“There’s broad and fundamental support for massive healthcare reform. We need to make sure that Congress and the president know that without a robust and strong public option that things are not going to fly,” says Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Congressional Black Caucus member who was scheduled to address event. “I personally will not vote for [a bill] that does not have that.” He added that “massive people power,” is critical to “ensuring that a bill that serves the interest of the American people is passed.”
Thursday’s events, many of the attendees believe, provide opportunities for people to become more informed on the issues and available options and form nationwide collaborations. “Everyone must understand that it is important that we all have the same access to high quality health care. We all know someone who can’t afford their medication, particularly if they have hypertension, diabetes, or heart disease. If they’ve lost their job and lost their coverage, can they even afford COBRA?” says Donna Polk-Primm, who is executive director of the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition Inc.
“So if we can have health care reform that provides access to public coverage as well as private, people can make informed choices. We can’t sit back and think ‘Oh, President Obama is going to take care of all of this.’ We must contact our elected officials and let them know that we are healthcare voters, we know the issues, we want change and we want it now,” adds Polk-Primm, who is African American.
Brian Smedley, director of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies’ Health Policy Institute and moderator of the town hall meeting, said that by 2042, one in two people living in the US will be a person of color. “It’s critically important that we address the needs of people of color and other communities because there are many racial and ethnic groups that face a much higher burden of disease and illness, shorter life expectancy, and higher infant mortality,” he explains. “We’ve got to start to address these problems because they will define the nation’s health status given the demographic changes in this country.”
Smedley believes a public plan modeled after Medicare will provide a good, comprehensive benefit plan at a reasonable cost because 95 cents out of every healthcare premium dollar is spent on patient care as opposed to administrative costs or profit. “This is important because we know that there are many health plans that hire thousands of people to make somebody else pay the bill,” he says. “If we can get rid of that kind of inefficiency, we can invest money back into healthcare, get people the care that they need earlier so they’re not waiting until they get sick, and thereby contain healthcare costs.”