Rallies for Health Care at US Sen. Isakson's Office

8-12-09, 9:41 am

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- About 40 Metro Atlanta activists with rallied in favor of a public healthcare option at US Sen. Johnny Isakson's (R-GA) office on Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

Currently, bills are making their way though the US House and Senate committees which would create a mandate for every US citizen to have health insurance; would expand Medicare to cover low-income individuals who cannot afford health insurance; would provide tax incentives for middle class individuals to obtain insurance or for their employers to provide them with it; would regulate insurance companies so they cannot deny coverage for existing medical conditions; and, at least in the US House, would create a public health insurance system to compete with the private ones.

US Sen. Isakson, who does not support the public option, was not present, and his staff had not returned the calls or faxes of the rally's organizers.

Still, community members had a good time cheering and showing their signs to the passing cars. Isakson's office is located in a rather secluded, posh area of North Atlanta, a somewhat unfortunate spot for a demonstration in terms of visibility.

Isakson's staff ordered the demonstrators off the premises as soon as they arrived.

Protesters spent some time on the side of the road with signs, sharing personal stories of the travesty that is the current U.S. healthcare system. One man was not allowed to use his Medicare without losing his employee benefits, even though his condition required the funds of both, he said. One woman had brought with her a bill from her son's food poisoning incident which totaled over $2,000, almost $200 of which was for a couple of pain pills he was administered.

The ralliers then made their way back into the building lobby to prepare for a meeting they wanted to have with the Senator's staff. They were again asked to leave the lobby, but were assured that if they rode the elevators up to the Senator's office in groups of five, they would indeed get to meet with the Senator (this even though the Senator was in Washington, DC, at the time).

The ralliers who were not in the first group of five were again told to leave the premises or otherwise go to the building's cafeteria (only if making a purchase, of course). Two women who went to the cafeteria were reprimanded for standing in the cafeteria having a conversation rather than rushing to the counter to place an order.

In the end, there was no meeting with any of Isakson's staff, and the ralliers were informed that Congress had just made plans to postpone voting on the healthcare bill until September anyway.

The rally was organized by Miguel Santiago, local coordinator for MoveOn Political Action. Santiago and constituents had planned a lucrative meeting, complete with penetrating stories of the immediate need for a healthcare system that works and is not outrageously expensive. Though the meeting did not happen, the organizers did get to deliver a petition signed by thousands electronically, and another signed personally by 400 people.

The group plans to pay another visit to Senator Isakson in August.

While as previously reported in Atlanta Progressive News, progressive activists are tending to support a single-payer health care plan, President Obama and the Democratic leadership in US Congress appear to be pushing instead for a compromise system that preserves private profits for the insurance industry. Even this compromise plan, however, faces opposition from many Republicans, and some leftists, such as those with, have been rallying to support the Congressional plans because at least they would be an improvement over the current system.

--Melanie Turner is a freelance writer and activist based in Atlanta.