NEW YORK At a press conference on August 21st the afternoon began with Jean
Andre Sassine telling his personal story. He lost his job and his health
insurance at a time that his wife needed surgery. Forced to choose between
housing for his family and his wifes health, he chose to continue paying for
his health insurance. A young doctor, Manisha Sharma, MD spoke next. In her
early 20s while studying to become a dancer, she was hit by a car while walking
in a crosswalk. For seven years she underwent four major hip surgeries and
extensive physical therapy. But her physical problems paled in comparison to the
stress of dealing with her health insurance company. She was told that if a
third party is involved in a medical issue like the woman driving the car that
hit her her insurance company had the right not to pay her bills. And this was
while she was paying her insurance premiums and needed medical treatment to be
able to walk. Since that time she has graduated from medical school and is
unemployed because she has not started her residency yet. Because of that she
has no insurance and because of her pre-existing condition, the results of the
accident, insurance would be unaffordable if she could find a private company
that would insure her. She said that she was part of a statistic of almost fifty
million people who do not have health insurance and that there must be a public
option in any reform plan. She added, We need a system that puts patients
before profits, and does not make money off your illness. The option of a public
health insurance will keep the private companies in-check. It will keep them
The approximately 200 people that had gathered at the Ryan Chelsea-Clinton
Community Health Center on 10th Avenue in N.Y.C. for a press conference
supporting a public option in the health insurance reform plans listened to
these speakers with rapt attention. The audience represented many organizations
: Health Care for America Now, Citizen Action of N.Y., Acorn, District Council
37, N.Y. Small Business for Health Care**, National Physicians Alliance, AFSME
N.Y.S., Childrens Defense Fund of N.Y.C., Community Service Society, Committee
of Interns and Residents, Communication Workers of America, MoveOn.org, N.Y.
Immigration Alliance, N.Y.C. for Change, N.Y.S. AFL-CIO, Raising Womens Voices,
SEIU Local 32 BJ, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, and Theatrical Stage
Employees Local 1. Their message was to Obama: Stand strong, we are with you, we
must have a public option.
Kathy Gruber, Executive Director of the Ryan-Nena Community Health Centers
stressed that we mush insist on a public option. Their system treats thousands
of patients and 40% have no insurance.
Rebecca Telzac, Project Coordinator, Small Business for Health Care, Make the
Road N.Y. represents 600 small businesses. She explained that small business
owners who want to cover their employees find the cost prohibitive. They have to
pay at a rate that is vastly different from large companies since they are
covering a small number of people. One small business owner was charged $700 a
month for each employee. He couldnt sustain the cost. Small businesses need a
Oliver Gray, Associate Director of DC37, AFSME discussed the high cost of
drug coverage for the 300,000 people that his union covers. He also pointed out
that with the public option people will be less likely to use the very expensive
service of hospital emergency rooms as a primary care physician.
One of the most informative speakers was Rep. Jerry Nadler. He said he has
supported single payer health insurance for 40 years. The participants cheered
very enthusiastically. 47 million Americans have no insurance. 55% of the
bankruptcies in this country are because of medical bills and of these 75%
thought they had good insurance coverage but found out their expenses were not
fully covered. The bills before the House are similar. They say everyone must
have medical insurance. Those that cannot afford it will pay on a sliding scale.
Employers must either carry health insurance for their employees or pay into a
fund. Insurance companies will not be allowed to have a lifetime limit as to
what they will pay the insured. Deductibles cannot exceed $5000 per individual
or $10,000 per family. And there must be a government option where people can
get a group rate. The public option is essential it will keep the private
insurance companies honest. There can be no cutting corners on treatment and no
refusal to cover a person due to a prior condition. He added that 30% of the
current budget goes to medical care yet the U.S. is 47th in life expectancy in
the world. A bad result for all the money that is being spent. Stock prices on
insurance companies go up whenever there is talk of dropping the public option.
That should tell us something important. The issues involved in reforming health
insurance have been compromised too many times. We have to draw a line in the
sand. Nadler said he will absolutely not support a bill without a public option.
This drew more cheers from the participants.
Then he explained some of the political dynamics. He said Obama should forget
about bipartisanship. It isnt going to happen. He will get nothing from the
Republicans. The bill will pass in the House and only 51, not 60, votes are
needed in the Senate for it to pass. The 51 votes are there. Obama should tell
the 60 Democrats in the Senate that they dont all have to vote for the bill,
but they must all vote to end a Republican filibuster of the bill. 60 votes are
needed to end a filibuster. He concluded, 60 progressive Democrats in the House
have said that they will not vote for any bill without a public option. There
will be a lot of pressure on them. What the Democrats really need is a spine.
With this Rep. Nadler received a standing ovation.
The final speaker was Mark Hannay, Director, Metro N.Y. Health Care for All
Campaign. He said, Todays press conference is one of several being held across
our state over the next few days. Everyday New Yorkers, community advocates, and
trade union leaders are standing together to demonstrate strong support for the
establishment of a choice of a strong public health insurance option within
national health care reform legislation. If you listen to the media this week,
youd think that the public option is already dead and off the table. All of us
stand here to say NOTHING COULD BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH.
A solid core of Representatives and Senators are fighting back, stating that
they will not vote for any bill that does not include a public option.
THIS FIGHT IS FAR FROM OVER, and there will be many twists and turns as the
legislative process moves forward over the coming weeks.
starting right now we community and labor advocates for health care for
all are redefining the national debate. The next month as Congress returns to
work is our opportunity to dig in and really be part of what will someday be
viewed as a pivotal moment in our nations history. Someday we will tell our
kids and our grandkids how we stood up for what was right in the face of fierce
opposition, and helped change the direction and character of our country. New
Yorkers voted for change last fall. To echo last falls campaign slogan, yes,
**Un proyecto de Se Hace Camino Nueva York