Bucks County Courier Times

Activists March For Health Care Reform

Bucks County Courier Times — Sunday, April 5, 2009

By: MANASEE WAGH
Bucks County Courier Times

Local health care reform activists met at the Langhorne train station on their way to rally in Philadelphia Saturday for better national health care.

Contingents of Health Care For America Now from Pennsylvania and New Jersey marched across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge and met in the middle to symbolize the importance of uniting for "A Bridge to Health Care," the motto of the rally.

"We want to say how grateful we are for the budget resolution in the House and Senate that enables a down payment for Obama's health care reform. That shows Congress is serious and something can get done," said Robin Stelly, a member of Penn Action and Coalition for Peace Action. She helped organize the local group. Recently, Congress passed a resolution to support the outlines of President Obama's proposed $634 billion for health care reform in his budget plan.

The group takes its cue in part from Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for less money spent on military defense and more on social and economic initiatives. Holding the rally on April 4 is especially meaningful because it's the anniversary of King's assassination, said Stelly.

Half an hour before their train was due to depart, about 20 activists waved red, white and blue signs reading "Health Care For America NOW!" and "Health for All, NOW."

Currently, people have to dig deep for exorbitant co-pays and hospital fees, so for people without jobs, getting proper medical treatment is impossible, said Bensalem resident Tammie Clawges.

"I have friends that worked their whole lives but can't afford to pay for a hospital or a doctor," she said. She wants to see her 12-year-old daughter Charlie live life without having to worry about health care expenses.

Bill Stevens, also of Bensalem, was happy to see that Clawges was taking Charlie and two of Charlie's friends to the rally.

"I don't see many young people coming out to these. This legislation is going to change their whole lives," he said.

Retired doctor Henry D'Silva of Newtown has seen enough of what he thinks is an unfair system. There's one solution that's been proven to work in Europe, Japan, Canada and a range of other countries, and that's universal health care, he said.

"We don't have to do it exactly like them, but we need to unify and do it through a single system," he said. D'Silva talked about 10 to 12 specific changes he would like to see, including making sure that even if someone loses his job, he should still have health care. The same standard of care should be available for all people, and the cost of health care technologies, from doing an MRI to selling prescription drugs, should be lowered.

"Also, doctors and hospitals right now charge 40 to 50 percent more than in other countries." To get some perspective on how health care works globally, people should watch "Sick Around the World," a PBS special, D'Silva said.

Stelly said she'd like to see private medical insurance companies release their grip on the market so it can expand in the public sector and people can choose less expensive quality options.

"The private companies say they won't be able to compete, but come on, this is America. We say, find a way. They already do it in other countries."

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