September 27, 2006

Ithacans, Students Rally for Healthcare

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The normally quiet Ithaca Commons was crowded by dozens of Ithaca residents and local college students rallying support for a single-payer healthcare system in the state of New York yesterday afternoon. After the event on the Commons, supporters marched up Buffalo Street to Bailey Hall and continued to rally until the start of the gubernatorial debate between Eliot Spitzer and John Faso.
The purpose of the event was two-fold: demonstrators wanted to gather support for their cause and show both gubernatorial candidates the importance to voters of passing legislation aimed at insuring all New York State residents.
“There’s a lot of energy around this issue. With a governor’s race, we have an immense opportunity to enact health care reform,” said Nate Shinagawa ’05, who represents Collegetown in the Tompkins County Legislature and who spoke at the event.
The favored legislation of the supporters is New York State Bill A-6576, authored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried and co-sponsored by more than seventy other members of the New York State Legislature. A-6576 calls for a single-payer healthcare system designed to provide insurance for those who cannot afford it. According to supporters, such a system would eliminate many administrative costs associated with HMOs and other billing agencies by establishing a government-run organization to collect all healthcare fees and pay out all health care costs.
“There are too many administrative costs associated with the current health care system. Enacting this legislation would cut down on a lot of these costs,” said Nikki Sayward, a sophomore at Tompkins County Community College.
“It may slightly increase taxes, but the benefits of a single-payer healthcare system are huge. The fact that millions of people are living without health insurance is unacceptable,” she said.
Several of the participants were not new to the idea of a single-payer healthcare system, and had rallied for healthcare before with groups such as the League of Women Voters.
“I’ve been a long-time single-payer healthcare system supporter. I work in healthcare and I know there are a great many people who badly need healthcare and go without it. This bill [A-6576] would be a great start to solving the problem,” said Marnie Johnson, a resident of Ithaca who is also involved with the League of Women Voters.
The rally on the commons lasted for about an hour and featured State Assemblyperson Barbara Lifton, City Councilperson Maria Coles and Shinagawa. The event also had entertainment, with musical groups such as The Burns Sisters, who ended the rally with a song entitled “Democracy.”
During his speech to the crowd on the commons, Shinagawa emphasized the importance of a single-payer healthcare system to the economic vitality of the state of New York.
“We need to work on health care if we want to make upstate New York economically viable again,” Shinagawa said.
After rallying on the Commons for more than an hour, demonstrators continued up Buffalo Street waving signs such as, “People are dying to be uninsured,” and “Spitzer-Paterson for healthcare.” Several passersby joined the crowd as the supporters marched through Cornell’s campus.
Shortly before marching from the Commons to Bailey Hall, Shinagawa offered participants some words of encouragement.
“I know the hill up to Bailey Hall is steep. Keep in mind, this [health care reform] is an uphill struggle for everyone,” he said.