. But most of the questions she faced from the audience concerned health care.
The lawmaker's appearance, which had been publicized on the Internet by political pundits, drew dozens of protesters on both sides of the health care battle. Sequestered to the public right-of-way outside Concorde's gates, they waved signs and spoke to motorists stopped in bumper-to-bumper morning traffic.
Kildeer police kept the protesters off Concorde property and made sure anyone driving into the parking lot was on the event's guest list.
Some of the picket signs were professionally produced. Others were hand-scrawled with markers. "In God We Trust. Obama and Congress, Eh, Not So Much," read one. "Health Care Now! Support a Public Option," read another.
Among the protesters was Mundelein-area resident Joe Schwan, who said Bean hasn't responded to his health care questions. The Obama administration is moving too fast on the issue, he said.
"We need to take the time to get this right," Schwan said. "America better wake up."
A counter-protester, Steve Kirn of Barrington, said America can do better in figuring out a reasonable health care reform plan.
"It's amazing that we are the only country in the industrialized world that can't figure out how to provide health care for its citizens," Kirn said. "There are so many distortions (and) falsehoods out there. That creates fear and confusion. A public option means we have a choice."
Unlike suburban representatives Mark Kirk of Highland Park and Jan Schakowsky of Evanston, Bean has resisted calls to hold a public town hall meeting about health care reform, the issue that's been at the political forefront this summer.
Bean and other representatives have been criticized for not meeting with the public on the matter.
Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Rep. Danny Davis of Chicago held a radio-based meeting on health care Tuesday in Chicago.