Health care reform movement holds town hall meeting

04/17/09 Andrea Lypka
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The town hall meeting organized by the grass-roots group Florida Health Care for America Now on Thursday in St. Petersburg was one of 90 taking place in 43 states nationwide over the Congressional recess.

About 50 community members, health care providers, and various organizations shared their stories and view points on health care on April 16 at the Muvico BayWalk Theatre and demanded affordable quality health care for all.

Resident Cindy McNulty is one of the faces of the uninsured. She is a health care advocate who is the chair of the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Pinellas, Hospice Volunteer, Board Member of Community Health Centers and she is also employed as the Community Liaison at a local non-profit organization. She is also a single mother who can’t afford to pay for health insurance. She said she can’t pay the monthly $873 health insurance for herself and her son. “I paid less than $873 for all the care for myself last year including all my exams and meds by paying cash.”

Instead she has been using the medical programs offered by Suncoast Health Care Council and the Mednet Health Plan in the Pasco-Pinellas Districts that helps people to obtain prescription drugs from pharmaceutical companies that offer patient assistance programs.

The executive director of the Suncoast Health Council, Elizabeth Rugg, said Florida is one of the states with the highest number of uninsured. The lack of health insurance increases the chances of bad outcomes for people with chronic diseases ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to cancer and stroke. “More and more children become uninsured and the overall number of the uninsured is also growing,” she said.

“The uninsured population in Pinellas County is growing faster than the uninsured rates in Florida. About 180,000 people in Pinellas County don’t have health insurance,” she said.

USF Research Faculty member Peter Gamache discussed the findings in a study he coordinated which examined the lack of access to quality health care that Latinos experience. He found that in most cases, minorities are required to pay for services at sign- rather than after treatment, he said.

Jason Rosenbaum Deputy Director of Online Campaigns of Health Care for America Now discussed strategies for health care reform. He said that the health care reform would provide access to affordable and accessible health coverage regardless of employment or family status and would end unfair insurance practices - such as rejecting applicants based on health history, pre-existing condition, or setting insurance rates based on gender, health status, or age. Part of the money for the health care plan would come from the government’s budget and the consumer.

“The new health plan will save money on the long run,” said Rosenbaum because the public will have a role in deciding where the money is invested in health care. The new plan would provide a choice of doctors, health providers and public and private plans, without gaps in coverage or access to health care coverage.

Rosenbaum hopes that the bill will be passed without allowing a minority of senators to block health care reform. The moderator of the town hall meeting was Lonnie Thompson, president of the Florida Consumer Action Network. He said he supports the health care reform because the tough economic times make it hard for families to buy a health insurance plan.

Florida health care advocates invited Congressman Bill Young who represents Florida's 10th congressional district but the congressman did not attend the event.

To find out more about the health care reform go to

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