Castor pushes for better health coverage

09/15/08 Seán Kinane
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Tens of millions of Americans do not receive quality health care because they simply can’t afford insurance or their coverage is inadequate. This morning, a coalition of consumer groups and activists demanded health care for everyone outside a South Tampa health center.

A woman pushed her crying baby in a stroller along the sidewalk and through the front doors of the Floyd “Doc” Kelton Community Health Center. Minutes later, Tampa-area U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor kicked off the press conference calling for good-quality health coverage for all.

“We are in the midst of a very serious economic crisis. Part of that crisis are the rising costs of healthcare and the failure of the Bush administration and those in Washington to provide access to quality affordable healthcare. There is a better way. We know that if you focus on primary care, prevention, and wellness, and access for kids to the doctor’s office we could save a lot of money and serve a greater number of people.”

Castor said health care will be one of the two key aspects of a major economic stimulus package that will come before Congress in the next few days.

“What is on the front burner right now will be a second economic stimulus package. This is going to be announced this week. It is going to focus on two parts: jobs, jobs, jobs, rebuilding America’s infrastructure; and number two, health care, more affordable health care for folks who need it.”

One program that helps low-income families with children is the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), Castor said.

“This is the best deal going for families in the state of Florida because the feds pick up two-thirds of the cost and the state picks up one-third. And it’s a sliding scale, so often times families have to pay a portion. But it provides a home, a pediatric home, so that children can see a doctor. We had a bipartisan bill in Washington. Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed it, and we fell just a few votes short in overriding the president’s veto.”

Three-year-old Bethany Wilkerson handed some of the speakers at the press conference Disney-themed stickers and gave Castor a page she had colored with crayons. Bethany’s mother, Dara Wilkerson, described how at the age of 6 months Bethany needed surgery for holes in her heart, “And the funding from SCHIP … helped us get her the surgery that saved her life.”

The Wilkersons petitioned Congress in Washington trying to save the SCHIP program. Registered Nurse Karen Hoyt has seen the effects of America’s health care system, where only those who can afford it get the care they need.

“I’ve had to sit with cancer patients while their oncologists told them that the chemotherapy the doctor wanted them to have wasn’t covered, because our health care system is broken.”

Universal health care is common in many other English-speaking countries and almost all of Western Europe. In those countries, the care patients receive is based on decisions by doctors, not insurance companies, and Hoyt thinks that Americans deserve the same.

“America can do better. We deserve better. Every other industrialized nation on this planet recognizes that health care is a right of its citizens and not a privilege for those who can afford to pay the premiums.”

Bill Newton is executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN). He called health care a “consumer issue” and a “pocketbook issue” for Americans.

“This nation has been plagued with upside-down priorities for the last eight years. And now it’s time to change course and invest in America’s future for a change. Guaranteed quality affordable healthcare is a great first step in doing this.”

Castor criticized President Bush’s concept of universal health care.

“Now, I know President Bush has said, ‘Hey we have a healthcare system here in the United States. All you have to do is go to the emergency room.’ Well, that is not a solution. And we have been trying for months and months up against the roadblock of the Bush administration to fight for quality affordable health care.”

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF (May, 2008)

Kathy Castor

Florida Consumer Action Network - FCAN

Previous WMNF coverage of Health Care for America Now

West Central Florida Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

Physicians for a National Health Program - PNHP

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