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A “Flaming Maniac” over Health Care Reform

Eds. note: The wait time in Canada for Pap smear results can take up to six months in some cases, but patients are not "forced to wait over six months" as it was phrased in the audio interview.

My interview (audio above) with Sylvia Hampton, a former San Diego County League of Women Voters president and its current health director, tells us that she's no dabbler in health care reform politics. And since the League has a national position advocating single-payer health care to deliver universal health care, her passion has grown along with her expertise as she argues the League's case.

But the beginning of her intense interest didn't begin with her League work. And it didn't develop from frustration with or disappointment in her own health coverage which was provided by the Marine Corps and then a school district. It started when Sylvia was a child, and was told stories about her mother's early hardships. Sylvia's mother was the daughter of a poor Norwegian immigrant family with no health insurance. As with so many immigrants who settled in big U.S. cities in the early part of the 20 th century, Sylvia's grandmother worked in a sweatshop, sewing button holes, 10 hours a day, six days a week. &

In 1922, when Sylvia's mother was 14 and needed dental work and glasses, the teenager dropped out of school to go to work. Her teeth hurt. She couldn't see the blackboard. And she needed to earn money to finance her own medical care. Sylvia sorrows over her mother's limited future, believing that if her medical needs had been covered and she hadn't left school, she could have become a doctor or lawyer "because she was so smart." That family history set the stage.

Years later, Sylvia's involvement with the League opened her eyes to other tales of powerful interests and under-served citizens. Ultimately, to use her words, she became that "flaming maniac" who believes that health care is a human right and we are our brother's keepers.

This year, the fight in Congress over health care is taking shape. Two major players, health insurers and the pharmaceutical companies, are prepared. During the last two election cycles, they contributed millions to members of Congress .

San Diego's local five-person delegation received its share, some representatives apparently more richly rewarded than others . Republican Congressman Darryl Issa picked up the most at $21,621, with Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis not far behind at $18,900. Then came Brian Bilbray (R) with $9,000, followed by Bob Filner (D) collecting $4,100. Brand new Congressman Duncan D. Hunter (R) already has pulled in $2,000. Also, California's Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein ($52,000) and Barbara Boxer ($5,300) weren't in the top tier. But they weren't as close to the bottom as Hawaii's Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye ($1,000) who's been in office for almost half a century. &

If politics and money are joined at the hip, we may now have a glimpse into the growing battle over health care and we can watch the money trail develop. The fires fueling Sylvia Hampton's passion are about to be stoked.

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