Tens of thousands ready to mobilize for President Obama’s reforms
Thousands of healthcare advocates attended “Healthcare Kickoff“ house parties and meetings across the nation June 6 to mobilize a grassroots fight to push through Congress a healthcare plan with a strong public healthcare option by the end of August.
“It was a great success, tens of thousands, at about 4,000 events in all 50 states,” a spokesperson for Organizing for America (OFA), told the World. Some report-backs were already posted on the OFA web site. Douglas Marino, 13, of New Hampshire said in his blog, “The meeting up in New Hampshire was fantastic.” He attached the letter he has sent to the Granite State’s U.S. Senators pointing out by the time he reaches age 23, he could be paying $30,282 annually in healthcare premiums “if we keep our current system. This does not have to be our future.” Debbie in Alabama wrote on her Obama blog, “We had a very productive kickoff meeting in Bessemer. There were 12 attendees two of whom were retired nurses. The group worked on plans to host a Health Fair on June 27.”
Ann Kurz of Canfield, Ohio, wrote, “Now that our delicious picnic and kickoff meeting is over, its time to roll up our sleeves and really get to work.” Her event was galvanized by a woman who arrived thinking the picnic was a yard sale. She was looking for sheets and pillow cases for a relative who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. They decided to organize “Operation Clean Sheets for Alzheimers” on June 27 “to raise community awareness about the rising costs of healthcare for the victims of this debilitating disease.”
Joelle Fishman, Chair of the Political Action Commission of the Communist Party USA said she attended one of the meetings near her home in New Haven Connecticut. “The whole emphasis of my meeting was on June 27th, a day of service for healthcare initiated by Obama’s Organizing for America,” she told the World. “The group came up with a plan to set up a table at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas in New Haven. It attracts thousands of people from Connecticut and all across the country.”
She urged support for efforts by the House Progressive Caucus that has assigned Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) to negotiations on healthcare legislation “and to seek the strongest possible public option in those talks,” she said.
As the plans are being mapped out in Congress, “we have to build unity,” she continued. “The Republicans and the right-wing conservatives oppose any kind of public option. We have to find expression for the public voice that healthcare is a basic human right….We have to understand that a strong public option is part of the struggle for a single-payer national healthcare plan in the future.”
The meetings took place as final drafting of healthcare legislation nears completion. President Obama sent a letter to Senators Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in which he wrote, “I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive and keep insurance companies honest.”
He favors a plan that enables people to keep the coverage they have if they prefer. “But for those who don’t have such options, I agree we should create a health insurance exchange, a market where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and chose the plan that’s best for them … None of these plans should deny coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions and all of these plans should include an affordable, basic benefit package that includes prevention and protection against catastrophic costs.”
Nearly 60 people attended a meeting hosted by the Clallam County chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) in Port Angeles, Washington. They too were focused on outreach. They decided to march, or rather, limp, in the Fourth of July parade wearing head bandages, arms in casts, with crutches or in wheelchairs to dramatize the crippled state of health care in the U.S. with 47 million uninsured and tens of millions with inadequate medical coverage.
The meeting a heard report about a woman who has lost twenty pounds in the past six weeks. “She goes to the Emergency Room and they stabilize her but cannot diagnose the root cause of her weight loss because she has no insurance and does not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare,” said one workshop reporter. “Health care is a right.”
Nearly everyone at the meeting favored single-payer. There was deep anger at insurance company lobbyists domination of the health care debate. “We shouldn’t let them Swift-Boat healthcare reform,” said Bill Kildall, a retired school teacher referring to a group that wrecked John Kerry’s bid for the presidency with a smear campaign on his record during the Vietnam war. Kildall told about Richard Scott, former CEO of Columbia/HCA, then the largest hospital chain in the nation. He was implicated in billions of dollars in overcharges of Medicare and Medicaid in 1997. He was ousted and the company pleaded guilty of fraud charges and paid $1.7 billion in fines.
Now Scott has risen from the dead, pouring $5 million of his ill-gotten fortune into smear TV ads against healthcare reform.
Another workshop reporter told of a young couple in Port Angeles, both self-employed in their home remodeling business. “Their yearly cost in health care premiums is $7,000 with a $5,000 deductible. They are one major medical problem from a financial crisis.”