Saturday, June 06, 2009

Kennedy lays down a marker

Sen. Ted Kennedy is still fighting his brain cancer and still fighting the good fight:
WASHINGTON — All Americans would have access to “essential health care benefits,” with no annual or lifetime limits, employers would have to contribute to the cost of coverage and the government would create a new public insurance program under sweeping legislation drafted by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and circulated Friday.

Under the legislation, the government would subsidize premiums for people with incomes up to 500 percent of the poverty level ($110,000 for a family of four), and private insurers would have to pay out a specified percentage of their premium revenues in benefits.

The new government-run program would pay doctors and hospitals at Medicare rates, plus 10 percent.

Mr. Kennedy’s bill would also establish a new insurance program to provide home- and community-based care for 10 million people with severe disabilities.
The Conyers HR 676 (a.k.a. Medicare for All) is up to 78 cosponsors so far. This is going to be the fight of a lifetime - another Gettysburg according to one friend.

Recalling Firedoglake’s 2006 rubber stamp campaign, I have suggested a symbol everyone could use to drive home the problem with the broken health care system: stacks of medical bills.
We will need a symbol to stand in for our failed for-profit health care system, a symbol that targets insurance companies and that a) every American recognizes; b) every American loathes; c) most people have in their homes; d) won’t disappear with a compromise reform plan; e) anyone can mail to, send to or throw onto their congresscritter’s desk, or wave over their heads for the media; and f) that our congresscritters themselves can wave over their heads during debate.

I think stacks of medical bills are that symbol.

I attended the local Obama group’s organizing meeting on pushing health care reform Thursday night, and was surprised to find that the 30 Obama supporters there had the same reaction many progressives in the crowd at America's Future Now! had. They want single payer and they are ready to fight for it regardless of what Obama is supporting.

One woman recounted a terrible story about her son dying of colon cancer (congenital predisposition to it) because he had no insurance and couldn’t get a yearly colonoscopy until he had Stage 3 cancer and was down to 110 lbs. Obama’s Organizing For America is collecting thousands of personal stories from across the country.

Great. But the problem is that too many among the general public will be sympathetic, but unable to connect those stories, faces and names to their own lives. Most everyone has dealt with medical paperwork. Instantly recognizable. Universally hated.

There will be some kind of mass rally, of course. I see a touch of "Meet John Doe" or "Mr. Smith" in thousands of people arriving in D.C. clutching sheaves of medical bills, and medical bills spitting out of Capitol Hill fax machines for days (with videos posted on YouTube). A little something our reluctant Smiths can use for show-and-tell in the wells of the House and Senate. I don't think they grasp the depth of anger and frustration out here. They just need a little educating.

Lock and load.

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