Thursday, May 28, 2009

Neal still waffling on health care

A hundred people showed up yesterday for a rally at Congressman Richard E. Neal's Springfield office on State St. We were there to see if we could win Neal's support for HR 676, The United States National Health Insurance Act.

Many groups have met with Cong. Neal to ask him to support HR676. He just keeps putting off a real answer. Yesterday he released the following statement:

“Since President Obama’s election, I have pledged to work with him to reform America’s health care system. I share his goals that comprehensive health care reform must be affordable, provide coverage options for every American and guarantee quality care. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, one of three committees in the U.S. House that has jurisdiction over health care, I am committed to passing real health care reform legislation this year. On numerous occasions, I have spoken with the White House and officials in the Obama administration about the importance of passing health care reform during the 111th session of Congress. I know they share my view that the American people cannot afford to wait any longer. As the debate in Congress resumes, I look forward to continuing my work with President Obama and the leadership in Congress to make health care affordable and accessible for every American.”

Well, blah, blah, blah.

Two days before the rally, a member of the Western Mass. Single Payer Network had a conversation with Neal's legislative aide Bill Powers about HR 676. The gist of it went like this:

  • Rep. Neal has already met with 2-3 groups regarding his stance on healthcare, and can't keep spending time meeting with groups over this single issue.
  • Neal's position on health care is not clearly articulated in any public place and cannot be articulated without a "longer conversation" but unfortunatelty Neal is not available to meet on this topic for at least a month-and-a-half or two months in the future.
  • When asked whether Neal supports HR 676 or not, Powers stated that Neal takes issue with how HR 676 is written, but does not necessarily object to HR676. Again, his position on HR676 requires a "more lengthy discussion".

Could Neal's lack of support for HR 676 be linked to the fact that his top contributer category is insurance companies? That's not the case for any of the other 13 U.S. Senators and Representatives in Massachusetts.

Unfortunately it seems as if President Obama has yet to come around to supporting a true single payer plan. His current proposal gives too much power to insurance companies. A good fact check on his plan can be found at PolitiFact. A real problem is that his plan mimics the Massachusetts model. Yesterday's Boston Globe sees the state's health care costs spiraling out of control, waits for doctors increasing, and costs keeping patients from accessing prescription drugs and doctors.

It's not too late to win HR676, but we have our work cut out for us.

Photos: President of Arise Don James, Shirley McCready and John Bennett from Mass. Senior Action, Liz Bewsee from Arise and Ashley from OutNow, Arky Markham from Western Mass. Single Payer Network, Sadie Centeno and Vanessa Rivera from Arise, State rep. Ben Swan, City Council candidate Norm Oliver.

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