Suburban residents rally for health care reform

 
 
Published: 4/18/2009 12:02 AM

Suburban small business owners, along with people who are self-insured and uninsured, will rally in Chicago Saturday for reform of a health care system they say they can no longer afford.

Buses leave this morning from Arlington Heights, Elgin, Palatine, Northbrook and Skokie for the rally at St. Augustine's College on the North Side.

After she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and her husband lost his job, Lynne Kelley of Arlington Heights had to buy her own health care coverage temporarily until her husband got a new job and coverage again.

She was able to get coverage for one month through her employer, American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago, but many people don't have that option.

Churches are like small businesses, she said, and her own church can't even afford to insure its pastor.

"A public health care option means everybody will have insurance," she said, "and it won't necessarily have to do with employment."

David Boros, who owns Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, will testify next week before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.

He said he can only afford to insure about half of his 25 employees, but many can't afford the $460 a month for their share - twice as much as seven years ago.

One insurer offered to cover his company if Boros excluded one loyal employee whose wife had a kidney ailment, a type of choice he called "unconscionable" that many business owners have to face.

"There ought to be a public option," he said. "We need a major player to set the bar for benefit levels, all-inclusiveness and cost controls."

Illinois Main Street Alliance, which represents 375 small business in the state, and Citizen Action propose a plan like Medicare, which covers Americans over 65. Individuals could still get insurance through employers and private insurers, but the government would lower costs by setting reimbursement levels and eliminating profit.

Even the insurance industry agrees the health care system is not sustainable. The question is how to fix it.

America's Health Insurance Plans represents 1,300 insurance companies with 200 million customers.

Its plan calls for a government safety net to provide coverage for anyone below poverty level, and guaranteed access for everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions - on the condition that everyone be required to pay into the system, as with auto insurance.

"If we can get everybody in the system," spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said, "that changes everything. We can achieve the same goals through market reforms."

For more information on the rally, see mainstreetalliance.org, or for insurance industry proposals, see americanhealthsolution.org.