John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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September 3, 2009
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'Anita the Housewife' takes on health care reform in Glenwood


GLENWOOD SPRINGS - A local activist, working unofficially with Garfield County Democrats, is holding a rally and vigil in support of health-care reform at 7 p.m. Thursday at Axtell Park (behind the Glenwood Springs Chamber building at 11th and Grand).

"I think many of us are feeling ... fractured, and seeing our country gravitating toward a lot of negativity," said rally organizer Anita Sherman Hughes, a self-described "stay-at-home mom" who has been researching the health-care reform debate while raising two young girls.

"We had Joe the Plumber," she said with a laugh, referring to a Pennsylvania man made famous last year when mentioned as a troubled, average American voter by Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

"Well, I'm Anita The Housewife," declared Hughes.

Hughes was among those who spoke at an earlier health-care reform rally, in late July at Axtell Park, which was organized as one of six rallies around the state by the national "Change That Works Campaign" in its efforts to promote President Barack Obama's political agenda.

Obama and his supporters, along with members of congress, have faced considerable opposition at "town hall meetings" around the country, from those opposed to plans to put together a national health-care coverage system.

But where the opposition forces attracted most of the media attention initially, as senators and representatives met with constituents during the August recess, recent stories have featured supporters as well as detractors.

"We are focusing on health-care reform NOW," Hughes said with emphasis, maintaining that nationally as many as 300 million citizens are believed to support significant modifications to the nation's health care system.

A former activist in the League of Women Voters and other organizations, Hughes said she believes that most voters are emphatically in favor of health-care reform, and in favor of what is known as the "public option," or government-controlled health insurance that would compete with private insurance plans.

Unhappy over what she termed a misplaced media emphasis on recent anti-reform protests in towns around the U.S., she said she is not expecting a counter-demonstration at tonight's rally, although she added that she had received some hostile e-mails because of her advocacy for reform.

"I haven't had any personal threats," Hughes said, but she is planning to notify the Glenwood Springs Police Department of her plans for the rally.

Hughes said the rally will feature personal stories about health-care issues, as well as talks about perceived "facts versus fiction" in the national health-care debate.

For example, she said, it is estimated that, on a national level, 23 percent of each dollar in government tax revenues goes to subsidize the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

For her family of four, she said, that tax bill, added to premiums for employer health plans, meant that "our family paid $22,000 before we even saw a doctor" in 2008.

"We already have a nationalized health care system," she maintained, but the beneficiaries are the insurance and drug companies. "This is a system that needs to be reformed."

Other such rallies have been taking place around the country as members of Congress return to Washington, D.C. at the end of the August recess.

Michael Huttner, founder of the ProgressNow political advocacy organization and author of "50 Ways You Can Help Obama Change America," said that recent rallies around the country have drawn thousands of people eager to let their representatives know their feelings.

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The Aspen Times Updated Sep 3, 2009 07:02AM Published Sep 3, 2009 02:01AM Copyright 2009 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.