By Miriam Raftery
August 30, 2009 (Spring Valley) – A rowdy crowd of approximately 1,500 turned out to cheer on and heckle Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) during a town hall meeting in Spring Valley Saturday afternoon. Protests from conservative “teabaggers” and signs with racist overtones were countered by a newly-formed group calling itself “Billionaires for Wealthcare.” (photos)
Dressed in formal attire, members pulled up in a limousine to greet other protesters, thanking them for “standing with billionaires” to oppose real healthcare reform. The group later posted a YouTube slideshow, followed by a humorous video inside the townhall meeting, then forwarded an e-mail that read "Townhall crashed by wealthy Hollywood elite," creating an online sensation.
Inspired by the website www.billionairesforwealthcare.com , Barbara Cummings of Spring Valley was among those to don black attire and pearls for the occasion “because sometimes street theater can have an impact where just yelling at one another accomplishes nothing,” Cummings said.
Davis staffers passed out information on healthcare reform including answers to common questions—answers many in the crowd apparently had no inclination to read. Although the majority of the crowd seemed in favor of healthcare reform, those opposed were not content to wait their turn to be called upon to ask questions. Instead, many shouted out insults to the Congresswoman and some uttered racial slurs including "nigger" against President Barack Obama.
When Davis attempted to assure the crowd that Congress does not plan to take anybody’s healthcare away (instead considering a public option for those who have no insurance or are dissatisfied with their coverage), booing ensued.
One protestor (photo, right) carried a sign reading "Healthcare=gas chamber for seniors and babies," an apparent reference to claims that the bill's provision offering coverage for end-of-life care and counseling would encourage euthanasia. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has issued a statement denouncing that claim as false.
One UCSD student, dismayed that anti-healthcare protesters prevented her from asking a serious healthcare question (regarding coverage for women’s reproductive health) posted her account of the town hall meeting here: http://bitchingblogbites.blotspot.com/2009/08/chaos-at-town-hall.html.
Disruptive tactics by anti-healthcare reform protestors appear to be counterproductive. A new national poll conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons has found that 80% of those surveyed now support a public option.
Street theater tactics by Billionaires For Wealthcare may be contributing to the pro-healthcare reform sentiments. At its website, the group declares itself to be interested in one thing: “Profit!” A message at the site warns “fellow billionaires” that times are perilous because “the new government in Washington is trying to put an end to our decades-long profiting spree in health care.”
The group’s site includes a mock list of demands that includes saying no to ANY health care reforms, privatizing Medicare (“What do old people need money for anyway?”) and abolishing the FDA. (“We will self-regulate. Trust us…again.”
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) urged its members to rally Davis in support of healthcare reform.
But Red County, a conservative blog, accused unions of packing the town hall forum with “stooges” so that Davis wouldn’t have to face her constituents. Opponents expressed opposition to “socialized medicine” and questioned how the plan would be financed.
Davis supports the Obama healthcare proposal, H.R. 2100, which she believes is necessary to control skyrocketing health care costs while extending access to healthcare for the 47 million uninsured Americans.
Premiums for health insurance have doubled for individuals and families since 2000, Davis’ website notes “ Further, without action, Medicare will become insolvent during the next decade,” she warns.
Davis (photo, right) cast a vote in Committee approving H.R. 3200 because it will provide access to those without coverage and will work to reduce health care costs. However, she remains concerned about some of the provisions including impact of proposed reductions to Medicare and Medicaid funding on California’s hospitals. She is also concerned that small business will face difficulties providing health coverage to employees. Davis has pledged to advocate for these issues in the bill to be resolved before the legislation reaches the House floor for a vote.
Davis, whose father was a pediatrician, also offered key amendments to strengthen the legislation, including requirements that states participate in developing the nation’s health coverage requirements and guidelines. To prevent the unemployed from losing their insurance before the legislation takes effect, she also added provisions to extend eligibility for “COBRA” benefits beyond the current 18-month eligibility period. In addition, she voted against several attempts to weaken or derail the legislation, including amendments to completely remove the “public” health insurance option.