WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. – Doors were scheduled to open at 6:00 and though I arrived by 4:15, 300 people were already in line. A certain tension was in the air, as Rep. Gary Peters, a first-term Democrat in Michigan’s 9th C.D, a district that has not been represented by a Democrat for several decades, has been the target of several right-wing rallies. This time, pro-reform forces vowed not to be out organized.

The 800-seat auditorium quickly filled, leaving many unable to get in. A majority of the 800 present supported reform, but what the far-right fails to make up in numbers they try to do through obnoxious behavior including interrupting, booing and more.

Peters and those supporting health care reform stood their ground. The congressman told the audience that insurance premiums are increasing 17 times faster than wages. The average premium was $12,000 in 2008 but only $6,860 in 2000. Using a remark he would make several times during the two-hour meeting, Peters said, “Doing nothing is not an option.” If we do nothing, he said, “in seven years premiums will be $24,000.”

He indicated cost is not the only concern. “Michigan has one million uninsured, 80,000 alone in the 9th C.D., and the state’s total increases by 620 people daily,” he noted. To emphasize that 620 number, he asked people to look around the hall and realize that in Michigan this number of people and more lose health care every day because their employer stops coverage or they lose their job.

If we do nothing, Peters said, 11million more people in the country will lose health care over the next 10 years.

Many in attendance spoke movingly about the trials and fears they endure in their quest to find and keep coverage.

A woman said that while her family presently had good health care coverage through her husband’s job, when he retires a family member will lose coverage and consequently have difficulty finding another plan because the individual will have a serious pre-existing condition.

With people testifying about such worrisome problems with our health care system, you would think a reasonable discussion could ensure. Unfortunately reasonableness, to say the least, is not a trait of the far-right.

They brought the whole right-wing agenda into this health care meeting, showing their intent is to stop not just health care but all progressive change. They ranted about services going to immigrants, wanting to know how Peters would define who was a citizen. They worried about their taxes giving benefits to those who are “unemployed by choice.” It’s unbelievable that in Michigan, ravaged by plant closings and downsizing, someone would have the nerve to make such a ridiculous statement. They ranted about abortion, death panels, tort reform and big government.

No matter how often Peters put on the large overhead screen text from HR 3200, the House bill under discussion, answering their questions (such as showing that end-of-life counseling would not be mandatory), they kept repeating the same false claims.

If I had had a chance to speak I was going to say that not only do we need health care reform but maybe we should expand remedial reading classes because some in the audience have difficulty with reading comprehension.

And as has happened in other town hall meetings, the contradictory statements from some of the far right about keeping government away from Medicare were heard here as well, prompting one pro-reform speaker to say, “Everybody in this room loves Medicare. Why can’t we have a real reform based on the Medicare system?”

jrummel @ pww.org





John Rummel
John Rummel

Activist John Rummel covers events in Michigan. It's not politics-only for John; he loves sports, the outdoors and a cold beer or two!