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Political Fix by Gloria Penner

A "Flaming Maniac" over Health Care Reform

Political Fix by Gloria Penner

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.

Sally from United States
March 19, 2009 at 07:01 PM
Single Payer is NOT "government run" healthcare! Single Payer is government FINANCED healthcare or INSURANCE that PAYS for healthcare delivered by the private sector. Yes, Medicare costs money but it cost LESS than what we pay now for private insurance and works better because the dollars going to Medicare actually go to pay doctors and hospitals instead of things like insurance company CEO salaries and stockholder dividends, advertising costs to compete against each other or lobby for continued control. Who cares whether we pay via tax or if we pay via premiums, deductibles and co-pays? What we should be asking is how much do we pay now in our current now and what do we get in return? And compare that to what we would get under a single payer plan proposed under Conyer’s bill HR-676, which would SAVE 350 billion and provide comprehensive healthcare coverage for all from birth to death. Under Single Payer no one would lose coverage changing or losing a job or if they got sick. It’s when people need coverage the most that they lose it in our current system. Our delivery system is clearly not working. We pay double what people in countries with Single Payer health care systems pay and get far less. We are #1 in the world for COST but #37 in our overall health stats and delivery of care. This is because of the huge amount of waste caused by a private, fragmented system. 1/3 of our healthcare dollars do not go to pay for healthcare but go to pay insurance middlemen. And these middlemen limit our choices of doctors and the care we receive. We actually have the worst rationing in our system. Check out and go to the FAQ section for more information on Canada’s system. In our system, people without insurance wait forever and those with it, find that decisions are not based on medical need or science but for profit. We ration care on ability to pay. In countries with national healthcare, decisions are based on medical need and because the financing is public problems can be spotted and addressed easily. All are vested in the same risk pool so all are vested in making it work. For those who have concerns about paying for healthcare coverage with tax dollars instead of paying much more in fees/premiums/co-pays/deductibles, or who are buying into the “socialized medicine” myth, I say this: If we ran our socialized fire departments like we do healthcare, lots of homes would burn down. Personally, I prefer a socialized army over Blackwater. I prefer socialized roads, schools, water system, libraries, etc. over their private counterparts. I don't want a profit motive involved in providing basic services that we all depend on. I don’t want the motive to cut corners and provide less but to do it right and to put the needs of the average citizen first. The profit motive works great for market commodities like cars and toasters but the people are not commodities. So, why is the health of Americans for sale in this country?

Liz Kruidenier from Carlsbad CA
March 19, 2009 at 07:26 PM
Sylvia said: "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." I wish I could say in all that time that we are now in a better place but we are not. In fact many people with jobs have elected not to take out health insurance because they find they cannot afford it as food and shelter costs eat up their budgets. I agree with Sylvia that some form of Single Payer makes the most sense. Why should I be paying stockholders, company advertising/merchandising costs or for inefficient delivery systems with my health care dollars? A Medicare eligibility plan for the uninsured is my next choice. For us that have Medicare, it works like a charm. It is patient centered and makes sure that my health care needs are met even when I transfer from one plan to another. It is efficient and its per patient costs are by far the lowest of any plan, which is why drug and insurance companies are fighting tooth and nail to stop its expansion, because it would force them to cut their costs.

Sylvia Hampton from United States
March 20, 2009 at 04:33 AM
More support for single payre announced today: Two UFCW Locals Voice Support for HR 676 Two United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions have joined the growing list of labor organizations voicing support for HR 676, single payer healthcare legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI). In South St. Paul, Minnesota, the Executive Board of UFCW Local 789 overwhelmingly endorsed HR 676 on March 10. The 7,000 member local represents workers in retail, grocery, long term care and meat packing. Bernie Hesse, Local 789 Director of Special Projects, spoke of the endorsement: “Healthcare is a right not a privilege, and Medicare for all is the right direction for us to follow. We call upon elected officials to move legislation which will benefit all workers and strengthen our economy. We stand ready to educate, agitate, and build power to pass healthcare for all.” In Tigard, Oregon, the Active Ballot Club (ABC) of UFCW Local 555 voted to recommend to the UFCW International Union that it endorse HR 676. The Active Ballot Club is the political arm of the 18,000 member UFCW Local. In a letter to UFCW International President Joseph Hansen, UFCW Local 555 President Dan Clay wrote: “We would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to review, and if possible, to endorse HR 676 on a national level.” The letter continued: “Health care, as you are well aware, is on the verge of bankrupting this country. In its current form, if allowed to continue, it will decimate people’s lives and make annual budgets a nightmare for anyone to allocate for.” In concluding his letter asking for the International Union to endorse HR 676, President Clay said that HR 676 “…will also provide the best benefit to a system that is exhausted and on the verge of collapse.” #30# HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to everyone residing in the U. S. HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical equipment, palliative care, and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs. In the current Congress, HR 676 has 66 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers.. HR 676 has been endorsed by 493 union organizations in 49 states including 121 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state AFL-CIO's (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NY, NV & MA). For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact: Kay Tillow All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care--HR 676 c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO) 1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218 Louisville, KY 40217 (502) 636 1551 Email: 03/19/09