The College Democrats of Notre Dame co-sponsored the “Health Care for All” rally in downtown South Bend Saturday to support health care reform, a cause they say will make for a wiser system of medical insurance — and a healthier and wealthier nation.
Attended by about 150 community residents and students, the rally kicked off at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Morris Performing Arts Center.
“It becomes unaffordable for our businesses to provide health care for the people who work for those businesses,” Congressman Joe Donnelly, a Democrat who represents Indiana’s 2nd District, said at the rally, arguing the current system is unsustainable in the long term.
The rally was intended to put political pressure on Indiana’s Democratic elected officials, College Democrats co-president and junior Christopher Rhodenbaugh said.
“The rally is about showing the widespread support in South Bend and the surrounding area for health insurance reform, showing the members of Congress that this is something that people really need and want and anyone who votes for it, this community will support and volunteer for them when they come up for re-election,” he said.
To demonstrate public support for health care reform, the College Democrats have been calling Indiana residents during a weekly phone bank. Their goal is to reach five thousand people before the health care bill is submitted for a vote, which should be in mid-November, Rhodenbaugh said.
Rally attendee Sean Fritts shared the story of a family tragedy, which he believed could have been avoided with affordable health insurance.
When his wife Jennifer sought medical care for a cold during her pregnancy, the hospital turned her away. The next day, feeling more ill, Jennifer went with Sean to a different hospital. There, they lied that they had insurance, and she was diagnosed with double pneumonia. But the finding came too late — 55 days later, she died in an intensive care unit.
Citing a recent study by Harvard Medical School and the Cambridge Health Alliance that found 45 thousand deaths each year are linked to a lack of health insurance, Rhodenbaugh voiced a moral argument for health care reform.
“We believe that health care is a human right and that it is a social justice issue and to have one of the wealthiest countries in world have 45 thousand people die every year because of lack of insurance is wrong,” he said.
Sophomore Tim Ryan, who attended the rally, said that a for-profit system of health insurance is immoral.
“It’s unethical,” he said. “It’s a violation of human rights.”
Freshman James Crowe said any short-term costs will be outweighed by a system that cuts expenses in the long term.
“In the short run, it will send us into a deficit, but in the long run, it will be more efficient,” he said.
“The fact that the public option means a government takeover” is a part of the debate that Rhodenbaugh believes is often misunderstood.
“President Obama said in the health care speech that with the public option, roughly five percent of the population will be getting health insurance from the government,” he said.
About 15 people attended an adjacent counter-demonstration in opposition to public intervention in the health care system.
Tim Grimes, founder and assistant organizer of Michiana’s “9/12 Project,” said he believed President Barack Obama’s health care initiative was part of a larger scheme by the current administration to seize absolute control of the government and implement Obama’s “total socialistic views.”
Grimes also saw a conspiracy in the program proposed to limit carbon emissions, claiming that “cap-and-trade is going to make Al Gore rich.”
Rhodenbaugh said he was displeased with the debate’s level of discourse thus far.
“I am unhappy with how the debate among the American people has gone about. The fact is that it’s been very much reflex politics,” he said. “I wish there was more thoughtful debate. A lot of people forget that Medicare is a successful government health insurance program.”