Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Anger rises towards Big Insurance

CHICAGO — “We’re going to win health care reform in this country. And we’re not going to let giant insurance companies get in the way,” said reform advocate John Gaudette at a midday rally here Sep. 22.

Anger is rising towards Big Insurance and its opposition to health care reform. Over 300 pro-reform advocates rallied in front of the headquarters of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, one of the state’s largest health insurance companies. They called for universal health care with a government-run plan to compete with private insurance companies.

“Insurance companies like Blue Cross are making extraordinary profits off the backs of sickness and people’s injuries,” said Gaudette, Illinois health care campaign director with Citizen Action. “And we think that is unconscionable.”

Gaudette said insurance companies spend $640,000 a day opposing health care reform and the industry is more concerned with their profits than maintaining the well being of Americans.

“Thousands of people with less cash and more passion are fighting for health care reform all across the country,” said Gaudette. He added that by November the president will have a health care bill ready to sign on his desk.

At the rally was Karen Nelson Rogers who said she pays $2,747 a month for her family of four’s health care expenses. “That’s obscene,” she said.

“We need a public health care option now,” Rogers said. “One that has everybody in and nobody out.” Rogers said she’s lucky to even have health insurance. “We’re the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t have health care for all. It’s a shame.”

The current fight for a public option is in the Senate, which has dueling bills, one from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee with a public option, and the other from the Finance Committee without one. The House of Representatives has passed a bill with a strong public option.

A possible outcome, congressional leaders say, is to work out the differences in a reconciliation process, which means the final bill would only need 51 votes in the Senate to pass.

During the rally speaker after speaker talked about how insurance companies continue to have a total stranglehold over the current health care debate. They put profits before people and give millions in campaign contributions to win legislation that will add billions more to their profiteering and do nothing for the rest of us, speakers said.

Rally organizers Health Care For America Now and Citizen Action charge that health insurance CEOs took home $690 million last year. And premiums have skyrocketed four times faster than wages. Some reports show health insurance profits have quadrupled in seven years to $12.7 billion in 2007.

Locally, it was an “exit” bonus totaling $26 million for two Blue Cross executives that really angered people.

“That party stops here and we’re not going to stand anymore for these obscene profits,” Jonathan VanderBrug from Campaign for a Better Health Care said. “What we want is the choice of quality health care with a strong public option and we are ready to fight for it.”

Ben Goold is a leader with the American Medical Student Association and works at the University of Illinois Medical Center. Goold told the crowd that every day he is surrounded by private insurance companies making outlandish profits. He said when patients tell him they’re uninsured there is little he can do.

“There is nothing I can tell them so all I say is ‘good luck.’”

Goold was optimistic about winning the reform battle. “I believe the future of medicine will look very different than the way it does today. I don’t think doctors in the future will stand for insurance companies to get in the way of them and their patients.”

The health insurance industry continues to pull out all the stops to kill meaningful reform, as they have always been able to do in the past, speakers at the rally said. Their main objective is to destroy the crucial public insurance option proposed by President Barack Obama and to force people to buy overpriced policies from them, even if we can’t possibly afford them, many said. Their greed knows no bounds.

William McNary, president of Citizen Action Illinois, fired up the crowd saying this fight is about real people and about who we are as a nation.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves but also to each other,” he said.

The time to stop rewarding these corporate wrongdoers like Blue Cross and others is here, he declared. It’s not right that banks and Wall Street got bailed out while millions remain unemployed and continue losing their homes.

“We will not and cannot allow it,” said McNary.

“We won’t get health care reform because it’s fair or because it’s the right thing to do. We have to fight for it and demand it and we have to be in it to win it.”

The rally was part of a national day of action where similar events took place in more than 200 other cities and towns.

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