Rally for universal health care held at State House

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A small group of health care advocates fighting for universal medical coverage rallied at the State House in Annapolis on Saturday evening, urging people to get involved and educate themselves about health care

The first part of the gathering, attended by an estimated 50 people, was a vigil for those killed and injured Oct. 1 in Las Vegas.

“It’s not just about victims of tragic events. Everyone is a patient. It’s just a matter of when. A car accident, an animal bite or a bullet from an assault rifle are now everyday realities of this nation,” said Beth Landry, the statewide health care organizer for Progressive Maryland.

She and other attendees are concerned about Congress failing to re-authorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the budget resolution passed in the House of Representatives that cuts Medicare, Medicaid and other programs.

“There are 138,000 children in the state of Maryland, and nine million nationwide, that will be impacted by the Congress failing to act,” Landry said.

But the recent actions or inaction by Congress is just the beginning, she said.

“We want a single payer for all, an end to co-payments and all other challenges people face when it comes to actually receiving quality health care,” Landry added.

Many speakers targeted U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-District 1, who voted for the budget resolution. One asked, “Who is ready to repeal and replace Andy Harris?”

Speakers made the point that the country is not facing a health care issue but a health coverage issue.

Several stood to tell their own stories.

Shaka Brown, a dancer and dance instructor in Washington, D.C., told the story that started with a cold. Like many teaching dance, he did not have insurance. So he put off getting care and the cold lingered.

He thought it might be pneumonia, but he still did not go. “If I didn’t have coverage to go to the doctor for a cold, I definitely did not have it to see a doctor for pneumonia.”

His condition grew so debilitating he ended up in the emergency room four months later, nearly 50 pounds underweight. It had become decimated tuberculosis spreading throughout his body, spine, organs and brain.

He was in isolation for 17 days. Four months later he was discharged from the hospital. His discounted bill was $12,000 for the first 10 days.

“I waited. Too many people keep waiting until the end,” he said. “We need to create a system that our people can live here and with a means of surviving.”

Leann Dinverno, from Prince George’s County, gave a kidney to her mother who suffers from the same ailment that killed her grandmother, caused her aunt to get a transplant and likely will affect her sister.

She told those gathered that her mother had to show the transplant pre-screening panel she had at least $7,500 in the bank to pay for the anti-rejection drugs post surgery — not the surgery itself but the medication.

“We don’t have statistics about how many people die because they are too poor to even get approved for a transplant,” Dinverno said. “But we do know someone is added to a transplant list every 10 minutes and 20 people die every day waiting for a transplant.”

She said she is no hero for donating her kidney. “But the fact I am a donor means I have a pre-existing condition,” she said, making the point if health care proposals that have been brought to a vote in this Congress were to pass, she would be affected along with millions of others.

Mike Hersh, communications director for Progressive Democrats of America, explained the current system of health care coverage this way.

“If you buy a car, you get a car. If you buy groceries, you get groceries. But when you buy health insurance, you don’t know what you are going to get,” he said.

If a health insurance company ran the grocery store, he suggested, you would go to buy a load of groceries and then the clerk would go through your basket and pull items out. “You aren’t getting this, or this, or this,” he said.

Eve Hurwitz, co-chairwoman of Progressive Maryland’s Anne Arundel chapter, said she is taking a close look at the bills proposing a single-payer health care system.

She hopes that it might take shape along the lines of the Tricare system military personnel and their families have. Hurwitz is an eight-year, active-duty Navy veteran and current reservist.

She hopes “the citizens of Maryland and the country could have the security, stability and knowledge that their needs will be taken care of. It is just a huge weight taken off people.”

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Rally for universal health care held at State House

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