Moving on without answers

By Lucy McFadden
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Some members of the public are pressuring Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to say whether he’ll support President Barack Obama’s public health care option.

Bennet has remained silent.

A handful of opponents to public-option health care reform stand outside Sen. Michael Bennet’s Denver office to counter a small demonstration organized by MoveOn.org. The MoveOn rally was staged last week to ask Bennet to take a public stand supporting a public option in health care reform.
Photo by Jason Kosena/The Colorado Statesman

A rally organized by the activist liberal group MoveOn.org was held July 9 outside Bennet’s Denver office to show support for public-option health care. About 30 people gathered, saying they wanted to share the stories of their personal battles with the health care system in hopes of influencing Bennet.

Obama has told Congress he wants to see a reform bill on his desk by August.

But Bennet was not present. Instead, the Democratic senator’s state director, Rosemary Rodriguez, heard about struggles to pay health care costs and of the terror felt by those who can’t afford it at all.

She did not, however, offer any indication of whether Bennet will support public-option health care.

“Bennet has not yet seen all the proposals and is still very interested in reviewing them,” Rodriguez said. “If there is a public option before the Senate, they will ensure that it is fair, no clauses (no denials for pre-existing conditions), affordable and accessible within the means of an average working American.”

A few of the demonstrators carried signs bearing such slogans as “Public Option Saves $$$” and “Medicare for all now!”

Lee Kirkland, a member of MoveOn.org, was the first to share a story, speaking about her daughter, who developed lupus at age 13. Kirkland’s daughter is now married and pregnant and cannot afford health insurance made exorbitantly expensive by her pre-existing condition and high-risk status.

“This is exactly what we want public health care to address. Lupus should not stand between my daughter and her access to public funds,” Kirkland asserted.

John Lodenkamper, of Golden holds a sign in support of a public option in health care reform during the MoveOn.org rally last week at Sen. Michael Bennet’s Denver office.
Photo by Jason Kosena
The Colorado Statesman

Small business owner Ruth Ramos told about her trouble paying off her health care debt because she continues to have medical problems. Ramos said she is “outraged that a single payer option is off the table.”

Under a single-payer option, doctors, hospitals and insurance providers are paid from a single fund. Costs would not vary due to personal risk factors. Obama has rejected this proposal because he does not want to do away with private insurers, who still provide most Americans with health care.

One woman, who did not give her name, stood up and said, “As a woman of color, I want to say that health care providers discriminate against the color of your skin, your ZIP code and your background.”

She said she had planned a home birth with her first son. However, when she went into labor, she was forced to go to the hospital. It took her six years to pay off her debt.

James Worthy, a member of MoveOn.org, worked to keep the crowd on task, quelling both cheers and boos.

At the end of the rally, he attempted one last time to learn Bennet’s position.

“President Obama has endorsed public option. Is Senator Bennet not yet ready to step up?” he asked Rodriguez.

“He wants to see the details,” she replied, noting that he wants to learn more about individual cases and why people were denied health care support or insurance.

Worthy said the rally illustrated the gap between what the public feels should be public policy on health care and what is actually public policy.

“If the legislators don’t close [the gap] then we will for them!” he said.

Lucy@coloradostatesman.com