"Health insurance is a lie, they don't care if people die," was the rallying cry last Thursday at a protest held by a local group pushing for health-care reform in front of the Humana Insurance building.
The San Antonio HealthCare-Now Coalition was participating in a nationwide protest directed at lobbyist group America's Health Insurance Plans' annual meeting in San Francisco. The city's chapter of the protest brought out doctors, nurses, and patients, all rallying for a bill in Congress that would extend Medicare benefits to the entire country.
The bill, H.R. 676, is currently stalled in a subcommittee. It calls for the removal of health insurance, taking out the middleman and having the government directly fund discounts and support health care through income and sales taxes. The bill is not technically socialized health care because the government does not own or control the hospitals or drug companies, but rather funnels public money through them. It proposes to save money, rather than increase costs, by removing billions in administrative costs.
Also known as the United States National Health Insurance act, the bill seeks to rectify what protester Vibeke Mendonca-Lee calls a "health-care crisis." She said many people with pre-existing health conditions like diabetes are ineligible for health insurance and therefore cannot receive the care they need.
"Our health-care decisions need to be made between doctor and patient," Mendonca-Lee said. "We don't need insurance executives to decide that we can't afford this. We're not saying that everyone should have everything they want, that's not reasonable, but we want that decision to be up to doctors."
For protestor Diane Kilby, the struggle hits close to home. Kilby, who carried her oxygen tank along with a bright orange protest sign, said she has been on a lung transplant list since 2006. Because of the income she receives from social security for her disabilities, Kilby doesn't qualify for Texas's Medicaid and is uninsured.
"The way that it's going, insurance companies take 30 percent of all our health-care dollars," Kibly said. "We have got to get people to understand that you don't have to keep being abused by the system. If we stand up for ourselves we can make a difference."
A local resident doctor at University Health Care Hospital, who declined to give his name, said the system is in shambles and as a health-care provider it is frustrating.
"A lot of people here, in Bexar County, are basically the working uninsured," the doctor said as he adjusted his picket sign against his scrubs. "They would like to have health coverage, but they can't afford it. The premiums are just too expensive. Health insurance is supposed to be a way to help people, but instead it has morphed into this monster."