Friday, July 31, 2009

Health care reform organizer: Tell legislators your stories

By Michele Bourdieu

HOUGHTON -- With more and more talk of compromise in the House of Representatives as they try to agree on an acceptable version of HR 3200, the health care reform bill, before their August recess, ordinary citizens struggle to understand the proposed legislation and how it will affect them -- especially if they are presently uninsured or in danger of losing employment on which they depend for insurance.*

The Internet is full of stories from individual people who have suffered from lack of insurance, from the escalating out-of-sight costs of hospital and doctor bills that can eat up their savings, or even from being denied coverage for a serious illness at the last minute after paying premiums for years -- because of a technicality an insurance company finds so it won't have to pay for the expensive care.

Aletheia Henry, Michigan director for Organizing for America, spoke to Houghton County Democrats at their July1 meeting to talk about grassroots organizing to communicate President Obama's health care reform goals of expanding coverage, improving quality, lowering costs, honoring patient choice and holding insurance companies accountable.

Aletheia Henry, Michigan director for Organizing for America, speaks to Houghton County Democrats at their July 1 meeting about grassroots organizing for health care reform. (Photo by Keweenaw Now)

Henry began her presentation with one of those personal stories -- a memorable one. She recounted how a young woman was with her father in a college book store, buying her books for college, when her father had a heart attack on the spot. He had just lost his job -- and his health insurance -- and told his daughter not to call an ambulance because they couldn't afford it. He died so his daughter could go to college.

Henry explained that one of the purposes of Organizing for America is to listen to such stories and to communicate people's real experiences with health care to legislators.

"I think we can absolutely put a human face to this," she said.

Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama for America, is building on the movement that elected President Obama by empowering communities across the country to bring about President Obama'a agenda of change.

Henry explained she had been disillusioned by working as a social worker and not really being able to help people in need. Her involvement in politics, she said, began with protesting the Iraq War during the Bush years and then working for the Obama Presidential Campaign. Like that campaign, she said, Organizing for America works on building the bottom-up, grassroots support that makes real change possible.

"We need to be active and vocal in this (health care) debate," Henry said. "Please, please share your stories."**

Phil Faucher of Tapiola spoke at the meeting of a friend who died because he did not have insurance. He spoke about another friend, diagnosed with cancer, who recently went to Canada for health care because the Canadian system accepts anyone with a life-threatening disease.***

"We all should be ashamed of ourselves that we can't take care of our own citizens," Faucher said. "And this is the greatest country in the world."

Everyone needs to stand up and end the fear of change, Faucher added.

Carol Kurz of Calumet said Henry's presentation was enthusiastic -- a needed wake-up call.

"We need to support our legislators," Kurz said. "We should let our legislators know that we really want some action on health care and that we will support them."

During that July 1 meeting the Houghton County Democratic Party (HCDP) approved a Resolution on Health Care Reform supporting a single-payer health care system for all Americans. The Resolution states HCDP believes all Americans are entitled to quality health care -- affordable, accessible and non-discriminatory. It calls for a single-payer plan operated by the federal government and available to all individuals, allowing patients access to a choice of health care providers.

Click here for the full text of the Resolution.

Actually President Obama's wish is to have a government plan similar to Medicare as an option for those who are uninsured or unhappy with their present insurance. He wants people to have a choice.

In his column dated July 30, 2009, Paul Krugman, New York Times Op-Ed columnist, told the story of a senior citizen on Medicare who was afraid of the federal government interfering with his coverage. Krugman concludes the man did not understand the facts about Medicare and about present government regulation of -- and subsidies to -- insurance companies.

In his article Krugman writes:
"Right-wing opponents of reform would have you believe that President Obama is a wild-eyed socialist, attacking the free market. But unregulated markets don’t work for health care -- never have, never will. To the extent we have a working health care system at all right now it’s only because the government covers the elderly, while a combination of regulation and tax subsidies makes it possible for many, but not all, nonelderly Americans to get decent private coverage.

"Now Mr. Obama basically proposes using additional regulation and subsidies to make decent insurance available to all of us. That’s not radical; it’s as American as, well, Medicare."

Click here for the text of Krugman's column.

Editor's Notes:
* For a recent article on the efforts of Democrats to arrive at a compromise today, July 31, see this AP article:

**The Houghton County Democrats' Web site has a link to stories people from this area have submitted to Organizing for America's Health Care Action Center. Go to the Houghton County Democrats' Web site and click on the quote from Aletheia Henry in the photo to read the stories and to submit your own if you wish. Go to the Update page to see how our Michigan Congressman and two Senators are currently voting.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow's Web site also has a Health Care People's Lobby where you can express your views or tell your story and learn about her efforts for health care reform.

This is the third in a series of articles on health care reform. Please send us your comments here and feel free to submit an opinion column or letter to the editor by email at

***CORRECTION: We apologize for neglecting to say that Phil Faucher's friend received health care in Canada because she is a Canadian citizen. Please see the Comment by Phillip.


Phillip said...

This a correction for the article.
My friend lives in Canada. Don`t think you can go there and get free health care. You must be a Canadian citizen.
Phil Faucher

Keweenaw Now said...

Thanks, Phil, for the correction. Sorry for that error. Michele