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Health care forum aims for support

By Staff | Mar 20, 2009

A 63-year-old woman with her uterus falling out endures the pain, discomfort and embarrassment, waiting for her “gold card” – the day she turns 65, the day she’ll qualify for Medicare and finally be able to afford an operation.

A single, mother of two working in a fast food restaurant can’t afford insurance, much less the blood thinner she needs to stay healthy. Deferred health care finally lands her in the emergency room. Now unable to work, she can qualify for Medicaid, at least as long as she’s too sick to go back to the restaurant.

These are two among innumerable real-life examples of how broken the health care system in the United States has become, says Harpers Ferry’s Dr. David Baltierra. He has joined with numerous others from our area who formed the Eastern Panhandle Single-Payer Action Network, which is sponsoring the forum “Healthcare for All – How?” on Tuesday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, 213 N. King St., in Shepherdstown.

Those who attend the forum can learn about the single-payer plan and other proposals to fix the broken healthcare system, say Shepherdstown’s Ann Coulter and Lynn Yellott, two of the founding members of EPSPAN.

Margaret Flowers M.D., of Maryland Physicians for a National Health Program and Richard McVay, of PennAction, will be the forum speakers. And Hannah Geffert, of SU, will moderate the forum.

“There is no reason why 18,000 people a year should die because they don’t have health care,” Yellott says.

She and Coulter said it is a myth that Americans do not want universal health care. Under the single-payer program, they say, everyone pays a little, through taxes, and everyone gets health care. People still would have control over their health insurance and could choose their doctors. In fact they noted some 60 percent of all health care in the US is provided by the taxpayers through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and government employee health care programs. The single-payer program would essentially be “Medicare for all,” they said.

EPSPAN wants to mobilize the public to contact their representatives and urge them to support and pass House Resolution 676.

The United States National Health Care Act, HR 676, would establish a new national health insurance program by creating a single-payer healthcare system. It creates publicly financed, privately delivered healthcare that uses the already existing Medicare program by expanding it to cover all Americans.

For Baltierra, the most important part of HR 676 is that it would ensure that all citizens, guaranteed by law, will have access to the highest quality and cost-effective health services regardless of employment, income or healthcare status.

EPSPAN members admit it will be a challenge to overhaul the health care system, which, instead of being a by-right human service, has become big business.

“Whenever you try to take somebody’s profits away, it’s a big lobby” to fight, Baltierra concedes.

“There’s a lot of pressure from drug companies and everybody else who makes a buck on health insurance. Maybe that’s not where we should be making our bucks.”

– For more information, call 876-3158 or 671-0433. Send e-mail to EPSPAN@gmail.com