Health care reform advocates get organized.

                              Above, Jeanie Embry addresses supporters of single payer health care.

Jeanie Embry is passionate about single payer health care. She’s so passionate that she’s traveled up to Louisville to carry a sign, went to Indiana where she met Rep. John Conyers and “hung out with him” before he gave the keynote address in New Albany at Southeast University.

Jeanie and Kay Tillow picked Rep. Conyers up at airport on Friday afternoon, May 30 

According to Jeanie’s report, “Conyers has been travelling around the country non-stop to speak to folks on the ground about single-payer!!  He stated that it would be up to constituents to move Congress on this issue.  Mr. Conyers also stated that he would not vote for a bad health care bill.” 

Jeanie and friends, in conjunction with “Organizing for America” are putting together West Ky Citizens for Health Care Reform. The first meeting was last Saturday and Ivan and I attended. Sixteen folks showed up. Jeanie had been to Mary Jane Littleton’s house in Murray earlier in the day that had six “enthusiastic” attendees, according to Jeanie.

H.R. 676 was introduced in the 2008 session of Congress and is back in the 2009 session. The bill provides for national health care – including medications, dental services and long time nursing care. Supporters say there will be no more expensive co-pays, deductibles or pre-existing exclusions.  

The battle is a fierce one. Health insurance companies have increased their lobbying efforts. Republicans want a “trigger” – a place at which health insurance comes into being – somewhere in the distant future. Blue dog Democrats fear more government in health care. Their proposal is a mix of public and private insurance.

What everyone does agree on is the system is broken. Writing in the June 9th, 2009 Washington Post, Ceci Connoly  began her health care story with this blunt assessment “Nowhere else in the world is so much money spent with such poor results.”

Decision Makers Differ on Mending Broken System.

Americans pay more for health care but get less care than other industrialized nations. The US ranks 29th out of 37 industrialized nations in infant mortality. Chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, go untreated among the 46 million Americans without health insurance – until there is a crisis and patients end up in the emergency room, farther along in their illness.

Jeanie Embry and activists throughout the US are mobilizing to get the word out that single payer is the way to go. They have an up hill fight. Big donors, big money, big congressional supporters get more attention than stacks of petitions. Teddy Roosevelt first proposed universal health care. His cousin Franklin considered it and took it out of the New Deal as too controversial. Bill Clinton suffered a stinging defeat when he tried to push through universal care. Now the Obama administration seems to be wavering in its support of single payer.

Jeanie and her group will be trying to muster support in West Kentucky for HR 676. With two Republican senators and Republican Representative Ed Whitfield representing the district, supporters have a skeptical audience. Of Whitfield, Embry says, “He doesn’t dismiss me out of hand, anymore.”

That’s progress.