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Letter: Reach Out America Goes to Washington

On Thursday, July 30, six members of Reach Out America left for Washington, one by train, five by “full” chartered bus leaving from the Port Authority Terminal, at 7 a.m. Along with men and women from across the nation, we were going to celebrate Medicare’s 44th birthday by attending a rally and meeting with our legislators.

The rally at Upper Senate Park, featured many speakers including Dr. David Scheiner, President Obama’s personal physician of 22 years, Rep. John Conyers, Senator Bernie Sanders, state Senator Jim Ferlo, Terry O’Neil, president of the National Organization for Women, “Baucus arrestees,” Dr. Margaret Flowers (Physicians for a National Health Plan representing 16,000 doctors) and Katie Robbins (Healthcare Now!, representing 85,000 nurses) and many more.

They spoke about our current costly, dysfunctional health care system that cannot be sustained without reform: about the 46 million uninsured and millions more underinsured, in spite of the fact that we spend more than twice as much on health care as compared to all other industrialized countries who have universal coverage, that the number of uninsured Americans has been rising at a rate of more than one million people annually as premiums skyrocket and wages stagnate, and unemployment rises, about the more than 20,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the U.S. due to lack of health insurance, that 62 percent of bankruptcies are due to illness and medical bills, and although America leads the world in health care spending, we are rated No. 37 by the World Health Organization in terms of performance.

We scheduled visits to Sen. Schumer, Rep. Ackerman and Rep. McCarthy, and met with their health care legislative assistants to explain our concerns. We did meet Sen. Schumer and Rep. Ackerman to chat briefly in the halls, as they were going to and coming from meetings. We discussed our belief that the legislation currently proposed would not be universal, nor protect individuals from bankrupting medical bills or guarantee needed health care. Also there were no realistic cost containment measures.

The current system is dedicated to delivering profits, not health care. One third of our health care dollars are wasted on administrative costs and profits instead of the three percent cost for Medicare. Single-payer is the only health care system that would save our nation money instead of costing an additional one $1 trillion.

Medicare is a successful, truly American model, publicly financed and privately delivered. Expanded and improved, it would provide affordable, quality health care for all. It is the only proposal that is both socially and fiscally responsible. It would end the disparity and immorality of a system in which profit takes precedence over people.

We came to ask our legislators to make health care a human right, to consider the needs of the majority of the American people as primary, not the desires of the special interests and vocal minority and to support HR 676, “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All,” or S 703, the “American Health Security Act.”

Unhappily, the legislative recess has become a battleground. According to news reports, the combination of opposition based on ideology, special interests or sheer ignorance has determined that the way to obstruct any progress on health care reform is to disrupt, shout out, in short, prevent the public from participating in Town Hall meetings to become informed, discuss or ask questions. This unfortunate, undemocratic behavior is exacerbated by their pundits on the airwaves who are spreading disinformation and blatant lies thus lending encouragement.

We hope the American people see this sham for what it is, and respond intelligently and appropriately to their best interests. We finally have a chance to make changes for the better to a health care system that has long been overdue for change. Let’s not miss this opportunity.

Two pieces of news:

Rep. Anthony Weiner has offered an amendment to replace HR 3200, the House Leadership’s health reform bill, with HR 676, Rep. John Conyers’ single-payer, Medicare for All legislation.

As a result of the amendment proposal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to bring single-payer to a vote before the full House when they convene to debate national health reform in September. This vote represents a truly historic opportunity – the first time that single-payer will be voted on in Congress.

Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo and NY State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried initiated a campaign to win state legislator support for HR 676, Medicare for All, and thus bring comprehensive, affordable, quality health care to all Americans.

Twenty-four state legislators signed the letter that went out to every state legislator in the U.S. The goal is to sign hundreds of legislators on to the campaign. Their united strength will add another national voice to call for effective health care reform, joining the many who already embrace a single-payer system.

Marge Raphael, Chair
Social Security/Health Care Committee
Reach Out America