Florida Health Insurance Topic:
"The Purple Bus Lady"


Messages come in many forms. This one just happens to be in the form of an aggrieved mom from Atlanta driving a purple school bus across the country to grab attention for the national debate swirling around health care.

Kathie McClure can testify that in every corner of the United States, the ranks of the uninsured are swelling. People who do have health insurance are more concerned than before they will not be able to afford to keep it.

The Purple Bus Lady is touring the country and encouraging people interested in health care reform to visit her Web site at www.votehealthcare.org. It does not matter whether it is employer-sponsored insurance or purchased on the individual market, insurance is becoming unaffordable for more and more people every day, McClure said.

Over Mother's Day weekend, she traveled alone through the San Joaquin Valley, making only one public appearance in Fresno but stopping long enough in the north Valley to chat with a reporter about her mission.

"I realized this was a problem we couldn't solve on our own. No individual could fix this alone. I decided to act up and demand change, so I formed the nonprofit VoteHealthcare.org that is working with groups around the country," including Health Access California, said McClure, an attorney who "joined the fight" in November 2007 after years of unsuccessfully battling insurance companies on behalf of her children.

When McClure's children were diagnosed with serious health conditions in their early teen years - her son, Chris, with Type 1 diabetes and her daughter, Caitlin, with epilepsy - the family insurance covered them. But when they finished college and lost family eligibility, that is when McClure said her wake-up call came.

"My son can't buy insurance in Georgia because of pre-existing conditions, and my daughter can't buy anything for less than $250 a month, and that doesn't include drug coverage. Her medications cost at least $350 a month to control her seizures," McClure said.

She has committed herself to traveling to all 50 states in her purple painted mini-school bus, attending public events, speaking at churches and other gatherings, being interviewed on radio and television, all for the purpose of educating and inspiring as many people as she can to get involved in changing the way health care works in the United States.

"I think it's dawning on people that this is a problem beyond their control. I think people are finally seeing that just because you work hard and pay your bills and that was always enough to take care of your family, that may not be true any more," McClure said.

In two legs of her journey, she has traveled 20 states so far and will hit 10 more on her way back to Georgia. She has met hundreds of people and learned much, especially that many people have had similar experiences and are just as frustrated as she with the way things are today.

She encourages them to go to her Web site, use the resources there and get involved by contacting members of Congress.

"This isn't an issue of Republicans against Democrats or rich against poor. Purple represents a mixture of the red and blue factions that are too often seen as dividing our country. The bus is painted purple because affordable, quality health care is something all Americans need," McClure said.

The one thing that has stood out for McClure during her travels thus far does not bode well for the future. "There is a lot more poverty in this country than I ever realized," she said.

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