Burlington County Times

Health Care Reform Supporters Hold Vigil In Willingboro

Burlington County Times — Wednesday, December 9, 2009

BCT staff writer David Levinsky

As debate over health care reform legislation drags on in the U.S. Senate, a group of proponents gathered in the parking lot of a Route 130 shopping mall to urge lawmakers to take action soon.

"We are at a crucial moment now and can't wait any longer for health care reform," David Hopkins, chairman of the group Grassroots4Change, said during the candle light vigil and demonstration outside the Grand Marketplace.

About 50 people braved the cold weather to participate in the hour-long vigil, which organizers said was one of some 200 being held across the country in support of reform legislation.

"New Jersey families and businesses are being crushed by rising health care costs," said Leo Torrey, an organizer with the advocacy group NJ Citizen Action. "We simply cannot afford to stand by while this system continues to wipe out our families."

Another speaker during the vigil, Rev. Bruce Davidson of the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries, shared the story of an uninsured friend who walked out of a hospital against doctors' advice in order to avoid exorbitant hospital bills. The friend ended up dying from his ailment, he said.

"I know if health care was more affordable and available my friend would still be here," Davidson said.

Peg Kinsell, a Pemberton Township resident and director of public policy for a special education family advocacy group, said she knew of a 22-year-old man who was missing three teeth because he had no dental insurance and it was cheaper to have the teeth pulled than to pay for the required root canals.

"These are the things families face every day in Burlington County and it's why we need affordable health care now," Kinsell said.

Other speakers spoke about the need to pressure their congressmen to vote in favor of reform legislation, particularly legislation that includes a government-run insurance option intended to create competition with private insurers.

Freshman Rep. John Adler, D-3rd of Cherry Hill, in particular was targeted as the lone Democrat in New Jersey's congressional delegation to vote against a House reform bill. The measure passed by a narrow margin.

"I feel honestly that Congressman Adler has betrayed our trust," said Rev. Charles Levi Martin of Willingboro. "He's going to end up on the wrong side of history."

Adler, who is up for re-election next year, has said he voted against the House bill because it did not do enough to control rising health care costs. He has expressed hope that the legislation would be improved once the Senate passes its version of a reform bill.

Claudia Storicks, a Pemberton Township resident and nurse at Virtua Memorial hospital in Mount Holly, said reform is crucial.

"The seriousness of the health care crisis struck me a couple of years ago when I started seeing small business owners who had stopped paying for health insurance so they could pay their mortgages," she said. "Most of those people who took the gamble didn't expect to be in a hospital bed with me besides them."

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