nyceve and Jane Hamsher’s health care briefing on Capitol Hill

by , posted on Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 12:07 am

Last Wednesday, July 8th, Rep. John Conyers’ office brought Eve Gittelson, aka “nyceve,” a leading blogger on health care issues at Daily Kos, and Jane Hamsher, founder of the blog FireDogLake, to Capitol Hill to present a briefing on health care to congressional staff.

More specifically, as Conyers legislative assistant Joel Segal put it, Eve was there to “talk about her perspective as a blogger. What she hears day in, day out, from people about what they want to see in a

national health insurance program. What are their concerns, what are their problems?” And Jane was there to discuss organizing strategies, what she thinks the American people want, and what the role of congressional staff and Members of Congress is in putting a good bill through. She was also there to talk about a project she’s engaged in, seeking to get forty members of Congress to go on record on video saying that if there’s no public plan like Medicare, then there will be no health care reform this year.

Rep. Conyers himself joined the briefing as well, leading a Q&A session that turned into an initial planning session for a prospective hearing on the health care crisis, perhaps to be held on Capitol Hill during in August recess.

Eve and Jane’s remarks, as well as more on the Q&A session, after the jump.

Eve Gittelson

Thank you very much Joel, and I’d like to really thank Joel and Congressman Conyers’ staff who’ve been incredibly generous over many years reaching out to bloggers and ordinary Americans: Mike Darner, and Jonathan Godfrey is here, and Cynthia Martin. I wish there were more people in Congress, and their staff, that reached out to us as Congressman Conyers’ office does.

I’m going to talk to you about what it’s like to be an American citizen without access to health care, and then Jane is gonna talk to you about a very, very important project. It’s actually more important than what I’m going to talk about because it’s very time sensitive. But I’m gonna kind of set the stage.

So, let’s talk about health care in the United States. And finally, thank God, it’s getting some attention here. The American people don’t know what’s taking you so long. I want to make you very, very uncomfortable today, and if you walk away uncomfortable, then I’ve done my job.

I also hope you’ll understand what it’s like to live without access to health care, or to have bare bones junk insurance, which is insurance in name only. This is what so many Americans are forced to accept, and which leaves us underinsured, vulnerable, and likely to be bankrupt if we actually need health care.

The U. S. health care system is literally killing my readers. It is killing them. I want to read you two e-mails I received just yesterday. They’re right here. You can’t make this stuff up. The first e-mail said, very simply

I have one thing to add to the discussion. We are dying. Do our elected officials really get that? We’re not numbers or stories. We’re the American people and we are dying.

Forgive me, but I get very overwrought when I talk about this.

Another e-mail asks me to please tell the stories of those who can’t.

And please tell them we’re not looking for a handout. We just want to pay our monthly premiums to someone who is not looking to raise our rates, cut us off, or dump us when we get sick or try to seek preventive health care. The insurers are trying to make us afraid to use our insurance and they’re doing a damn good job of it. It would also be nice not to have $5,000 or $10,000 required deductibles, which is what we have to do in order to keep our monthly payments affordable.

I’m just reading this e-mail.

Letting for-profit insurers drive the middle class into insolvency is going to cost this country dearly. A hell of a lot more than universal health care would.

These are just two e-mails from yesterday, and I get tons of e-mails.

The American people are outraged, and so am I. They are outraged that the rest of the industrialized world can provide health care for all it’s citizens at a fraction

of the cost we pay to a system which leaves 50 million without and the rest of us one illness or injury away from bankruptcy. They are outraged that we live in a country where access remains a privilege, not a right. They are outraged because even among the insured middle class health care is delayed due to costs. And I’m one of those middle class Americans, with insurance who delays due to co-pays, deductibles, and low reimbursement.

As I said today I’m going to let you hear from real Americans. We feel that inside this bubble of Washington you don’t understand what is happening to your fellow citizens. They asked me to tell you stories of human suffering, not to review policy, and that’s what I hope I’m gonna try to do.

This is an e-mail I received in January 2009 from a young man named Matthew. The subject heading was “I’m dying”. And he wrote to me

The results of some tests came back today. I have pancreatic cancer. It is untreatable. I will die in 2009. I’m not telling you this for pity or whining. I have known this was coming for a while and I have made my peace with it. I am telling you this to urge you on in your fight for universal health care. I have delayed seeing a physician for two years even though I have had a series of symptoms. I had been unable to qualify for health insurance that I could afford. Even if I could, my cancer would have been deemed a pre-existing condition unless I had the insurance before two years ago.

I cut back on everything — movies, clothes, restaurants, hot water, air conditioning in Texas, meals — and saved up my money so I could finally see a doctor. I still didn’t want to spend so much and delayed everything until the symptoms became too serious. I was taken to an emergency room and was booted to a county hospital when they found out I had no insurance, but made too much to qualify for Medicaid.

And I want to say, just in passing, that there is a woman in the back of the room, named Phyllis, who identified herself to me. She has a son who has cancer, I believe …

P: Had.

EG: Had cancer, and she had to separate from her husband in order to qualify for Medicaid. This is a national shame.

Audience: Yes, it is.

EG: Let’s return to Matthew. He said in this e-mail to me

What was so frightening to me was not the fact that I was ultimately diagnosed with cancer again, it would not have made a difference with my type, but the number of people I met in the waiting room who had done the exact same thing as I had done. They had delayed and delayed seeing a doctor, despite the pain and difficult symptoms because they couldn’t afford it.

Matthew died one month after sending me this e-mail.

Given these realities, why are you in the process of sticking band-aids on a very, very sick patient? And again, I want to answer the question that Joel and Jonathan and Mike and Cynthia asked me to come and address, which is: What do the American people need in this so-called new and reformed system? And I think the best way to answer that is to sort of run through the issues that come up over and over and over again.

I think number one — and before anything, we as a nation need to get something straight — affordable and quality health care in the United States must be a right from cradle to grave for everyone, not a privilege of the few.

Here’s what must change — and I’m gonna sort of run through the items that I say come up over and over — if we’re going to be able to call this legislation reform [instead of] just more of the same. And I would tell you from the point of view of the American people what you’re about to hear is non-negotiable. This is a minimum standard.

As I said, we need guaranteed and affordable health care. Guaranteed health care is not the same as guaranteed and affordable insurance. We need a system in which we can go to a doctor before small problems become big and expensive ones. Many, many Americans, myself included again, delay care. And keep in mind I am a middle class American. This catastrophe has penetrated deep into the middle-class. The middle class votes, and the middle class pays the money to elect your representatives. Many, many Americans, myself included, delay care simply because with co-pays, deductibles, and the uncertainty of the huge bills we will undoubtedly face despite being insured. And it bears repeating, that in the back of your mind at every doctor’s appointment is not guaranteed health care, but the guaranteed fight you’re certain to have with your insurance about paying any bill for any amount.

I want to mention, just for a moment, you know, the dreaded “R” word. “R” being rationing, or rationed care. And I want you to know we already have huge self-rationing in the United States. Okay? So, when you hear that nonsense, keep in mind that Americans are rationing care, self-rationing care.

Here is what a woman named Patricia wrote to me about how her family rations health care. She says

We’re part of the growing number of Americans who are underinsured. We have a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan which costs over $600 a month with an annual deductible of $6,000. Together with the cost of our dental insurance, which I know we’re very lucky to have, we spend $700 a month on coverage. It amounts to one-fourth of my husband’s take home pay. We pay for all of our doctor visits and prescriptions out of pocket. Our plan will work only if a catastrophic illness or injury occurs. The monthly premium precludes us from being able to afford even the most basic of care, and we ration doctors visits carefully.

Okay? She went on to write

I’ve been chronically ill for two years and I have no idea what it is I have. I can endure the pain because so far that is my primary symptom. What I could not endure would be the loss of our home and everything we have if I sought treatment. I am not trying to be a martyr. These are the facts. I lie awake many nights worrying about my family and other families across the country and wonder how we came to such a point.

Number two. We must end the specter of medical bankruptcies forever. I hope you’re aware, given that you work here, that there’s been a recent report

in Harvard Medical School which showed conclusively that 62% of the bankruptcies in the United States have a medical component. And even more alarming, 78% of the people who had to file for bankruptcy had health insurance. How in the world do we accept as normal or rational that tens of millions of Americans, even insured Americans, are one illness or injury away from financial ruin? This is insanity.

Speaking of financial ruin, this was written by someone who has what you have, the Federal Employee Health Benefit plan. He’s very fortunate, he’s married to a federal employee. And he wrote to me as follows. He wrote

Three years ago I was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. Which means that without my spouse’s federal employee benefit insurance, I would be going on debt. As it is, my medication should be costing me $36,000 a year, but it’s only costing me about $200. Please ask these folks


why it is that I, a fairly common or garden-variety gentleman, should be chosen to live on in relative peace when probably 99% of those with my diagnosis must go bankrupt on the way to death.

Which brings me to the next major issue, and that is, the reality that our health care system is tied to employment, or, fasten your seat belts, to an unhappy or dangerous, yes dangerous, marriage. This stifles entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and the natural desire to seek more fulfilling employment from dead-end careers.

I’m sure you know about the concept of “job-lock”. Job-lock is when someone stays in a job solely because of the health benefits, and millions of Americans have to do that, because if they leave their job they have no assurance of getting another job that will give them benefits that will, you know, allow them to cover their pre-existing conditions.

On the domestic front, people often maintain marital relationships also simply for the health insurance. I receive e-mails from women in abusive situations who say they can not seek a divorce because they need to maintain the health insurance of their spouse.

It is anti-American to stifle innovation, and it is immoral to have a system so broken and dysfunctional that domestic violence takes a back seat to having health insurance. And this is exactly what is currently happening.

The fourth item, and this is right at the heart of what is happening in Congress today, we need the right to choose between maintaining our current private policies — if you have UnitedHealth, or WellPoint, and you love it, God bless you, keep it — or moving to a robust, well-funded, and authentic public plan, which is available on day one, and open to all Americans. This means no triggers, no co-ops, and no curve balls.

This public plan must not become a repository for the sick. And I’ll add here, God help us, and God help you, if this is not an integral component of the legislation.

The fifth point. We need a reduction of sky-rocketing premiums. It’s gotten so bad that having insurance is a luxury you can’t afford any longer. It’s no different than the Lexus in your garage. The difference is the Lexus is dependable, the insurance is rotten. This forces most Americans to buy cheap insurance which leaves us dangerously underinsured, which in turn leads to medical bankruptcies.

I’m going to tell you what happened to me. Last year my own insurance, my own premium, went up 19%. And what I’m going to describe is not unique to me, this is the norm in the United States. So what did I do? I increased my deductible and my co-pay and reduced my reimbursement. I went from a $500 deductible to a $1,000 deductible. My co-pay went from $20 to $30 and my reimbursement went from 80% of “reasonable and customary” to 70%. And for this, I could re-up for a modest 9% increase.

So every year we’re paying a lot more for a lot less, and, of course, this is completely unsustainable.

Here’s the big, big, big issue: dental care. It must be part of health care reform. An American facing, for example, an out-of-pocket root canal will pay about $4,000, certainly in Manhattan, probably in Washington. Remember, I hope you remember, the tragic story of the 13-year old boy who died miles from here, simply because his mother could not find a dentist who would accept Medicaid? Dental care is an absolutely essential component of this legislation.

The next issue is regulations. If, tragically, for-profit health insurance is going to remain, if this is the system we are condemned to live with, then for God’s sake we need intense, I would say draconian, regulation of this industry which has shown time and again that it refuses to regulate itself. You need to understand these huge corporations are massive denial machines. Every dollar they pay out in claims goes against the bottom line. They view paying for health care as the enemy, they view denying coverage as the goal.

So where does this leave ordinary citizens? It leaves us fully exposed and having to fight these companies on our own.

This came to me from a young lawyer, who wrote as follows about UnitedHealthcare in New Jersey. He said they denied a claim for an MRI his doctor had ordered.

It was right after I had spent a hellish two months studying for the bar exam, and my doctor was worried about headaches I was getting at the back of my skull. So he called the hospital he’s affiliated with, gets the MRI ordered up, sends me on my way and that’s the end of it. Until I get a bill two months later from the hospital with a copy of the insurance company denial of payment letter. United Healthcare has also denied blood work, supposedly covered by our plan. I pay $800 a month for the privilege of this coverage for my family of three, me, my wife and my infant.

And here again is an American who is insured, self-rationing.


I don’t go to the doctor anymore unless I have a gunshot wound, out of fear of financially ruining my young family for the rest of our lives. The $800 a month I pay has prevented us from finding a place to live. We live with my wife’s in-laws.

I want to talk for a moment about well-publicized insurance industry excess. And the reason I need to review this is because this industry will remain the heart of our so-called reformed health care system, so I wanna just mention a couple of things.

A couple of weeks ago there was a hearing, right here, by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, about whether Wellpoint, UnitedHealth, and Assurant cancelled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five year period. Late in the hearing, a Mr. Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. He asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop recissions, except where they could show intentional fraud. The answer from all three executives? No.

Do all of you remember that hearing? Yes? No? Don’t care?

Investigations by the Los Angeles Times and others have revealed that employees of various insurance companies were paid bonuses based on the money saved the company by denying claims. In New York, where I live, Attorney General Cuomo settled with UnitedHealth and it’s subsidiary Ingenix for $50 million in what he called, and I’m quoting, “a scheme to defraud consumers by manipulating reimbursement rates.” And who could forget William McGuire, the stock back-dating CEO of UnitedHealth, who was forced to return over $600 million of ill-gotten gains and pay a $7 million fine to the SEC for back-dating stock options?

Most recently, Wendell Potter, the former Vice President of Communications for CIGNA finally told the truth at a hearing, right here again, before the Senate Commerce Committee. Potter came clean with what we all know about how insurance companies rig the table. He said they confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. The egregious, and I, others, would say the criminal business practices of this industry are legendary. These companies are antithetical to the American way of life. At the end of the day, this is why so many American scratch their heads in bewilderment when we are told by those who we elect to represent us to do the business of the people that this industry will remain in place, largely untouched, and central to the health and well-being of the American people.

And now I’m going to put you on the spot, and I’m going to ask you: Do you think public financing of campaigns might start to change this deplorable state of affairs? And I think you know where I’m going.

On June 4th I wrote a blog asking people to discuss their health care insurance industry horror stories. The diary received almost 800 responses, and, as Jane can attest, 800 comments on a diary is rather breathtaking. Virtually all of these were heart-wrenching accounts of what my readers have endured at the hands of the American insurance industry. I told them I would take their stories to Washington, to you, and this is what I’m trying to do.

Here are two I want to tell you.

My friend in the ICU can’t move half his body. He has high blood pressure, he went to his doctor, got a prescription for medicine that his insurance company denied. While he was waiting for his doctor and insurance company to agree on a medication, his blood pressure blew through a weakness in an artery in his head and he bled into his brain. He’s a salesman, but not anymore. His speech is affected. He’s going to need months of rehab. He can’t work, so probably he won’t be able to keep his insurance. Not that it had done him any good up to this point, anyhow. So what is he to do? Go bankrupt? Lose his home? Possibly his family? His dignity? All because the damn insurance company said no more vital medication.

And one other person wrote

It’s difficult seeing her in so much pain, feeling this helpless. She won’t go to the hospital. She was nearly bankrupted last time she went even though she had health insurance, and now she has none. With a history of cancer in the family, and various pre-existing conditions, she is effectively uninsurable. I plead with her to go, insisting I would pay for it, but that just makes her more certain not to. She doesn’t want to be a burden.

And it’s not just readers of blogs who are writing these. The New York Times recently wrote a, there was a scathing article entitled “Insured but Unprotected and Driven Bankrupt by Health Crises.” And I just want to read you a couple of excerpts from the comments that came in after this article was published. A Canadian wrote “In Canada, when we turn on a tap we expect water, when we flip a switch we expect light, when we get sick we expect health care. It’s that simple.” And then a doctor wrote “If we’re going to be having a discussion about rationing and health care, shouldn’t we be discussing the rationing that for-profit insurance companies do in order to maximize their own bottom line?”

And then finally, from an outraged American, who wrote: “Let me keep this as simple as I can. The American people should get the same health care coverage as their elected representatives. No more, no less. They work for us, not the over way around.”

We want, and I’m gonna end now, we want health care with no barriers to entry. We want the same health care as Members of Congress have. This is a fundamental right which must be guaranteed by the government.

How do these members — I ‘d really like you all to listen — how do these members sleep at night, how do these members who have such generous taxpayer-subsidized health care for themselves and their families sleep at night, knowing the magnitude of human suffering this official inaction has caused countless of millions of Americans year in and year out?

And I want to end by saying that I’m appealing to your “better angels”. I’m asking you to tell the Members you work for that Americans are counting on them not to let us down again.

Thank you.

And now I’m turning it over to Jane Hamsher, who is going to tell you about how we’re going to get health care for all Americans, finally. Thank you.

Jane Hamsher

I was talking with Joel today when we met, we talked a bit about our personal histories, and he said “Do you feel like you’re there, right now, involved in this fight?” And I said “I absolutely do”. I’m a sixteen year breast cancer

survivor. I just finished my third bout. I had the first one in ’93, the second one in 2000, and the third one in 2006. I know what it’s like to try and fight for your life with everything that you have, and get the calls from the collection agencies. And get the notices from Blue Cross telling you that the surgeon’s bills, two surgeon’s bills, for a sixteen hour surgery, the first of three in 2006, that “usual and customary” is $1,200 and I need to pay the difference. My last bout cost me $60,000, that I have to pay, and I am fully insured.

It is incomprehensible to me, incomprehensible to me, what it must be like to have this disease, and fight with it, fight it with everything you have, and know that the cost of doing that is everything that you and your family have. I do not understand what that must be like, because that hasn’t been my experience, but I know that is the experience of many people. And I do not understand how Blanche Lincoln and Kay Hagen can get up there, as women, and say that their first priority is to guard the profits of insurance agencies over my health. I find that offensive.

I have been organizing for four years online and this is it. This is a game-changing moment. This is all-in. Progressive votes have never mattered before in Congress, at least not since I’ve been working online, because George Bush was in the White House and he could veto it. But we’re in a place right now where that’s changed, because when the Republicans say that they’re going to vote against something in a block, any forty members in the House can come together and they can say “We’re going to stand together and you have to get through us. Nothing gets passed unless we say it does.” Progressive votes matter [applause] …

“Joe Liebermans” in the House, President Lieberman, President Ben Nelson, President Blanche Lincoln, they all think their one vote is going to determine what the content of this bill is. If forty Members, forty Democrats stick together and they say “No, we’re gonna have a public plan, and it’s gonna be a good one,” you know what? Seventy-six percent of the country is behind them. And they’re saying “We support you. We want this. We don’t want this bullshit anymore!” Excuse my language, Chairman. I’m sure you’ve never heard anything like that before. [laughter]

So, what do we do? Well, as Joel told you, I have a large liberal blog. We’ve done a lot of activism in the past. We came of age covering the Valerie Plame trial, which Chairman Conyers did such valiant work on. We wound up on the front page of the New York Times for it. Recently, you may have heard about Marcy Wheeler, one of our bloggers, who went through the Senate Armed Services Committee documents and found out that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been waterboarded 183 times in one month. That wound up on the front page of the New York Times.

We have reach. We have people who care. Our readers are generally between the ages of 40 and 60. The myth that they are 18-year olds in their pajamas is just not true. They are, they live in your districts. We don’t have a lot of people in Blue Dog districts, we’ve got tens of thousands of people in San Francisco. They are professionals, 48% of them have graduate degrees. They contribute to the campaigns of your bosses, and yourself, Chairman Conyers. And they are very, very committed to politics and they follow it very closely.

And you also find out over time that the people who are in online political communities have a lot of health care problems and that’s why they’re there all day. So this issue matters to them and it matters to them a lot. They will make calls, they will organize, they will show up at your offices. They will be there for you if you do this. They will be there and they will support you, and they will make you the heroes in a game-changing bid to remake this country into the country that we all want it to be, where the right to access to basic health care is a basic human right. So, I will do that.

I believe the press is taking President Lieberman and President Lincoln a lot more seriously than they are taking the members of the House who have said … that they’re not going to vote for anything that doesn’t have a public plan.

Well, how do we do that? We want to take videos, we want to get your bosses on video. I’m saying this is what we’re gonna do. We want to put them together, and we want to have this public statement out there online, and we want to make them heroes.

Yesterday, when all the representatives, Raul Grijalva, said sorry, no triggers, the cheers went up online like nothing I’ve ever seen. Cause all we get, all day long, out of the news is how “Well, we’re sorry, because we can’t afford this.” We’ve just paid $2 trillion to the banks who screwed

up our financial system. We pay $100 billion dollars to bail out the European banks. But we can’t afford basic health care for our own people? That’s offensive to people and they’re willing to take action. They’re looking to you, your bosses, the Members of Congress, to Chairman Conyers, the committees that are going to be doing this, and they’re saying “We want you to help us. We want you to inspire us. We were there for you, we listened to you, and we’re tired of hearing about Kent Conrad and his co-op plan. We don’t want Kent Conrad and his co-op plan. We want real health care and we want it today.” [applause]

So, what are we doing? Well, when we got information from the health committee that Kay Hagen was going to be the big obstacle, I contacted local bloggers in North Carolina that I know, and we also contacted breast cancer survivors in North Carolina. And we contacted a diverse crowd of breast cancer survivors, because African-American women, maybe you know or don’t know, are twice as likely to die as young women from breast cancer and they are five times as likely to get delays in receiving treatment. So we put these women together and we put those faces together, and we put their names together, and we put their stories online, and we said “Stand with the women of North Carolina.” And then today those women took those petitions down to Senator Hagen’s office and there were three tv camera crews waiting for them. [applause] … Senator Hagen changed her position [applause] …

So that’s the kind of thing that we can do. We can help you, if you get us information, if you let us know what’s going on. We are very good at keeping your confidences. And the bottom line is we don’t need publicity, we don’t want to be the one’s who are responsible for doing this. We want to make your bosses look good. We want to make them the progressive heroes that we all know that they can be. We want to spread the word that they’re gonna hold the line, that they are going to be the ones that are writing this bill, and that the American people are [there] for them.

And so thank you so much for having me today. We really, really appreciate you being open to our community, and our message, and for working with us, because I know a lot of people are sometimes nervous about working with the blogs. We want to show you that we are your constituents, that we really care about your leadership on this, and we’re willing to support you with everything we have. [Applause]

Q & A

At the beginning of the question and answer session, Rep. Conyers observed that “this legislative activity is turning into a movement …”

… and when this becomes a movement, then that becomes irresistible. See a legislative bill, several hundred bills floating around the House and the Senate, and everybody’s trying to get somebody in on it. And people are endorsing and people are signing up. But when you deal with a movement, that’s a different ballgame. …

And what is so

moving is that more and more people are understanding one simple premise that Ms. Hamsher and Ms. Gittelson have brought to our attention. Just think what would happen, if in addition to all the people who realize in a rational way that we have a health care system that needs serious remedy were joined with all the people who have been mistreated, abused, and had their health compromised, or their loved ones, suppose all them came, you know how many million people that would be?

And would we then have the health care reform we seek? “Automatically,” said Rep. Conyers.

Rep. Conyers then had a question he asked the audience to consider.

Why is it that people quietly take so much crap when they don’t have to? I mean, after all, most of these Members are not overwhelmingly elected. Many of them just barely get elected. And many of them may not be doing enough to warrant staying in office either. And yet, you get this hang dog, mentally defeated psychology “They are powerful people, forces, that control it, and nothing we can do about it. …

And I’m trying to examine what it is that makes people in this system, where with any brief examination of history, domestic or international, you don’t get anything without struggle. What did Frederick Douglass tell us, over a hundred years ago? Without a struggle people aren’t giving up anything. Why should the health insurance companies that reap boundless millions if not billions of dollars in annual profit, and then all the other for-profit corporations in the health industry, why should they stop making money if people don’t have the energy and will … to do something about it?

A woman in the audience offered one answer.

Well, one of the reasons, I can tell you, is I’m an uninsured angry American, and when you lose your health insurance at first you are scared to death, and you’re immobilized, and I got over it and I opened my mouth.

Rep. Conyers asked the audience to give her a round of applause.

… because she’s breaking out of this hopeless, despondent, inferior attitude that the health care industry tries to put on people who don’t have the right insurance, the right policy, or they have the wrong health problem that they don’t want to have to pay for.

Eve Gittelson then posed a question of her own.

Chairman Conyers, will you consider having a hearing here … where you would invite, you and your colleagues … would invite American citizens to come here and describe what it’s like, as I started to outline, what it’s like to live without access to health care, to have insurance that is insurance in name only?

And if you would agree to that, we, Jane and myself, can provide you with hundreds, maybe thousands of Americans who would line up out this door, down the stairway, out in front of this building, and let the world see that in the richest country on the planet, in the year 2009, American citizens are without access to health care, but there is one person in the United States Congress who wants to hear their stories, and that’s Chairman Conyers. [applause]

After inviting those in the room to signify their support for the motion by saying ‘aye,’ Rep. Conyers went on to say

Let’s talk about that. How can we go about doing that? Well, I’ll tell you what, we’ll pick a date, we’ve got hearing rooms, we might get to use the Judiciary Committee hearing room, 2141, which is even bigger, and is set up to record and televise this, so that it can go out. I’ll bet you there are some television networks that would love to participate in that sort of event. And you know what, with the August recess coming, that might be a great time, when things are down here, cause we’re gonna be really busy between now and the end of this month …

And then Rep. Conyers began discussing with his staff who in his office might be delegated to work on this project, what sort of an informal committee might be assembled to guide the effort, what sort of organizational support might be available, perhaps from the unions that have already been so supportive, and how his database of individuals and his website might be used to reach out to people and provide them with means of getting more information.

When a movement, Conyers said finally, “like the civil rights movement, begins to grow, pretty soon you begin to find out things are happening all over. … We’ve gotta believe. We have to be ready to demand it. Get out there and fight for [it]. … That’s the way the country was formed.”


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