by Katharine Bock and Peg Elwell
(Note: For a story about the Federal Health Care bill please see: "John Conyers Reintroduces Federal Single Payer Bill" by Carol Dalrymple on the Campaigns page).
Thank you to all who worked so hard and so fast on making this visit a success. Not only did we have 10 delegates inside with the Congresswoman, but 20-30 outside with signs, talking to passersby. Drivers were honking, and demonstrators were giving them literature through their windows.
We have been trying to talk to Zoe in person for several years, because she has not signed on to HR 676, the Conyers Bill, The fact that we finally got in to see her in person, after many visits with aides, is in itself a sign that she knows the importance of the issue, and that we, single-payer advocates, are being heard. We all agreed that the visit was a success. We covered a lot of ground and Zoe seemed very appreciative that we came.
The delegates represented many unions, community groups, and constituents, and supporting letters were sent by representatives of powerful faith groups as well. Greg Miller, a member of CNA, and a nurse, spoke about the terrible double stress his patients suffer dealing with their illness while at the same time fighting with the insurance companies for coverage.
Peg Elwell, representing AFSCME, mentioned public employees growing expenses for health care and huge budget issues for local governments. Martha Beattie, representing the League of Women Voters, spoke about the support of the League for single payer healthcare. Louie Rocha, past president of the Communication Workers (CWA 9423), and a member of the executive board of the South Bay Labor Council spoke about how health care costs were affecting workers in his union.
Mike Hejazi, United Auto Workers Local 2350, spoke about a union retiree health care fund that was due to run out of money in a matter of months. He also said that the Canadian single-payer plan had served him and his family very well. Mike Mulligan, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, spoke about the huge time taken up in their meetings dealing with the issues of health insurance.
Bob Applebaum, constituent and an HCA member, spoke about his experiences trying to fund health care for a large non-profit organization. Larry Lozares, constituent, HCA member and former Adobe manager, eloquently shared his health care story, a struggle to maintain life-saving treatment now that his COBRA is running out, Tom Alexander of Plumbers Union Local 393 shared some information with Zoe about a study that would be done of how much money a single-payer plan would save a local government in Pennsylvania.
Katherine Bock from the Low-Income Self-Help Center tried to dispel some of the myths that exist about low-income people -- that we could get insurance if we wanted, and that the health safety net is adequate -- and presented her a copy of our 2005 study, Healthcare Our Lives Depend on It.
Congresswoman Lofgren prefaced her response to us by saying she looks to President Obama for leadership on the healthcare issue, and that since she is not on the healthcare committee, rather focuses on immigration issues, that she was not endorsing any particular healthcare bill. However, she did affirm that she supported universal care that eliminated the role of insurance companies, which soak up a huge percentage of health care funds. She also alluded to the economic crisis, and declared that the main issues that must be dealt with swiftly are the economic stimulus, housing, healthcare and immigration reform. She was proud that legislation securing monies for SCHIP (covering children) and Medicare that were either in the works or had been passed as stopgaps.
Special thanks to Carol Dalrymple and Lynn Huidekoper, of Healthcare for All, for lining up delegates, and for getting so many people out with only five days notice.
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