WASHINGTON - December 8 - Declaring health care to be a human right, hundreds of advocates for a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health program will protest at senators' offices around the country on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day. Many will risk arrest by committing acts of civil disobedience.
What: Sit-ins and protests at senators' offices to demand single-payer health reform
When: Thursday, December 10, 2009, International Human Rights Day
Where: 18 cities across the country (see list at end)
Who: Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national civil disobedience campaign http://mobilizeforhealthcare.org
Organizers say the coordinated sit-ins and other actions will spotlight the "complete inadequacy" of the present House and Senate bills, which, they say, will leave at least 17 million people uninsured and millions more with shoddy coverage, unprotected from skyrocketing medical costs.
"Elected officials are the ones with the power to end this abusive, immoral health care system we have," says George Randt, M.D., a physician specialist in primary care medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and a member of the national single-payer advocacy group Healthcare-NOW!. "They have the power to take out the middleman-the private insurance industry-which provides no care but merely inflates the cost of care for everyone. The bills emerging in Congress are completely inadequate. Patients deserve better."
The actions are part of a national civil disobedience campaign for single-payer health reform led by the Mobilization for Health Care for All. The campaign has gained notoriety for having organized more than 35 sit-ins across the country in recent weeks, targeting private health insurance companies and exposing their role as the real "death panels" that decide who lives and who dies based on ability to pay.
"My life should not be in the hands of insurance CEOs who profit from denying me care," adds Kate Barnhart of New York, one of the over 200 citizens arrested at the recent round of sit-ins.
Barnhart's doctor ordered a brain scan for a tumor in early September, but the procedure's approval has been repeatedly delayed by her insurance company. "I had been paying $900 a month for my premium," she said. "Last week, the company terminated my policy, and I still haven't had my brain scan. Do my senators think this is OK?"
Medicare-for-All supporters advocate a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system similar to Medicare. The single-payer system would be financed entirely through taxes, cover everyone, ensure freedom to choose doctors, and save about $400 billion annually by eliminating wasteful paperwork, bureaucracy and insurance company profits. The vast majority of people would pay less in taxes than what they presently pay for premiums and out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, introduced a single-payer amendment to the Senate leadership's health bill on December 2nd that would essentially replace the existing bill's language with an improved Medicare-for-All plan. Sanders has also announced plans to introduce another measure that would permit individual states to experiment with their own single-payer programs.
"While Obama was courting my vote, he said during the debates that health care is a right," said Andy Richards of the Coalition of the Uninsured and Underinsured for Single-Payer, based in Washington, D.C. "My mom fought cancer for 21 years, and even though she had health insurance, the out-of-pocket costs were astronomical. She passed away in 2005. Today my dad is still paying off medical debt and was nearly on the brink of bankruptcy."
Richards is another recent sit-in arrestee who, at age 25, was denied coverage due to a so-called pre-existing condition. "Does it sound like a right to you when people go without health care or pay so much for it that they go bankrupt? My senators need to do the right thing: stop accepting bribes from insurance companies and pass single-payer amendments in the Senate."
December 10th is the 61st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the United States is a signatory. Single-payer actions commemorating Human Rights Day are taking place in the following cities:
Atlanta, GA: Denise Woodal, firstname.lastname@example.org
Des Moines, IA: Mona Shaw, 515-282-4781, email@example.com
Louisville, KY: Harriette Seiler, (502) 644-7124, firstname.lastname@example.org
Baltimore, MD: Charles Loubert, email@example.com
Kalamazoo, MI: Don Cooney, 269-387-3190, firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY: Laurie Wen, 917-446-1610, email@example.com
St. Louis, MO: Mark Reed, 314-773-7876, firstname.lastname@example.org
Newark, NJ: 917-446-1610, email@example.com
Syracuse, NY: Karen Nezelek, 315-876-9669, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cleveland, OH: Drew Smith, 330-703-0556, email@example.com
Philadelphia, PA: Joan Martini, firstname.lastname@example.org
Virginia Beach, VA: Trudy Serrano, 757-671-9345, email@example.com
Seattle, WA: Sally Soriano, Sally@SallySoriano.org
Washington, D.C.: Andy Richards, (571)-438-3393, firstname.lastname@example.org
Davie, Orlando, West Palm Beach, and Tallahassee, FL: Rick Ford, 561-601-9150, email@example.com