For the second time in less than two weeks, protestors gathered outside of Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s office in the Metrocenter in Downtown Binghamton to advocate for health care reform.
The Broome-Tioga Green Party of New York and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton (UUCB) hosted the rally on Wednesday afternoon, calling on Brindisi to support H.R.1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019.
The bill would establish a national health insurance program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes all U.S. residents and covers hospital services, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, dental and vision services and long-term care. It would prohibit cost-sharing and other service charges such as co-payments, and stipulate that HHS negotiate prices directly with pharmaceutical companies.
Rally participants were invited to take turns speaking at a microphone. Christine Niskanen, secretary for the Broome-Tioga Green Party, said she helped organize the event as an opportunity to directly and publicly appeal to the congressman.
“We want to pressure Brindisi into supporting the bill, but he wants to shore up Obamacare instead,” Niskanen said. “But over 40 million people can’t afford it.”
The Reverend Douglas Taylor, minister of UUCB, voiced his concerns about the current cost of health care and how it was affecting members of his church and community.
“So the system again and again is failing people in my congregation in a variety of ways,” Taylor said. “I’m usually giving up, like, $20 to somebody on the street so they can get a dinner. Now I’m giving a couple of hundred dollars to people in the congregation so they can afford their insulin.”
The group maintained that one of the biggest advantages of the bill would be a reduction in expenses and time from ridding the system of private insurance, outlining several examples of insurance bloat and red tape as they took turns telling their personal experiences with rising health care costs.
“They’re producing the wealth for the companies, and this is done with the complete agreement of the Democrats and Republican parties — they’re supported by the corporations,” Rick Sprout, chairperson of the Broome-Tioga Green Party. “I used to work at the free clinic. We had a person that came into the clinic that had burned her leg at home. She worked at Walmart for several months and asked about benefits, and her manager, a friend of hers, told her to meet him in the parking lot. He drove her to the Department of Social Services, saying, ‘If you want benefits, that’s where you go.’ The taxes that we pay go to support them.”
During the rally, Brindisi was at a public forum in Utica, New York. But in an emailed statement, Brindisi said he cannot support the bill.
“There is no question that there are serious problems with our current health care system and I am ready and willing to meet with anyone who has ideas on how to [fix it],” Brindisi wrote in response to the rally. “Many hardworking families rely on their health insurance to cover their medical needs, only to be hit with high deductibles, surprise emergency room bills and unaffordable prescription drug costs. We need to work [toward] solutions that can get passed now, with Democrats and Republicans, that can bring those costs down, expand coverage and protect people with preexisting conditions.”
In the face of Brindisi’s reluctance, Taylor said he questions the priorities of health care providers and the government.
“When we look at the way that our current health care system is being run, the driving value that is the priority is efficiency,” Taylor said. “It is long past time for us to bring compassion to the top instead of efficiency, for how we manage health care in this country.”