Polis hears throngs eager to discuss health care reform

By Katy Schultz
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

As nearly 300 people poured into the parking lot of 2nd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Jared Polis’ “Congress on Your Corner” community event at Southern Sun Brewery and Pub in Boulder last Sunday, it seemed that health care reform was on the minds and tongues of everyone in the county.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-CD 2, meets with constituents in Boulder as reporters listen.
Photo by Katy Schultz/The Colorado Statesman

Polis — whose Congressional District 2 covers Denver’s northwestern suburbs, Boulder and mountain counties that include Vail, Grand Lake and Idaho Springs — represents a relatively liberal constituency that has largely spurned the angry demonstrations that have characterized health care reform town halls elsewhere in Colorado.

Instead, Polis and his staff must cope with throngs eager to learn more about the health care reform bill before Congress. After the freshman congressman was mobbed at his first health care public forum at a north Boulder coffee shop, this meeting was moved to the larger Southern Sun Pub and Brewery, which also was overwhelmed.

Some in the crowd carried signs bearing pro- and anti-reform slogans: “Hands Off My Health Care,” “Public Option Now.”

But others clearly had more personal agendas. For Boulder grandmother Amy Kaplan, the health care debate raging across the United States is a matter of the heart.

Kaplan’s sign bore a photo of her 5-year-old grandson, Liam, who has spinal muscular atrophy type 2, a form of muscular dystrophy that weakens muscles throughout his body.

“I’m fighting for national, binding legislation to make health insurance companies abide by the law,” said Kaplan.

Amy Kaplan speaks with Rep. Polis and other constituents about health care reform.
Photo by Katy Schultz
The Colorado Statesman

Kaplan is angry because the insurance company that covers her daughter and grandson refuses to pay for a motorized wheelchair, which he will need all his life.

“No one ever has a disabled child (in order) to screw an insurance company,” said Kaplan. She said her grandson should get what he needs —“There should be no option.”

During the first part of the meeting, Polis went from one picnic-table full of people to another.

Richard Miller, of Louisville, was among the lucky 200 or so constituents whose table was selected for a visit.

“Everyone is for health care. I just don’t want government involvement in the health care market,” said Miller, as he waited for Polis to rotate to his table. “The government is incapable of making decisions for everyone.”

Polis took notes and listened attentively during the table discussions.

About an hour into the event, the congressman called a halt to the seated discussions and climbed atop a picnic table to take questions from the audience.

“This is a great opportunity for me to listen to your concerns,” said Polis, who assured the audience that any government-supported health care plan would not be forced upon anyone and that everyone stands to benefit a reform.

Katy@coloradostatesman.com