Wall Street Journal

Health Care Advocates Rally On Capitol Hill

The Wall Street Journal — Thursday, June 25, 2009

Washington Wire: Political Insight and Analysis From The Wall Street Journal's Capital Bureau

Melanie Trottman reports on labor.

Thousands of union members and other advocates of overhauling the health care system rallied on Capitol Hill today to demand high quality, affordable health care for all -- this year.

From union officials and doctors to patients and Democratic lawmakers, dozens of people took to the stage one-by-one repeating the mantra, "We need health-care reform in 2009 and we can't wait."

Anna Burger, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union, turned red and her voice crescendoed as she made an impassioned plea. Burger, flanked by people wearing T-shirts with their respective organizations' names, said the nation's economic crisis makes it clear that "now is the time to act."

Nurses and doctors, she said, want to be good health care providers but need patients with solid health care coverage. "We need a public health care option," Burger yelled into the microphone. The backdrop was the Capitol and a giant red, white and blue poster bearing the name Health Care for America Now!, the coalition group that sponsored the 90-minute rally and subsequent lobbying visits to members of Congress. The group's steering committee includes Acorn, the AFL-CIO, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, SEIU, and UAW and others.

Actress Edie Falco, Carmela on HBO's The Sopranos, moderated part of the event.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, told the crowd that he'd just left a health insurance markup session on the hill, and instructed them: "Go across the street and convince, persuade and cajole" lawmakers to get "a strong public option and real health care reform." His takeaway tip for the crowd: "Reform is about keeping what works and fixing what's broken."

Brown and others also took jabs at the insurance industry. "The insurance industry says the government can't run anything, so explain to me why insurance companies are afraid that the public option is going to put them out of businesses."

Valerie Arkoosh, a physician and president-elect for the National Physicians Alliance, told the crowd that the choice of a public insurance option will "help keep insurance companies honest."

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