Seniors, advocacy groups demand Pelosi's support
of universal health care bill
Seniors and universal health care advocacy groups held a rally
Thursday outside Speaker Nancy Pelosi's district office at the
Philip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco.
The rally was held to protest cuts to Medicare amid rising health
and to demand Pelosi's support of HR 676, a universal health care
Photos by Luke
December 15, 2007
Seniors and universal health care advocacy groups held a rally
Thursday at the Philip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco
to call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to immediately begin hearings
on the National Health Insurance Act (HR 676).
Introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) in February 2005, and
co-sponsored by seventy-eight members of congress, the single-payer
health care legislation would "create a publicly financed,
private delivered health care system that improves and expands
on the existing Medicare program to all U.S. residents,"
according to the bill's summary.
At issue for the groups - Senior Action Network and the California
Universal Health Care Organizing Project - are the continuing
cuts in Medicare while health care costs continue to soar. Seniors
on fixed incomes have been particularly hard-hit by the cuts.
The groups say it's time for the country to reexamine its social
priorities and expand Medicare into a comprehensive universal
health care system.
Unlike profit-driven health insurance companies that restrict
medical services and refuse insurance to patients with pre-existing
medical conditions, HR 676 will cover all medically necessary
services for all Americans, at less cost than private insurance,
without sacrificing quality of care, or choice of health care
Thirty-one percent of every dollar spent on private health insurance
is wasted on excessive administrative overhead, whereas Medicare
administrative overhead is an efficient three to five percent.
"When you have health care overhead that is as much as thirty-one
percent of every premium dollar, that's a lot of money that is
going into just keeping the insurance industry afloat," congressional
candidate Barry Hermanson stated during the rally, "and as
a result, we have a lot of people in this country who are not
covered by health care."
District 12 candidate for Congress, Barry Hermanson.
Fourty-eight million Americans do not have health insurance,
and over 50 million are underinsured.
If HR 676 is enacted, businesses would pay less to insure their
employees. For example, in 2006, an employer paid an average of
74 percent of an employee's premium, or $8,510. Under HR 676,
employers and employees would pay an equal Medicare tax contribution
of 4.75 percent each. For an employee making the median family
income of $56,200 per year, an employer would pay just $2,700.
Additional funding for the program would be realized from a 5
percent health tax on the top 5 percent of income earners, 10
percent on the top 1 percent of wage earners, and a tax of one
quarter of 1 percent would be levied on stock transactions. The
bill would also close corporate tax loopholes and repeal Bush
administration tax cuts for the highest income earners.
Though the nation would pay the same for universal health care
, HR 676 would produce savings of $387 billion per annum over
costs of private health insurance.
"I am a big supporter of HR 676," Hermanson said. "As
a former small business owner, it just makes sense to me."
Referring to the ongoing labor dispute between nurses and Sutter
Health over benefits and Sutter's plan to eliminate acute care
services at St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco by 2009, California
Nurses Association president Kay McVay asked rally participants:
"What is Sutter doing? They're closing St. Luke's. The problem
these people are saying they have is that St. Luke's doesn't make
money, so they want to close it."
California Nurses Association president Kay McVay
"HR 676 would be the answer," McVay continued. "We
would have health care for everybody. There's no reason why we
can spend twelve million dollars an hour in Iraq and not find
the money to be able to care for our own people, for our children,
for our mothers and fathers who are grandparents. There is no
acceptable reason. HR 676 is a necessity for our survival,"
Pentagon funding presently consumes over 50 percent of the U.S.
budget, calling into question the nation's social and economic
priorities. The United States is the only industrialized nation
that does not provide universal health care to its citizens.
"It's incomprehensible to me," Hermanson said, referring
to the Bush administration's insatiable appetite for military
spending and congress' failure to bring to an end the U.S. occupation
of Iraq and Afghanistan. "We have a government now, on both
sides of the aisle, that unquestionably supports the Pentagon."
Asked why universal health care legislation, particularly Conyer's
bill, has not received support from Pelosi or congress, Hermanson
said: "Because there is so much money from the health care
industry that goes into the campaigns of every elected official."
Reached for comment, Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill contends
that trying to get universal health care passed without a presidential
veto is next to impossible.
"If we can't even get low-income children covered, I don't
know how we can possibly get the administration to support universal
health care coverage," Hammill said, referring to a second
Bush veto, Wednesday, of a bill that would expand health insurance
The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would provide
health insurance for families who earn too much money to qualify
for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private insurance. The
bill would still leave millions of Americans without health care
coverage if signed into law.
"Right now, the Speaker's first priority in the health care
arena is passing the SCHIP legislation," Hammill said. "We're
very close to being able to override the president's veto in both
the house and senate."
Hammill said he was hopeful Conyer's bill would receive the attention
it deserves after the Bush administration is termed out of office,
and a Democrat is elected to the White House.
For millions of Americans and seniors, January 2009 may just
be too long to wait for the health care they need today.