Monday, September 14, 2009
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Journal Staff Writer
Health care reform supporters who favor a public option held a noisy rally on Civic Plaza in Albuquerque on Sunday.
More than 300 people from all over the state attended the rally, which was one of many held across the country on Sunday. The rally was organized by Grassroots4PublicOption, a nonpartisan New Mexico group.
The crowd cheered speakers with air horns, cowbells, drums and a host of other noisemakers, creating a lively scene on the plaza.
"We're here to voice our feelings loud enough that Washington hears us," said rally organizer Gaye Pollitt. "We want a vigorous public option."
State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said he is surprised by the resistance that has met health care reform efforts in Congress.
"The time is long past, now, for us to really get meaningful change in our health care system," Ortiz y Pino said, adding that he considers the current effort to be far short of what is needed. "It really frightens me to think that it's going to take this huge effort, this uproar of public sentiment, for a program that essentially leaves the insurance industry right there next to the heart of the American people, sucking their blood."
Katy George traveled from Taos to attend the rally, saying that she hasn't had any health insurance since the 1970s. George, an artist, said she can't afford coverage on her income.
"I'm not a deadbeat; I work hard. I just chose to be an artist," she said. "A public option is the only choice for me."
Much praise was heaped on President Barack Obama for the support he gave of a public option in his recent speech to Congress about health care, but some cautioned that the public option might not make it into final legislation.
"If it doesn't make it in 2009," said Tyler Taylor, a primary care physician who spoke at the rally, "It's just a matter of time before it comes back, and we'll be there to support it."
The rally's speakers also included two Native American women, who said any health care reforms should include the U.S. Indian Health Service, which serves the Native American population, mainly on reservations.
Michelle Brown-Yazzie, a member of the Navajo Nation, said her son died as a result of poor care from Indian Health Services.
"I trusted IHS, and you should be able to do that," she said.
Speakers also noted that the Democratic Party of New Mexico adopted a resolution at its Central Committee meeting on Saturday endorsing a public option.