The Montclair Times

Pallone Says Health Care Reform Coming In 2009

The Montclair Times — Thursday, April 16, 2009

By Terrence T. McDonald

David McCann remembers his neighbor dying of cancer.

The neighbor, a registered nurse, had no health insurance, which led to her being turned away from an emergency room the week she died. She was sent home with a bottle of pills, which she was too sick to ingest.

McCann sat with the neighbor's 16-year-old son as the dying woman lay upstairs, shrieking in pain.

"She died in a way that none of us here would ever let a pet die," McCann said.

McCann, executive director of the Service Employees International Union's New Jersey State Council, relayed the story during a "town hall" meeting in Montclair this past Tuesday night, one of 100 similar gatherings planned in 44 states in April.

Sponsored by Health Care for America Now, a partnership of hundreds of organizations nationwide, including Montclair-based BlueWaveNJ, the session was filled with stories similar to McCann's — stories of friends, family members, and loved ones struggling day-to-day without health insurance, or with inadequate health care.

Not to worry, according to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6). Congress is working overtime to bring affordable health care to all Americans by December, and maybe sooner, Pallone told more than 100 audience members assembled in the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Church Street.

"Almost everyone recognizes that this is something that needs to be done this year," he said.

"I am optimistic, and I think you should be, too."

Though Pallone favors a single-payer health care plan, which would enroll all Americans in a government-run plan, he told the crowd it doesn't have enough Congressional support. What is likely to pass is a mixture of private and public care, he said.

Congressional committees are working to write and coalesce around one draft bill by next week, to bring it to the floor before summer recess.

The cost could exceed $1 trillion, Pallone noted.

The price tag does not intimidate supporters, who maintain the United States' economy cannot be fixed without addressing health care costs, which amount to more than 15 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product.

"Now is the time," said Sy Larson, state president of AARP-NJ and former labor studies professor at Rutgers University. Larson, whose fiery speech Tuesday night elicited several rousing ovations, called it shameful and unconscionable that so many millions of Americans lack health care.

That will all change by 2010, he vowed.

"Just as seniors look back on 1965 as the year Medicare passed, we will one day look back on 2009 and say, 'That was the year we fixed our broken health care system,'" said Larsen.

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