Rallying for health care

When Nancie Koerber got sick, her major medical insurance, which cost her $600 a month, would not cover any of the costs of her doctor visits, she said.

She owed more than $10,000 in medical bills, and to avoid bankruptcy, she dropped the insurance plan for her company in order to pay the bills.
Now she’s praying she doesn’t get sick again.

Koerber, owner of Champions RealTime Training in Central Point, and about 260 people and a dog named Lilly met Thursday afternoon at Vogel Plaza in Medford and marched eight blocks to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office on West Sixth Street as part of a nationwide effort to show support for President Obama’s plans for health-care reform.

The rally was arranged by Organizing for America, a grassroots project of the Democratic National Committee.

The demonstrators held signs that read “Insurance profits are bad for my heath,” “Insurance Co. = Injustice” and “Choose public health not CEO wealth.”

People passing on Main Street or Central Avenue either honked or booed in response to the crowd.

Robin E. Brown, chairwoman of the Jackson County Democratic Party, said the crowd’s goal was to encourage Wyden, one of Oregon’s two Democratic senators, to support the public’s health-care plan.

“If people want a private option they have that choice, and if they want a public option they’ll have that, too,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in a written statement read by Amy Amrhein, the Southern Oregon field representative for Merkley.

“What do we want?” Brown shouted through a megaphone.

“Health care!” the crowd responded in unison.

“When do we want it?” she asked.

“Now!” they screamed again.

“Let’s roll to Wyden’s office,” she said.

The crowd fell in behind a wheelbarrow containing about 15,000 signatures, letters and petitions and some sock monkeys dressed as doctors and nurses.

David Subia, a registered independent from Medford, walked near the back of the pack. He said he had come out to express his support for the public health plan.

“I don’t agree with everything, but I don’t disagree with it either,” he said of Obama’s plans for reforming health insurance.

The president’s plans for health care reform include coverage for pre-existing conditions and the seriously ill, limiting out-of-pocket costs, paying for preventive care, eliminating caps on coverage, extending family coverage to young adults, and equalizing costs between men and women.

“I’m for the government improving what they already do before we add something else,” Subia said.

Elizabeth Hallett, 85, a former nurse for Cleveland Metropolitan General Hospital in Ohio, said she has good health insurance but her children don’t.

Her granddaughter had to leave the hospital the day after she had her appendix removed because she couldn’t afford to stay another day.

“I want to express myself for single-payer (health care insurance) because that is what developed nations are doing,” Hallett said.

More than anything, Hallett said she wants fairness and health care for everyone, and she wants everyone to pay.

Wyden was not in his office Thursday.

“We wanted to send them (Wyden and Merkley) back to Congress with the support from Southern Oregon for choice of a public plan and health care for all,” said Rich Rohde, executive director of Oregon Action.

Bryan Platt, former Jackson County Republican chairman, has a different perspective on Obama’s health care reform proposals.

He said the public health insurance plan worries him for three reasons: the government’s history of mismanagement, even in its dealings with something as small as the Cash for Clunkers program; the plan is anti-competitive, and without competition, prices usually rise; and the plan reduces options because “eventually the government plan would be the only plan out there.”

Platt said a better alternative would be to increase the competition by allowing Oregonians to look for health care providers outside the border and by reforming tort laws so liability for doctors would be limited.

“These seem like real simple things that could be done rather than destroy the system,” Platt said.

“You don’t destroy 90 percent of the system because 10 percent isn’t functioning well,” he said.

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at intern1@mailtribune.com.

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