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Health Care for the 99%

by April Ingram Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 at 12:40 AM

Activists march for healthcare reform with mock funeral procession, representing those who died from insurance denials.

Hundreds of activists for healthcare reform – including nurses, medical students, seniors, physicians, members of Wellness Committee of Occupy LA, and supporters marched in Downtown Los Angeles to promote SB-810 ‐ The California Universal Health Care Act, which will guarantee healthcare coverage to all Californians.

Starting from Pershing Square, activists marched to the front entrance of Anthem Blue Cross at 8th Street and Figueroa, many carrying signs demanding “healthcare for the 99%.” Leading the march was a funeral procession consisting of a New Orleans-style brass Jazz band and pallbearers holding up three life-size coffins, bringing awareness to those who die every year as a result of lack of health coverage or insurance denials.

In California, 6.9 million people are uninsured, and more people lose their health coverage each day. Activist Maureen Cruz pointed out that many people are trapped because they are not free to choose where to live or to change occupations, because of fear of losing their healthcare. Fewer jobs offer healthcare. And people who are lucky enough to have employer-based coverage face skyrocketing premiums, higher deductibles and co-pays, and fewer drugs and services covered.

One thousand people die per month in California because they lack access to healthcare. Many people delay seeking care and avoid checkups unless they are in acute pain. Activist Natasha Noriega said she went to a funeral of a friend who recently died of a heart attack. A few weeks before he died, he complained about pain in his foot. He did not seek medical treatment because he had no insurance, and since he was physically active and practiced martial arts, he expected the pain would go away. It was later discovered that a blood clot in his leg spread upwards in his body, causing the heart attack. According to Noriega, if he had sought medical treatment, “he would have survived because this was easily treatable.”

People who have insurance often fare no better, because insurance companies frequently deny claims to live-saving treatments. Occupy LA activist Ed Pitzer said his daughter died from a brain injury after being in a coma for three days because the insurance company denied treatment. Pitzer said if his daughter “had access to the same treatment that Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords received, she could have survived.” Pitzer said the healthcare system “works wonderfully for the insurance companies, but not for the 99%.”

Senate Bill 810 establishes a modern universal health care system that provides every California resident with comprehensive coverage that includes hospital, medical, surgical, and mental health; dental and vision care; prescription drugs and medical equipment such as hearing aids; emergency care including ambulance; skilled nursing care after hospitalization; substance abuse recovery programs; health education and translation services, transportation needed to access covered services, diagnostic testing; and hospice care. It is authored by State Senator Mark Leno.

A hearing on SB 810 is scheduled January 17 in the Senate Appropriations Committee. This bill would provide all Californians with comprehensive medical, dental and vision care while allowing free choice of medical providers.

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