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“Big Insurance-Sick of It”

The E-mail arrived last week announcing Moveon.org’s new initiative in the health care reform arena, Rudy Mejia, a local Moveon organizer stated in his message that “Big Insurance-Sick of it” rallies will be held in front of health insurance offices and Blue Dog Democratic legislative offices throughout the country at twelve noon on Tuesday, September 22. Lunchtime on a Tuesday is not the best time to hold a rally. Despite the timing problem a modest crowd of about fifty people, some from as far away as Lake County, assembled in front of Senator Bill Nelson’s Orlando office to urge the senator to support a strong public option. There were no opposing groups; however, a local landscaping company was trimming hedges at exactly the spot where the rally took place. The noise from the gasoline powered trimmers made it difficult to hear. When asked to trim elsewhere on the buildings site the supervisor refused to do so. Local activist Dave Rice said “This is deliberate and I’m going to find out who put them up to this.” Undaunted, the people moved in closer.

Mejia stated to the assembled that Senator Nelson is a member of the Senate Finance committee chaired by Max Baucus and will play an important role in the shaping of the ultimate bill to be presented to the Senate. He also went on to state that as many as three hundred rallies such as this were being held nationwide and that this will be an ongoing endeavor until real health care legislation is passed. The spokesman for this rally was Lyman Baker, an East Orlando resident, who spoke at length on the need for reform. Here’s part of his speech:

“You can see why it is that the Finance Committee’s bill has been sarcastically called “The Health Insurance Companies’ Profit-Protection Plan.”  It actually should be called “The Health Insurance Corporations’ Profit-Enhancement Plan,” since it directs huge numbers of new customers to them, and uses tax-payers’ money to pay the bill at the rates they set.”

“So it’s not hard to see why Big Insurance has been behaving as we’ve seen it do.   America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is a national association of some 1300 member insurance companies that has spent millions of dollars fighting to kill real reform, particularly targeting the public health option, which is such a key part of President Obama’s health reform plan because it forces private insurance companies to compete with it and with each other in a way they won’t have to do under the bill proposed by the Senate Finance Committee.”

“That bill is now in “mark-up,” and our Senator Bill Nelson will play a part in that process of amendment.  That’s why we’re here today to let him know why we understand that the public option is essential”

After his opening remarks Baker introduced several people who shared their stories with the crowd:

  • Betty Hack was denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
  • Nancy Jacobson spoke about her best friend, Barbara, who is a working artist and who travels around the country displaying her work at art shows and festivals. Considering today’s economy she can hardly afford to pay for her health insurance, which includes a $7500.00 deductible.
  • Joe Reed, an actor, was laid off from Disney.  His story was featured in Linda Schrieves front-page story in Tuesday’s Orlando Sentinel (here) — a story that contains some informative statistics about how Florida is worse than average in the percentage of people without health insurance.
  • Jefferson Soler spoke about difficulties getting insurance as a person with a touch of autism (accepted only with a rider).
  • Tanya Cheney was laid off last fall and who (along with her husband, also laid off) has no insurance.
  • Judy Rice explained that because of a previous condition, she and her husband Dave ended up being charged $1000/month premium, and ended in bankruptcy.
  • Guenther Apsel, a Lutheran minister (81, now retired, living in Florida) who will be returning to Germany because medical coverage and treatment are unaffordable for him here.
  • Christine Fullerton told the crowd her insurance company 19 years ago so delayed authorizing treatment for her spinal condition, with the result that she has suffered permanent damage. Her husband was switching jobs and the old insurance company did not want to get stuck with the medical bills. The new insurance company would not insure her pre-existing condition.
  • Dave Kaminsky is facing 6 months without coverage after recent kidney transplant surgery, between when his current insurance will terminate and Medicare will kick in.
  • Wendy Woodall, a retired USAF Staff Sgt, related story of her friend Cheri who was kicked out of the hospital before 24 hours were up after having a double mastectomy.

Baker went on to say that these stories abound everywhere and that all of the people heard during the rally were productive members of society who are not looking for free government health care.

At the end of the rally a group of attendees including Jacobson, Fullerton, Kaminsky and others visited Nelson’s office and met with Sherry Davitch, his assistant for health care matters. Davitch was sympathetic with their concerns and claimed that Nelson is studying the issues and has not made up his mind. “Remember, Senator Nelson was Insurance Commissioner in this state for six years and he’s not their friend” said Davitch. Steve Litt and Nancy Jacobson, acting as spokesmen cited the latest polls indicating that the public and most doctors are overwhelmingly in support of a strong public option, to which Davitch replied “Which one? There are six of them.” She promised to talk to the Senator and let their concerns be known. The meeting was over and some members of the group felt that they had made some headway.

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