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"Everyone is onboard for health reform - almost"

Health Insurance (Reform Rally)

Hundreds of people, including those who told personal stories of hardship, rallied Sunday in Milwaukee to support efforts to reform health care.

During a rally at American Serb Hall, one person told the crowd about a sister who died last month from lupus and was forced to leave the hospital against a doctor's recommendation because her insurance company wouldn't pay for additional days. Another told of losing health insurance when the company her husband worked for closed and how she had difficulties getting coverage because she previously had suffered a heart attack.

"This is about figuring out how to pay for a right in this country, a right to life," Patricia McManus, president and CEO of Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin told the crowd.

Organizing for America, the group that grew out of President Barack Obama's campaign, sponsored the gathering. Volunteers wearing red "I Am a Reformer" T-shirts handed out leaflets and encouraged people to write to their representatives.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) said 14,000 people are losing their jobs in the United States each day, which is boosting the numbers of uninsured people who no longer have access to health insurance or can't afford to pay premiums. "My colleagues who are holding this up," Moore said of lawmakers who are deeply divided over health care reform, "they say you really don't get it. You really don't understand."

Moore said profits are the reason insurance companies are against a public insurance option that would pay a little more than Medicare rates to providers. With a public insurance option, "We won't need to advertise Viagra every day," said Moore.

Jennifer MacGaffey, an internist at Aurora Advanced Healthcare, told the group that she has seen patients younger than 65 who don't qualify for Medicare. Some did not seek help for ailments or refused to have their cholesterol or blood pressure checked because of concerns about paying high deductibles or worries that their health insurers would drop them because of pre-existing conditions.

However, Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman Reince Priebus said the proposed changes won't mean lower health care costs for Americans. "Giving more power to the federal government is not the answer to finding affordable health care for families," Priebus said in a statement. "In fact, the public plan President Obama and congressional Democrats have proposed and are poised to rush through is the first step to a government takeover which will take decisions away from doctors and patients."

Because many Americans are not aware of the public insurance option, Robert Kraig, program director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin, advised the crowd to spread the word to their friends and families. "The issue is the special interests who don't want to compete with a public health insurance option," said Kraig.

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