Maybe the front page of your newspaper is plastered this morning with photos of the late great Michael Jackson. But what you really need to know about is the huge health care rally that took place a few feet from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC yesterday.
An estimated 10,000 people convened on the Capitol to call on Congress to move swiftly and decisively to pass legislation for sweeping health care reform, reform that will help millions and millions of Americans who are uninsured and under-insured. The rally, organized by Health Care for America Now, heard repeatedly from individuals crying out for quality, affordable health care. The placards saying that health care reform cannot wait rose high above the throngs of community groups, labor activists, nurses, doctors, and ordinary people who came from all corners of the U.S. to make their case.
If you aren't following the health care debate, you should be. It affects every single individual in the U.S., and the very bedrock of our ailing economy. As one speaker explained it, it's always been a morally-imperative thing to do to provide insurance to all Americans, but now, it's an economic necessity, as our lack of universal health care interferes with our ability to prosper as a nation.
Some 50 million individuals have no health insurance at all. With more and more individuals losing jobs, the number is growing quickly. Millions more people do have insurance but it doesn't deliver when it is most needed. Or, payments are repeatedly delayed by insurers who conveniently hold onto money while dilly dallying paying claims.
There are horror stories galore from folks whose urgent treatments for serious illnesses are routinely denied by greedy insurance companies who put profits before people.
Among the protesters was a large and readily visible group of physicians wearing white coats and dangling stethoscopes around their necks. Calling themselves the National Physicians Alliance, they called on Congress to implement a system of equitable, affordable, high quality care for all people. One doctor, from West Virginia, said that both his parents have no health insurance. Like so many others without insurance, his mother, who recently suffered from a urinary tract infection, was forced to seek care in the emergency room.
The speakers included actress Edie Falco, who said that her personal health history, and her experience being uninsured, drove her to come to DC to advocate for health reform. Falco stars in the new TV show "Nurse Jackie," in which she plays a nurse. Falco introduced several individuals who have no insurance. One woman spoke tearfully of her experience having to have several toes amputated because her insurer refused to pay for treatment she needed urgently.
Protesters repeatedly cried out for a publically-operated insurance program to compete with private insurers. President Obama has said again and again that such a public option is needed to keep health care costs down, and to keep the health insurance industry "honest." The insurance industry is fighting the idea of a public option, naturally, as they see it as a threat to their unfettered control of the insurance market, a market that serves them up huge profits.