OPINION: Don’t sit on the sidelines during the health care debate


Last year, in unprecedented numbers, union members joined thousands of Minnesotans and voters nationwide to actively campaign to win support for Barack Obama’s campaign for change. We helped elect Obama. Now, as President Obama pushes for healthcare reform, he needs our help.

This is no time to sit on the sidelines and hope change happens. We need to work for change.

And we need to show some hustle. We need to make phone calls, write letters to the editor, write to our members of Congress and the U.S. Senate, and attend town hall meetings.

But guess what: Right now, the other side is out-hustling us. The forces opposing health care reform — bankrolled by the insurance industry and urged on by right-wing talk radio — are shifting the health care debate and spewing hysteria instead of facts.

The facts are simple. Our health care system is broken. The United States spends more per capita on health care than other countries. Escalating health care costs take a bigger and bigger bite of everyone’s paychecks.

Here in the United States — the wealthiest nation in the world — 47 million people have no health coverage, including 8.7 million children.

Of the people who do have health health insurance, more than one-third worry they will lose it because of escalating costs, a job change, or a lay-off.

We union members — many of us fortunate to have good health insurance because of our union contracts — know that every contract renewal brings tough negotiations to combat increases in health costs. Money that could be going towards pay increases or pension contributions instead goes to health insurance.

Meanwhile, the insurance industry posted more than $15 billion in 2006 in profits — a 1,084 percent increase in five years. And the CEOs of health insurance companies averaged $8.7 million in compensation in 2006.

President Obama’s plan — while not perfect — would go a long way to combatting escalating costs and, by including a public option for health insurance, could provide quality, affordable health care for millions who lack it now.

With Obama’s plan stalled in Congress, and Congress now in its August recess, now is the time when you can take action to support health care reform. Write or call U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and your U.S. House member. Attend a town hall meeting. Let’s turn the hope of the 2008 campaign into real change in 2009.

• To learn more:

• To take action:

• To call Congress:
(toll-free call)

• Minnesota town hall meetings:

•To write Senator Klobuchar:
Senator Amy Klobuchar
1200 Washington Ave. S., Suite 250
Minneapolis, MN 55415

Bill McCarthy is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. This column is reprinted from the Minneapolis Labor Review. Learn more at www.minneapolisunions.org


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