Health Care Rally Held at Georgia Capitol

9-=07-09, 9:50 am

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA – At least 1,000 people converged on the State Capitol Thursday, September 03, 2009, to rally for health care reform one more time before US Congress returns to Washington, DC, next week.

Event organizers, led by the Greater Atlanta chapter of, Health Care for America NOW! (HCAN), and the Georgia chapter of Organizing for America, encouraged attendees to call US Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), fifth ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and urge him to support health care reform with a public option.

'It’s the fierce urgency of now that leads us to contact Sen. Isakson,' Mikiel Davids of the Greater Atlanta chapter of said. 'If we don’t [pass reform] now, the issue dies indefinitely along with many Americans.'

Davids urged the crowd to call Isakson’s office and 'give him a sendoff he’ll never forget.'

'We need to remind Sen. Isakson that he doesn’t represent only the rich and he certainly doesn’t represent the interest of health insurance companies,' she said.

Larry Pellegrini, a leading organizer for HCAN, noted some of the inequities in the current system.

'The system is broken when a hard worker loses health insurance at the same time he loses a job,' he said. 'You don’t have healthcare. You just pay dearly to a company who will likely reject your small claim and drop you when you file a big claim.'

'We cannot wait, we cannot be patient,' US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said, comparing the fight for healthcare reform to the fight in 1963 for the Voting Rights Act. 'Well, we want healthcare now!'

While hundreds cheered reform, at least two dozen counter protesters quietly demonstrated down the street.

Lee Goodall, director of the Georgia chapter of Organizing of America, addressed some of the rumors about health reform, which groups like the counter-protesters have spread.

'Congress needs to fight back against all the lies and smears,' he said. Goodall said reform would not mean coverage for illegal immigrants, more abortions, or so-called 'death panels.'

Instead, Goodall argued reform would actually 'end rationing' by 'protecting and promoting choice.'

'The insurance industry will be prohibited from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions,' he added.

Former State Sen. Kasim Reed (D-Atlanta), an Atlanta mayoral candidate, said reform advocates have to rise above the misconceptions because the health reform battle 'is a fight worth fighting and one we must win.'

'If we allow them to divide us with these petty stunts and cheap tricks, we will fail,' Reed said.

Jeff Graham, Executive Director of Georgia Equality, argued no government bureaucrat will get in the way of doctor-patient relationships, calling claims to the contrary 'lies and foolishness.'

'There are too many insurance companies and private plans that [allow you to] build a relationship over a number of years with a doctor only to find out further down the road that you can no longer see that doctor,' he said. 'That is inhumane.'

'We won an election on Nov. [4th], but we did not take apart the right-wing hate machine,' State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) said. 'They want to pull the plug on meaningful healthcare reform. They want to protect those who are profiting off a broken system.'

Charlie Flemming, President of the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, said no other reforms could take place without health reform.

'There are no ways to fix the other pieces until healthcare is reformed,' he said. 'Healthcare is the gorilla in the room in any labor negotiation.'

Flemming argued a public option would force insurance companies to compete and lower costs for consumers.

'Healthcare costs are crushing working families, they’re crushing businesses, and they’re crushing government at every level,' Flemming added.

Graham applauded single payer advocates for remaining in the healthcare debate, noting single payer 'is the solution that will help us all.'

'It is inhumane that we make people suffer... before they can acquire the medical care that may have kept them healthy to begin with,' Graham said, speaking specifically of HIV/AIDS patients who are often 'forced into poverty' because of inadequate care.

Graham argued employer-based health insurance is 'discriminatory specifically against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender [LGBT] community' because such individuals are often exempt from such benefits.

Lewis said passing healthcare reform would be 'the greatest tribute that we could pay' to the late US Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who passed away two weeks ago.

'We need a healthcare bill with a public option. And that's what I voted for in the Ways and Means Committee, and that's what I'm gonna vote for on the House floor,' Lewis said.

'Our friend, our brother, our shepherd, our champion, Sen. Kennedy once said, 'Healthcare is not a privilege it is a right,'' he said. 'The quality of a person's health care should not be decided by the zip code that person live in, the size of the person's bank account, or the size of the person's wallet.'

'The great majority of the Members of the House of Representatives--and we're gonna get some of our, we need some of our brothers and sisters in the Senate side to stand with us. We're gonna pass a bill, we're gonna pass it, and we're gonna send our brothers and sisters in the Senate... and we're gonna say to our Republican colleagues in the Senate, you need to come over to the good side,' Lewis said.

'I think for too long here in Georgia and all across America, the good people, the people who really want comprehensive health care for all of our good citizens, have been too quiet. It's time for us to make some noise,' Lewis said.

Orrock threw down the gauntlet to Members of US Congress. 'Do not come home without a public option,' she said. 'Do not come home without fixing this broken system.'

--Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News, reachable at