On an uneven playing field, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, Thursdy defended the massive health reform bill he helped Congress to pass March 21.

His performance before a mix of skeptical and supportive constituents from the Fourth Congressional District at the Westport Senior Center appeared to end in a tie. Half gave him a thumbs up. Half gave him a thumbs down.

Among the skeptical was Westport's Thelma Lubarsky, 80-something, who said: "I'm glued to the television and what I hear is scary."

Among the supportive was an unidentified Hispanic woman from Norwalk who caused Himes to blush. She heaped thanks on him for giving the Hispanic community in her city hope for access to health care.

An unidentified gentleman elected to speak for the standing room only crowd.

"I apologize for the misbehavior of some here today, Congressman," he said, referring to the times constituents and congressman locked horns. "Thank you, Congressman Himes for doing the right thing in Washington -- providing access to health care for 32 million uninsured."

He was applauded.

However, Louise Eichler, who works at Fresh Market in Westport, grumbled: "I want to know who's paying for all the uninsured. I pay for my own by working."

Citing Sarah Palin's charge that the health care reform bill will set up death panels, Himes said, "There's a lot of misinformation out there."

Then he bared facts. To wit:

"The long overdue passage of the health care reform bill will put Americans back in control of their health insurance choices and ensure all citizens have access to high quality, affordable health care.

In Connecticut's 4th Congressional District, he reported, the new health care reform will:

"¢ Improve coverage for 463,000 who have health insurance.

"¢ Give tax credits to 94,000 families and 19,700 small businesses to help them afford coverage.

"¢ Improve Medicare for 99,000, including closing the costly prescription drug donut hole.

"¢ Extend coverge to 31,000 without coverage.

"¢Guarantee that the 9,300 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.

"¢ Provide millions of dollars in new funding for the 4th District's community health centers.

"¢ Allow 43,000 young adults up to age 26 to obtain coverage on their parents' insurance plans.

Editor's note: A full report will be published in Wednesday's print edition.