By the time the crowd had reached the the NYC offices WellPoint (the nation's largest insurer in membership), in lower Manhattan it had swelled to about 700 people. A spirited rally was held featuring a doctor, a religious leader, a nurse, a patient, and a couple of activists. The crowd roared to condemn WellPoint's greed and profiteering, and to call out political leaders to move forward on the change agenda by passing a strong health care reform bill.
Saturday's "March and Rally for Health Care Reform and a Change Agenda" was planned in a mere 10 days by leaders of Health Care for America Now's NYC Organizing Committee, MoveOn, and NYC for Change. It was the culmination event for national week of actions all across the nation where everyday Americans took to the streets to demand progress on health care reform.
Thanks to everyone who came out for the march and/or rally and making it a success!
The event recaptured the wind for our sails for the days to come: a White House bipartisan health care summit will be taking place later this week, and Congressional leaders and the President are rumored to be ready to release their latest bill. Then Congress will move forward in the legislative process next month and get a bill passed through a simple majority process, hopefully by their Easter-Passover recess. And early next month, everyday Americans will be going to Washington to confront the health insurance lobby at a gathering they are holding (see below), and to support Senators and Representatives in their efforts to get a final health care reform bill done.
What's coming up next?
- Tues. Feb. 23rd, 7 p.m. -- Teach-in on Health Care Reform: Runors vs. Facts
Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign
Below is the press release on yesterday's march and rally:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2010
Tim Foley: 646-229-1379
Activists Target Health Insurance Giant WellPoint for Spending Millions of Dollars to Lobby Against Health Reform While Planning to Raise Insurance Premiums 39% in California
Estimates put the crowd at 700. During the march across the fabled landmark, the line of walkers stretched from one end of the bridge to the other.
The event was part of a nationwide mobilization, encompassing 40 rallies in 32 states. Health reform activists from coast to coast are seeking to reignite momentum for the effort in Congress by taking to the streets to call out the special interests and political obstructionists who are stopping the "Change agenda" in Washington, DC.
In New York City, representatives of the faith community, doctors, nurses, patients and patient advocates, labor unions and progressives – marching across the famous landmark with colorful signs and creative "health insurance coverage" umbrellas – sought to deliver a simple message: Get health care reform done, get it done right, and get it done now!
"Hundreds of New Yorkers are taking to the streets today because New York, like America, voted for change – and now it's time for our political leaders to deliver on their promise of change," said Mark Hannay, Director of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign and Co-Coordinator of the NYC Organizing Committee for Health Care for America Now.
"Comprehensive health care reform is the wedge issue for the entire change agenda, and that's why, among other reasons, Congress and the President must get health care done now and do it right," said Mr. Hannay. "If health care moves forward, so does a good jobs bill, good labor law reform, good climate change legislation, strong financial services reform, and real immigration reform. The special interests, such as health insurers, and their political allies are blocking all these changes. Making change happen is all about beating back the opponents of change and moving forward to a better America."
"All year long, doctors, nurses, and patients have been on the front lines fighting for quality, affordable, health care for all," said Dr. Manisha Sharma of the National Physicians Alliance, one of the speakers in Liberty Plaza, outside the New York City offices of WellPoint. "When it comes to our health reform, Congress shouldn't be listening to the insurance companies – they should be listening to us. We need patients before profits, not profits before patients. Patients and doctors are united: "Get health care reform done now, and get it done right!"
In 2008, WellPoint was ranked #33 on the Fortune 500 with a reported $61 billion in profits. Total compensation for CEO Angela Braly that year was $8.7 million. In addition to spending $6.9 billion in federal lobbying since January 2008, WellPoint also conducted automated telemarketing campaigns to their customers and launched a Web site, WellPoint Health Action Network, to actively resist the enactment of comprehensive health reform, including the popular "public option." Last week, WellPoint, operating as subsidiary Anthem Blue, stirred up a national outcry when it attempted to live up to Braly's assertion "We will not sacrifice profitability for membership" by announcing their intention to raise individual insurance premiums by up to 39%.
"Nurses believe that health care is a right, not a privilege," declared Winifred Kennedy RN, the president-elect of the New York State Nurses Association. "The current system has a negative impact on individuals and families, as well as being problematic for the health care delivery system as the cost of providing even substandard health care is rising at an unsustainable rate. While increasing universal access to care and a single payer system is seen as the ultimate solution, we believe that immediate steps must be taken towards meeting these reform initiates."
"Our government needs a wake-up call," said David Braun, a regional coordinator with MoveOn. "45,000 people die every year in this country simply because they lack access to affordable health insurance. The scale of this tragic loss of life is hard to grasp. It's like losing the 3,000 people we lost on 9/11 fifteen times a year! But what's even harder to grasp is why this is allowed to stand. We invest billions of dollars to protect our citizens from foreign attack, and fear mongering conservatives beat their drum about keeping Americans safe. But when it really comes to protecting the lives of Americans, Republican obstructionists continue to let the insurance industry put profits before human lives. Frankly, we're sick of it!"
"Every faith tradition teaches that care for the sick and injured is among the highest moral and ethical imperatives for humankind," said Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater NY-Labor Religion Coalition. "Our nation's political leaders need to act and they need to act now on this much-too-long-neglected human right to health care for all in America. Every other advanced society guarantees that right, and so can, and should, the United States."
Organizations participating in the rally included: Barack Obama Democratic Club, Center for Independence of the Disabled in NY, Citizen Action of NYC, Coalition of Asian-American Children and Families, Committee of Interns and Residents SEIU Healthcare, Communications Workers of America, Downtown East for Obama, Democarcy for NYC, Eric's Law, Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, Health Care for All NY, Make the Road New York, Metro NY Health Care for All Campaign, MoveOn, National Physicians Alliance, NW Bronx for Change, NY-DSA, NY Immigration Coalition, NYers for Accessible Health Coverage, NYC for Change, NYS Nurses Assoc., Public Health Assoc. of NYC, Queens County for Change, Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need, Rekindling Reform, UWS Baby Boomers for Change, Tribeca for Change, Westchester Health Care Reform Task Force, Young Invincibles
For more information on Health Care for America Now's nationwide, weeklong campaign, comprising 40 rallies in 32 states, go to http://finishreformright.com