Message from Kalispell: Give us health care reform NOW!

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Steffi Baca of Kalispell was one of hundreds of Montana constituents who rallied outside the district offices of Democratic Sen. Max Baucus July 24 to demand that he include a strong public option in the health care reform bill his committee is drafting.

Baca, a recently retired public school teacher, told the World she and several others went to Baucus’ Kalispell office to protest his failure to include the Medicare-like public option in legislation before his Senate Finance Committee. Baca said a Baucus aide asked them to write out in longhand their views on what should be in the health care reform package. They wrote those messages on the spot.

Baca, herself, is a living testament to the need for a public plan. “I worked three years with heart failure and two years after I was diagnosed with cancer,” she told the World in a phone interview from her home. “I shouldn’t have been working but I couldn’t retire until I was covered by Medicare,” she said. “I’m sitting pretty now. I have Medicare and I’m very happy I have it.”

She said she has written letters, telephoned, emailed and marched for health care reform. “I’m in the process of writing a letter to our local paper, which is slanted against anything government,” she said. “I am FOR universal health care at government expense.”

Far bigger rallies were staged outside Baucus’ district offices in Missoula, location of the University of Montana, and in the state capital, Helena, she said.

Baca also signed an ad appearing on television across the state hammering Baucus for accepting $3.9 million in contributions from big HMOs, pharmaceutical corporations and other health care profiteers while refusing to heed the 76 percent of the people who favor a strong public option. The ads are sponsored by Democracy for America, the grassroots committee set up by former Democratic Party National chairman Dr. Howard Dean, and its offshoot, Progressive Change.

Kalispell is not the only town that debunks the corporate media’s Big Lie that the people are apathetic or even opposed to President Obama’s health care reform legislation. More than 200 people overflowed the largest meeting room at the Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, Wash., July 22, for a forum on health care reform sponsored by the Clallam County League of Women Voters. The film “Health, Money, and Fear” was shown, followed by a panel discussion featuring aides of Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Rep. Norm Dicks, all Democrats.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Tom Locke, public health director, for the North Olympic Peninsula, told the crowd the best solution is single-payer health care like that enjoyed in Canada and most other industrialized nations. But he warned against making “the perfect the enemy of the good,” given the reality of limited support for single-payer on Capitol Hill. He urged the crowd to fight for the public option as an important step forward.

Rep. Dicks’ aide told the crowd he is answering the phone every day and “no one is calling on us to support single-payer.” A loud, indignant groan went up from the crowd, clearly a majority for single-payer. His constituents have bombarded Dicks with so many messages that he become the 87th member of Congress to endorse HR 676, the single-papyer “Medicare for All” bill authored by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Someone in the audience asked if the “public option” is a step toward single-payer. Kristine Reeves, an aide to Sen. Murray, replied that no bill enacted into law should be viewed as the end of the road. “Keep working for what you think is the best solution and yes, that solution might be single-payer,” she said as the crowd applauded.

Two days later, folksinger Anne Feeney and four fellow singers performed at Peninsula Community College, in Port Angeles, July 24, as part of her West Coast “Sing-Out for Single-Payer Roadshow.” The crowd sang along with her song about nurses toiling in sweatshop hospitals: “We’re running as fast as we can, We’re nursing as fast as we can. Our patients are sicker, the discharges quicker. We’re running with bandages and bedpans.”

At one point she paused and addressed the crowd, “We are the victims of the most expensive disinformation campaign in history. It's easy to get confused they tell so many lies ... When a congressman asks you what kind of health care you want, tell him: The same kind you have!”

During the intermission, people sat and wrote letters to Cantwell, Murray and Dicks urging them to give strong support to President Obama’s three principles of health care reform including universal coverage and a strong public option.

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