While Congress is yet to turn to health care reform in Washington, that hasn't stopped advocates here in Illinois from beginning to organize around the issue. Last week, supporters of the Health Care Justice Campaign (HCJC) demonstrated outside of the district offices of ...
While Congress is yet to turn to health care reform in Washington, that hasn't stopped advocates here in Illinois from beginning to organize around the issue. Last week, supporters of the Health Care Justice Campaign (HCJC) demonstrated outside of the district offices of Reps. John Shimkus, Tim Johnson, Judy Biggert, and Aaron Schock, in anticipation of the impending fight over the issue.
For years, HCJC -- a project of the Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC)-- has organized church summits and held political demonstrations around Illinois in the name of health care reform. This year, the campaign seeks to marry those two components, according to CBHC director Jim Duffett.
In rural, largely conservative areas both downstate and in the Chicago suburbs, HCJC is mobilizing folks who've been hit hard by the economic downturn. That was evident last week when nearly 50,000 people agreed to take part in demonstrations and prayer services across the state as part of the campaign's "Sound the Alarm!" and "Out in Front" events. Rev. Helen Stumpe, at Central Christian Church in Granite City, told Suburban Journals that the campaign is about reforming a system that "offers compassion only to those who can afford it."
After two decades of organizing for better health care, Duffett tells us that, if the campaign is to succeed, it will need to make clear how the system is shortchanging many of those who have health insurance. "What moves this debate forward isn't the 47 million people who don't have health care ... It's the self interest of people who are paying more and getting less, who see their neighbors losing their insurance, and they're afraid that they're going to lose theirs too."
HCJC plans to continue applying extra political pressure to the state's GOP congressional delegation, as well as a handful of Democrats. They hope to ultimately rely on some of these representatives to not only support health care reform legislation, but also to push back against opponents' tired talking points. In response to the demonstration outside his Collinsville office, Shimkus press secretary Steve Tomaszewski exhibited the kind of rhetoric HCJC seeks to discourage. From the Suburban Journals report:
"He knows that we have to address the issue of millions of uninsured Americans, and he understands that there might have to be some sort of mandatory policy," he said. "How do you do that? That's something that's been talked about for years."
Tomaszewski said he did know that Shimkus prefers plans that would include choice in coverage, instead of the government forcing everyone into one system.
"We're broadening the political landscape," Duffett says, "so when these boogieman statements about socialism and an overreaching government arise we'll have people, and not just liberal Democrats, who will help us downplay these claims."