Standing around a one-story-tall wooden Trojan Horse, members of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) protested Rep. Lois Capps’s opposition to the single-payer healthcare bill, HR 676, in front of her office on the corner of Garden and Carrillo on Thursday. The horse sported the words “Mandated Private Insurance” painted on the sides, while protesters themselves held up signs that read “Put Single-Payer on the Table.”
As part of PDA’s “California’s Healthcare NOT Warfare Road Show” during the week of April 18-25, the national leaders of PDA, along with the California Association of Nurses, held rallies in support of HR 676 in Orange County, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, bringing the Trojan Horse as a symbol of the dangers of individual mandate plans. To end the road show, they and other health activists marched from the California Democratic Convention to the California Association of Health Plans, a health insurance lobbyist, on Friday in Sacramento to protest private insurers.
“Lois Capps says it’s not time for single-payer health care, but health insurance companies are financial instrument companies like AIG [American International Group Inc.],” said Mimi Kennedy, PDA’s national chair. In a single-payer healthcare system, a single public, nonprofit agency pays healthcare providers and hospitals. Delivery of medical care remains mostly private.
“[Capps] is a former nurse,” said Bill Gallagher, political director of the California Nurses Association. “She knows what nurses go through.” According to Gallagher, private health insurers always want to get people out of the hospital early so nurses have to see people leave before they have received adequate care. He said because health care is so expensive in the U.S., people try to avoid going to the doctor. So they often get sicker than they should have and end up paying even more.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) introduced HR 676, “The United States National Healthcare Act” or “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All,” on January 24, 2007. The legislation proposes a publicly financed, privately administered healthcare system to ensure all U.S. citizens have access to quality medical care. Proponents of the legislation believe it would lower healthcare costs for families and businesses and reduce healthcare inflation in the long term.
“While I support many of the goals of HR 676, I have chosen not to co-sponsor the legislation,” Capps said in a written statement. “Like President Obama, I am not convinced that a drastic reformation into a single-payer system for our entire nation will be feasible. For example, HR 676 provides little more than one to two years to develop such a health plan, but I believe it would require a much longer time to achieve something of this scale.”
Capps said that as the president and Congress work on comprehensive health reform legislation, however, they should offer at least one government-sponsored option for providing health care to individuals who are dissatisfied with their current coverage or who lack employer-sponsored coverage.
Other PDA members at the Santa Barbara rally included Executive Director Tim Carpenter, Communication Coordinator Laura Bonham, co-chair of the “Healthcare Not Warfare” campaign Norman Solomon and the primary organizer of Santa Barbara’s chapter of PDA, Jon Williams.