Monthly Archives: June 2009

Healthcare Rally and other events

Hi Rockford area progressives,

I am still trying to take off for the summer but there are too many important events to pass up. Hope you are interested in participating. There continues to be a weekly Wed peace vigil. (Thanks Molly for your unwavering organizing of this). Sat. there are 2 events- a healthcare for all demonstration with speakers and a 5K walk to support Palestine.

RPM is also sponsoring a picnic to bring together local progressives on Monday July 13th. (see details for all events below)

Also check out below to read the excellent reporting by Allen about our health care forum in May.

Healthcare reform is really on line and I encourage you to contact your representatives in Fed. Government to support the public option. Looks like Durbin may be backsliding on this. Not sure of Burris’s stance and it doesn’t hurt to let Manzullo know how you feel.

Thanks for all your work.

Yours in peace and progressive change,

PS Rudy and his wife are moving out of town to be closer to their family. (thanks Rudy for all your enthusiasm over the years).

That means we have opening for 2 RPM steering committee members. The obligation is minimal. We meet 5 times a year (or less) for planning and 7X to help with setting up for our monthly meeting . Email me if you want to volunteer- thanks

Wed. Peace vigil- Every Wednesday: 5:30-6:00 P.M. Waterside ParkState St. and Water, Rockford (Small park, east side of the State St. Bridge, across from the Register-Star)


5 for Palestine 5K walk- The walk will be held at the Keeling-Puri Peace plaza located just off of Perryville Rd in Rockford, IL from 1PM to 4PM. Registration begins at 1PM and we will collect all registration forms at that time, but be sure to stick around until the end for the raffle drawing. Make sure to pre-register by sending an e-mail to by June 24th , to be eligible for the drawing. See attachment for registration form.

RPM picnic- Monday July 13th. 6-7:30 PM. Location- TBA in a Rockford City Park. Meet with and hear what all the progressives groups in our area are planning. Free will donations to cover the cost for food and expenses will be appreciated. __

Health Care Reform

On May 12th 2009, Rockford Progressive Meet-Up and Rockford Urban Ministries hosted a panel of speakers on the topic of “Health Care Crisis and Solutions.” There were about thirty interested citizens in the community meeting room of the Just Goods store who listened to Dr. Robert Heerens from the Winnebago Medical Society, Dr. Bill Gorski, CEO of Swedish American Hospital, and Progressive Democrats of America’s Illinois State Coordinator, William “Bill” Bianchi discussed the state of America’s health care crisis.

Dr. Heerens regularly speaks on public health matters, and encouraged people to “improve their own health literacy.” Heerens said of the doctor-patient relationship, that physicians should, “Keep your mouth shut and let the patient make the diagnosis.” He said the current business model of health care providers does not promote a healthy doctor-patient relationship.

For the rest of us, Heerens encouraged, “Don’t fret your problems – manage them. Humans are created to heal, not get sick. Don’t screw it up by smoking, overeating.” He called diabetes, breast cancer, glaucoma and heart disease “stealth diseases” that should be checked for regularly and that it was important for the individual to find their own resources in managing their care.

Dr. Gorski said, “The topic is a passion for me. There are few doctors like Dr. Heerens around anymore.” Gorski spoke of the hundreds of staff layoffs at Loyola Medical Center, “too many un and under insured.” The layoffs are the result of so many people who cannot afford to seek minor medical treatment. He said, “The health care industry is not immune from the downturn in the economy.” Gorski feels the health care industry is, “not fatally flawed, but is seriously flawed.” In a clearly compassionate statement Dr. Gorski said he feels, “Health care is a right not a privilege.”

Gorski then talked facts. He stated that Medicaid patients tend to die earlier from certain kinds of cancer because health care providers refuse to see them and the ill delay treatment until it is too late to be cured. He said, “We are blessed to have Crusader Clinic’s high quality care.”

Of the proposals for a single payer national insurance, Gorski was uncertain it will happen or if it is what we should aspire to, but the multiple tiers of coverage are not effective at covering everyone either. He said, “The U.S. spends more than $7,000 [on health care] per capita – more than any other country, twice [the cost in] Sweden, but results are substandard. Why spend so much but have such huge gaps [in care]. Doctors missed the boat twenty years ago to why this disparity.” Dr. Gorski says he does not know what the solutions are, “but it needs to change.”

Gorski stated that the cost of caring for the un-insured and inadequately insured is “enormous,” “We all are paying for it through our premiums.” He said there was a need for health care for all, but there still needed to be personal incentives to keep own costs down [patients should not overuse free health care].

The last speaker was Bill Bianchi, who mentioned he was born in Rockford but now resides in Chicago with frequent visits to Rockford. Bianchi began with flatly calling for “Single payer – Medicare for all. The fire department doesn’t ask if you have coverage [before extinguishing a fire]. 18,000 to 20,000 deaths per year in the U.S. are due to lack of coverage. This is an enormous financial stress, enormous inequity. We have the best trained staff, but local people can’t afford to go there. All religions stress helping one another. We don’t do care ourselves but hand it off to professionals.”

Bianchi then told a personal story where he waited to go on Medicare to get a $1,800 colonoscopy exam rather than deal with the private insurance he formerly had and it’s co-pays. He said health care providers are often unsure they’ll be paid by the individual or their insurance company. Bianchi said, “Our private insurance system is causing economic dislocation – employers can’t compete against foreign competition who have single payer national health care. The cost to a U.S. employer is $10,000 to $12,000 per year, that’s a huge burden.” Bianchi decried the personal bankruptcy rate in the U.S. of 50% of filings being due to health care costs, and that of those, 75% had started out with health insurance before falling into insolvency.

Bianchi claims the “medical bureaucracy” does not exist in other countries. He said U.S. medical insurors are paid to exclude coverage. Many of the employees of U.S. health insurors sole job is to look for ways to deny coverage. Bianchi said the insurance companies were resisting U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr.’s bill H.R. 676. [From Conyer’s website: H.R. 676, also called the United States National Health Insurance Act, is a bill to create a single-payer, publicly-financed, privately-delivered universal health care program that would cover all Americans without charging co-pays or deductibles. It guarantees access to the highest quality and most affordable health care services regardless of employment, ability to pay or pre-existing health conditions.]

Bianchi stated that he thought, “Crusader Clinic many not be needed under a single payer plan. Medicare and Medicaid are far cheaper [than privately funded health care.]” He claims that so far, the contingent supporting single payer health insurance has been largely shut out, and that there is an urgent need for passage of some sort of health care reform in early fall or, “all the politicians will begin running for re-election and won’t address the issue.” He believes 100 million Americans would switch to the government plan if it were offered, “a large percentage of care is paid by the government already.”

At this point, Bill Gorski spoke again, “65% of patients at Swedish American Hospital are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. We must understand the power of the insurance and drug companies, but also the unions are accustomed to having health care with no restrictions.” Of where much of our money is spent, Gorski said, “A Dartmouth study showed 80% of health care expenses occur in the last eighteen months of life – and those expenses don’t improve life that much.” Part of the problem he said is there are 20 MRI machines in Rockford, they are not really all needed, but patients have come to demand instant access. A fundamental problem Gorski said is, “We have a sickness system in the U.S. not a health care system, doctors make more the worse you are.”

Audience member, Bob Johnson stated, “Competition has not driven down costs.” To which Gorski replied, “I do believe competition is keeping costs down. Blue Cross will leverage one [health care system] against the other. Why does Cuba do so well spending almost nothing? They have a homogenous culture as does Sweden, both have lower costs.”

At this point I stopped being a reporter and became a participant. These are some of the views I expressed (and have for several years). One of the issues that is overlooked in the national health care debate is veterans health care. While there are adequate facilities to treat veterans, they are few and far between, often forcing the veterans to chose between having no or limited care and be with family, or live apart near government facilities. Under a national single payer system, the veteran could seek the full care they need at a provider near their home. We could also disband the entire veterans health care system and save taxpayer money on a purely government funded program. The panel agreed with this statement.

Another view I expressed is an economic one. That inexpensive single-payer health insurance could spur the economy by allowing ambitious people to leave their corporate jobs that provide benefits and start new enterprises that hire people knowing they and their families would not be at risk for lack of health care and they could afford to hire employees without the need to attract them with benefits or ask them to go without health care. Another job creating situation might arise under an inexpensive single payer system – people who are not old enough to enroll in Medicare might retire at younger ages, providing job openings in businesses of all sorts. I’ve met many people who worked solely to have health insurance benefits.

Health care insurance is a huge burden on small and big business alike. Business and health care providers alike would be happy to not have to deal with so many different insurance companies and the hassles associated with coverage, billings, co-pays, and payments. There is a considerable burden on business just to stay abreast of what health insurance companies are offering as reasonably affordable coverage.

While listening to the panel was preaching to the choir, I asked that we cannot make these changes, they are not in our power to directly make a difference, this is a case where three people are the ones we must demand action from: U.S. House Representative Donald Manzullo, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, and U.S. Senator Roland Burris. This was a politically active audience, and I hoped they would carry through with what they heard and send messages encouraging meaningful change to their representatives – and I hope you will too.

You have an opportunity to send a message that health care reform is important to you. On Saturday June 27th, Organizing for America will host a “Rockford Rally for Health Care Reform.” They are hoping people with jobs but no health care, small business owners who need more affordable health insurance for themselves and employees, and citizens who believe health care should be a right and not a privilege will participate. Beginning with registration, letter writing and sign making at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner Street. At 11:00 there will be speakers and discussion, followed by picketing at the corner of State Street and Alpine Road. If you can’t attend and are driving by, “honk for health care.”

Allen Penticoff
Free-lance writer