Among the many lies and distortions spread by those intent on derailing health-care reform at any cost, one of the most persistent is that business owners don’t want any part of it.
That’s why a group of small-business owners gathered in Jackson Heights, Queens, on Friday to set the record straight. Their intention was to let everyone know that they – like the majority of the American people – support real health-care reform.
"We feel health care is a right, not a privilege," said Julie Nymann, the owner of Espresso 77, a Jackson Heights espresso bar where the group met. "Yet, we are a small business and we cannot afford to provide insurance to our employees. Something has to be done."
The merchants urged their elected representatives to go back to Washington and fight for a reform that includes a public plan and includes immigrants.
With President Obama poised to speak Wednesday to a joint session of Congress, speculation about what he will or will not say is running wild. What is not subject to speculation, though, is that the future of a meaningful reform is at a critical juncture.
It has been reported that Obama remains committed to reform that includes a public health insurance option and that he will lay out in his speech a detailed plan to make it a reality.
Yet, it has also been reported that the President is under constant pressure, even from some of his advisers, to drop the public option in favor of a compromised, watered-down version.
This possibility seemed so real to the Congressional Black Caucus that it warned Obama that its 42 members would not back a plan without a public option and a commitment to fund universal coverage.
The moment is critical. This is the time to remind the President of his promises.
That is what the Queens business people, who organized themselves to push for a plan that works for small businesses, did on Friday. And that’s what they vowed to continue doing by launching a storefront poster campaign in support of true health-care reform.
The campaign is spearheaded by the 600-member Small Business United for Health Care, a project of the grass-roots community group Make the Road New York. More than 500 stores in Queens and Brooklyn have placed the posters in their windows, demanding "real health-care reform with real coverage, shared commitment, the choice of a public plan and immigrant inclusion."
"We are looking for a level playing field, not for a free ride," said Nymann, who employs five neighborhood people. "We are part of a community and I believe that even those with great insurance plans have a responsibility to make sure that others who don’t can also have medical coverage."
At this critical juncture, when the insurance, pharmaceutical, hospital and health-care industries are spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress to prevent reform, Obama needs support.
The President needs the backing of the small-business owners, of the millions of Americans who have been pushed into bankruptcy by a family illness despite having medical coverage and of the many millions more – most of them hardworking people – who simply cannot afford the outrageous cost of health insurance.
This is the time to speak up, to make sure that the President, Congress and even the fearmongers hear the voices of those who volunteered, voted for Obama or donated to his campaign, that is, the majority of Americans who want universal health care now.
In the richest country on earth, no longer should anybody be denied coverage or be unable to afford it.