Citizens ralliy in Glenwood for public health care option | AspenTimes.com

Citizens ralliy in Glenwood for public health care option

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox/Post IndependentNearly 40 people gathered at the park behind the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association on Thursday evening for a rally on health care.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A public health insurance option for the 46 million or so Americans who don’t have health insurance, or who want a reasonable option to private health insurance, is “not socialism,” says Paula Stepp.

It’s one of the misperceptions in the protracted national debate over health care reform that she believes needs to be dispelled if a comprehensive reform package is to gain acceptance by skeptics and approval in Congress.

“We need to look at how we are putting our message out,” said Stepp, one of the approximately 40 people who attended a health care reform rally and candlelight vigil in Axtel Park Thursday evening.

“We need the public option so that those who want to can pay directly into a health care system, and not to the health insurance industry or the middle man,” she said. “And we are willing to pay for it just as people are willing to pay for private insurance. That’s not socialism.”

Though the numbers were small at Thursday’s rally, organizer Anita Sherman Hughes noted that it was more than double the number of people who showed up at a noontime rally she attended in late July.

“Each of you represents 1 million people who don’t have health insurance,” she told the gathering as they lit candles in memory of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the longtime champion of comprehensive health care who died last week.

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“Almost 40 years ago Senator Kennedy introduced comprehensive health care reform,” Sherman Hughes said. “What we are here for today is what Ted Kennedy fought for 40 years ago. … This is about all of us, Democrats, Republicans, independents, all of us. We need health care reform, and it’s important that it include a public option. And we need to make sure our voices are loud and clear on that.”

She pointed out that 23 cents of every tax dollar now goes to a national health care program, in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, which only covers those who are over age 65 and those who are under a certain income limit.

“Sixty percent of all personal bankruptcies are due to health care costs,” she said. “Where is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in that?”

No opponents to health care reform showed up to challenge those at the rally, although Sherman Hughes said she would be glad to invite them to the microphone for a civil exchange.

“We will not win our battles by continuing the divisive tactics, as seen from our opposition,” she said. “It needs to be about facts. We need to be stronger, we need to be louder, and we need to be solid in our initiatives.”

Another attendee and Democratic Party activist, Nick Isenberg, told his story of being turned down for coverage by private health insurers twice after having procedures done that he said he was told would be covered.

When he and his wife neared retirement age, they went for a period without health insurance and put off some medical needs until they qualified for Medicare.

“We now have good insurance. It’s a great government health care plan,” Isenberg said. “But other people should have comparable insurance, and not go bankrupt.”

He also had a message for any Democrats in Congress who bow to the insurance lobby and vote against a public option health insurance plan, or something comparable.

“We will find people to run against them next election,” he said. “No Democrat who votes against a public health insurance option can win a primary, and we will put candidates up against them who will.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

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