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Boro health care rally gets heated

The argument between William Garifal Jr. and Boris Ourlicht outside of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s (D-Bayside) office Saturday afternoon echoed others that have taken place across the country this summer.

“I fought for this country,” Ourlicht, a Great Neck resident, said. “I want you to admit that everyone deserves the kind of care I get from Veterans Affairs. Everyone deserves decent health care.”

“Health care is not an entitlement,” Garifal said, rebutting Ourlicht’s statement sternly. “I am for health care reform, but this is not the answer. Obama is erecting something that doesn’t even come close to representing our Constitution.”

Garifal, a Flushing resident, and Ourlicht were among dozens of people on either side of a rally outside Ackerman’s Northern Boulevard office held over President Barack Obama’s proposed health care plan, which would provide a government-run option to health care insurance that some say would be a savior but others have called a move toward socialism.

“We have already nationalized the auto industry, the bank system, the auto insurance industry and now they want to do it to health care,” Garifal said. “Where does it stop?”

Ourlicht, a World War II veteran who receives health care from the St. Albans’ Veterans Affairs Hospital, staunchly disagreed.

“I think every citizen deserves the health care I receive,” he said. “A healthy America is a strong America.”

Supporters took up positions on either side of Ackerman’s office along Northern Boulevard, holding signs and cheering slogans. Chants of “Hands off health care” were immediately met with “Medicare for everyone.”

Ackerman, who himself did not appear at the rally, has been a staunch supporter of Obama’s plan.

Dan Halloran, a Republican running for City Councilman Tony Avella’s (D-Bayside) seat, said Obama’s plan would represent a frightening shift in the United States’ democracy.

“At this point, we’re becoming more socialist than free market and that’s dangerous,” Halloran said. “The private entities won’t be able to compete because it’s not a level playing field. You’re going to have doctors who, if their insurance rates drop, are not going to be able to afford to be doctors.”

Shirley Romaine of Reach Out America, who helped organize a counter-protest to those rallying against Obama’s plan, said opposition to the proposal has been mounted by insurance companies who would stand to lose out if the legislation was voted into law.

“It’s in their interests to do this. But the ridiculous myths that have come out of the opposition are just unbelievable,” Romaine said. “It doesn’t eliminate private insurance. The president has continuously said you don’t have to give up your current insurance. All this is is a choice for people that don’t have one.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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