Rally attendee's hold signs to signify the number of people who die in Illinois everyday that health care reform is not passed.
The evening before President Obama's Health Care summit, over 300 Chicago activists rallied in the Chicago Temple to demand passage of a health care bill that would extend coverage and hold health insurance companies accountable. The rally was organized by Health Care for America Now! and was one of several rallies across the country.
The crowd at the rally challenged a representative from Senator Dick Durbin's office. Durbin has not yet signed a letter in support of the public option that is being passed around the Senate. The crowd began to shout, "Sign the letter! Sign the Letter!"
Andy Kurz, the former CFO for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin, told rally attendees that, "I'm not here tonight to convince you the bill is good, far from it. I am here to say that this bill is necessary." Kurz explained that while much was compromised in the bill, that abolishing prior conditions, extending dependent coverage and other reforms will reduce the cost of medical care and make it important to pass the imperfect bills in Congress.
Rev. Greenfield speaks out.
Baptist Minister Larry Greenfield asked the crowd to "fight terrorism." He pointed out that there have been 8521 American lives lost by or in response to terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing. However there have been 294,000 died since 1994 because they did not have health coverage, a sad statistic that Greenfield equated to terrorism.
Will Wilson speaks to the crowd.
AIDS activist Will Wilson described to the crowd what living with AIDS was like and how as a result of his insurance company stopping payments on tests he needed two years after finding out he had AIDS, "I found myself unemployed due to the side effects of the [AIDS treatment] drugs, nearly 100 thousand dollars in debt and homeless."
Wilson is able to get health coverage through the Ryan White Care Act, which provides federal money and state matching funds to act as a payer of last resort for people with HIV/AIDS. It covers Wilson's medical costs and prescription drugs, but to be eligible for the act, your income must be less than ten grand a year. Abolishing prior conditions would allow Wilson to get a job with a better income, and to get regular health insurance.
Service Employees International Union - Health care Illinois President Keith Kelleher spoke about, "the health care worker who has spent decades of her life caring for others but cannot afford quality health-care for herself. Health care workers without health care, in this country, isn't that a disgrace?" To cheers from the crowd.