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Reformers Differ on Policy at "Highway to Healthcare" Rally

By: Bianca Spinosa Email
By: Bianca Spinosa Email

August 24, 2009

Activists in Charlottesville are speaking their minds about the so-called public option, a government-run health care plan that would compete with private insurers to help keep the cost of premiums down.

The "Highway to Health Care" reform bus arrived in Charlottesville Monday after a summer-long tour of the country. It's sponsored by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The group is the largest public employee and health care workers union in the U.S.

Everyone at the rally supported some sort of public option, but some weren't giving up on a national health care system, even though it is not being seriously considered in either the House or the Senate.

The pro-health care reform bus rolled into the Downtown Transit center a little after noon, greeted by a crowd of dozens wielding signs, flags, and even clocks to indicate it's time for reform.

"If you can figure how I'm paying taxes, you can figure how it's affordable for me to take my tax paying money, and pay for my own health care," said Thomasine Wilson, a supporter of the public option plan and a speaker at the health care rally.
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About one-third of the group staged a counter-rally. Supporters of a national, government run health care system, a plan President Obama doesn't support, say they were forbidden to speak.

They allege AFSCME, the group that sponsors the "Highway to Healthcare" tour bus, told single payer supporters that they couldn't talk if it's about nationalized health care.

Brandon Collins, a single payer plan health care supporter expressed his unhappiness before the rally began saying, " It's a real shame that so-called health care activists won't support what the people really want and really need, which is single payer Medicare health care for everybody."

A spokesperson with the "Highway to Healthcare" tour wouldn't comment on why single-payer supporters were banned from speaking at the rally.

"We have a small difference in opinion on the specifics, but everybody was here because they want quality, affordable health care that's affordable to everyone," says Jennifer Kauffman, an AFSCME Reform Worker.

Those with the tour say they don't want the controversy to get in the way of their shared hope for reform.

For more information on the tour, check out the link below.


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