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Bare-Butt Protestors Condemn Private Health Insurance Industry For Leaving Americans Uncovered

Dozens Criticize Rep. Rangel’s Connections to Companies,

Question His Lack of Leadership

NEW YORK-  On the day of the fifth and final White House Regional Forum on Health Reform in Los Angeles, dozens of protestors demonstrated today in front of Congressman Charles Rangel’s office at the State Office Building in Harlem wearing “limited coverage” hospital gowns that left their backsides exposed.  Protestors carried signs accusing private health insurance companies of providing inadequate health coverage and demanding that Rangel stop accepting their funds and start addressing the problems they create for health care in the U.S.

“My private health insurance is leaving my ass out in the cold, and instead of protecting my health, my congressman is protecting the huge profits of the insurance companies and Big Pharma- the same people who have him rolling in big campaign contributions.  It is clear Charlie cares more about protecting his campaign finances than about the health of someone like me, who has voted for him for more than twenty five years,“ stated AIDS patient Eric Sawyer, a constituent of Rangel whose AIDS medications alone cost him more than $40,000 per year.

Demonstrators Say Private Health Insurance is Like a Hospital Gown, It Doesn't Cover Your Ass

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Jumping Thru the Hoops for Private Health Insurers

PHIMG Coalition Spokesman Ajumu Sankofa Critizes Rangel for Taking Health Insurance Donations

The demonstration was organized by the Private Health Insurance Must Go! (PHIMG) Coalition, a New York-based group of health and human rights organizations advocating for the establishment of a national system of health care coverage which would end the role of the private health insurance corporations.  Jean Fox, a member of PHIMG said, “Private health insurers drag down the quality and performance of our health care system with their costly, complicated administrative overheads, their restriction of consumer and medical choices, and their self-interested manipulation of health policy.  The goal of quality health care for all will be undermined as long as for-profit private insurers are accommodated in our health care system.”

Protestors highlighted the fact that Rangel, as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee which works on health care legislation, is in a strong position to protect Americans’ health care needs from the profiteering of private health insurance corporations.  There is currently legislation before Rangel’s committee known as H.R. 676 – The United States National Health Care Act, which would phase out the private health insurance corporations and set up a national system of health care coverage.  While Rangel has signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 676 in the past, he has yet to sign on to the legislation in the present 111th Congress. 

The coalition presented data on Rangel’s campaign finances for the 2008 election cycle showing contributions from major private health insurers as well as their trade/lobby group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.  According to the data(1), Rangel is the top recipient of all HMO/Health Care Services contributions in the U.S. House of Representatives with a total of $123,950.  Additionally, Rangel received $81,500 from Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, another industry with a large stake in the U.S. health care system.  Coalition members pointed out that the levels of these 2008 contributions represents a three-fold increase over 2006 contributions from each of these industries.

Protestors delivered a letter to Rangel’s office which included the demands that he hold Ways and Means Committee hearings on the persistent problems presented by private health insurance corporations and the reforms proposed by H.R. 676, organize a town hall meeting in his district to explore health care needs of his constituents, and to immediately stop accepting contributions from the private health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Health care reform is currently a hot topic with the economic crisis adding everyday to the estimated 50 million Americans with no health insurance(2), and as the Obama administration has been organizing a series of regional forums to discuss health care policy.   However, members of the PHIMG Coalition point out that the only proposals receiving mainstream political attention would preserve a role for the private health insurance industry.  This is despite the fact that  recent polls show broad support for a tax-payer funded government system of guaranteed health care(3), and the experience of many other industrialized nations demonstrates the improved health outcomes and cost savings of a national public system of health care coverage(2,4)

“The nation has just witnessed how the profiteering mentality of insurance companies can lead to outrages like the bonuses at AIG,” said Laurie Wen of PHIMG.  “Well it is just as outrageous that our elected leaders show no political courage to stand up to the greedy health insurance lobbyists conspiring to keep that business model at the heart of our health care system.”

(1) Center for Responsive Politics -
-Rangel Contributions from HMO/Health Care Services:  2008 - $123,950   2006 - $41,700
-Rangel Contributions from Pharmaceutical Manufactureres:  2008 - $81,500   2006 - $27,500
-American’s Health Insurance Plans PAC contributed $2,000 to Rangel in the 2008 election cycle

(2) Center for American Progress Action Fund – Health care in Crisis

(3) -Grove Insight Opinion Research Poll, 01/30/09– 59% favor gov.-run, tax-payer funded national health insurance
-AP/Yahoo! News Poll, 12/20/07 – 54% support a national single-payer system of health care
See full poll results:

(4) The U.S. ranks 37th in Health System performance.  See World Health Organization (2000) The world health report 2000—Health systems: Improving Performance. Geneva: World Health Organization.