WASHINGTON – Spring showers didn’t dampen demonstrators’ spirits in Upper Senate Park April 29 as they gathered to protest the Bush administration’s inaction on the national health care crisis.

As the rain fell, the crowd opened umbrellas emblazoned with the slogan, “Cover the Uninsured,” provided by the Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Asian Caucus, and Native American Caucus, joint sponsors of the rally.

Dr. David Satcher, who served as 16th Surgeon General of the United States, decried the widening gap in health care for people of color. “We will never eliminate these disparities without enacting universal health care,” he said.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) said universal health care was a matter of national security. “Troops were sent to Iraq because someone said he could not wait on the inspection process, could not wait on diplomacy, could not wait for the United Nations.” The result, she said, is “dismembered Iraqi children” waiting for U.S. medical care. “But while billions have been spent on war, millions here lack health care. It is a crime and I cannot wait. This is an issue of homeland security.”

Rep. Donna Christensen, the Virgin Islands’ non-voting delegate in Congress and chair of the Black Caucus Health Braintrust, told the crowd the first task is “saving Medicaid that has been a lifeline for millions of low-income families. Over 1.7 million people are projected to lose coverage under the proposed tax cuts. We’ve been there, done that. It will undermine the viability of Medicaid, an indispensable safety net.”

Christensen along with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) called for an all-out mobilization for the 2004 elections. Schakowsky said, “We must register people to vote and elect an administration and Congress in 2004 that is responsive to our calls for national health care.”

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Tex.), chair of the Hispanic Caucus, urged a renewed battle to force Bush and Congress to deliver on their promise of a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. Bush, he charged, “is traveling the nation calling for an irresponsible tax cut while 43 million people are without health care… We can’t let that happen. This guy is interested in tax cuts for the rich and war.”

Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO executive vice president, promised the 13-million-member labor federation would fight for universal health coverage, noting that nine million children are uninsured. “When you fight for universal coverage for all Americans, we are on your side. Ya basta! Enough!”

Dr. Marilyn Benoit, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said 15 million children in the U.S. suffer from mental illness yet 80 percent of them have no access to mental health care. “We have to take health care off Wall Street and put it on Main Street,” she said. “Health care is not a commodity to be traded on the stock exchange. It is a right for all.”

Standing in the crowd were members of the Philadelphia Area Committee to Defend Healthcare. Walter Tsou, former Philadephia health commissioner, told the World more than 94,000 Philadelphians are without health insurance. “It’s pretty clear the health care system in this country is collapsing,” he said. “If our goal is quality, affordable health care for all Americans, the best way to get it is to establish a single-payer national insurance system.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

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