Ohio town hall meeting: Fix the health care system

ASHTABULA, Ohio — Health Care for All was the topic at the Ashtabula Town Hall meeting Nov. 10 at People’s Missionary Baptist Church.

The meeting, endorsed by the NAACP and the Ashtabula AFL-CIO and Retiree Council, featured an impressive panel of public officials and community leaders who presented strong arguments for repairing our broken health care system. United Auto Workers union leader Dave Pavlick, state Sen. Capri Cafaro and state Rep. George Distel, both Democrats, described health care problems in Ohio.

“There are millions of people in the country without health insurance,” including 13 percent of Ashtabula County residents, Distel told the audience. He emphasized the importance of citizen involvement in the legislative process. “By working together, we can get to where we need to go,” he said.

The UAW’s Pavlick said, “We don’t have a functioning health care system in this country — we have a barely functioning sick-care system.” He spoke in favor of the Ohio Health Care for All Act, SB 168 and HB 186, recently introduced into both houses of the Ohio Legislature.

The plan would cover hospitalization, preventive care, prescription drugs, home care and all other medical services regardless of income or employment. There would be no premiums, co-payments, or deductibles. “Payments would be made from a public fund, with the billions of dollars in profits the insurance companies take from [health care] going instead for patient care,” Pavlick said.

Participants in the meeting added their names to petitions to put the issue on the ballot if the Legislature fails to act.

The crisis in national health care came into focus with the presentation on SB 2219 and HR 3932. Semanthie Brooks from Senior Voice and the Benjamin Rose Institute said Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan added to Medicare, is draining the Medicare Trust Fund with excessive charges from insurance and drug companies, and needs to be changed.

“These bills, when passed, will establish a prescription drug plan with a premium everyone can afford, and will greatly reduce the financial drain on Medicare,” Brooks said. “Privatization in health care is not going to work for us.”

Meeting participants filled out postcards with messages of support for SB 2219, to be sent to Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich.

Steve Inchuck from Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s office said the traditional Medicare program is very efficient and cost-effective, and recommended support for the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All bill, HR 676. He said that with the savings included in the bill the $2.2 trillion a year currently being spent on health care would fund care for all U.S. residents.

Church deacon and Ashtabula County NAACP President George Wilson, who moderated the program, urged all present to go out into the community and “spread the word.”