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On the bus for universal health insurance 

A New Orleans-style jazz funeral can be pretty inspirational, considering the circumstances, but can it actually save lives? Health Care for All-California, a nonprofit organization promoting universal health insurance in California, is counting on it. More than 5,000 of its members will congregate in San Francisco on June 19 to demonstrate in opposition of a meeting of an annual conference of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national association of insurance lobbyists and executives. They plan to stage a memorial service (brass band and all) for the thousands of uninsured people who die every year in America.

The demonstration is part of a “national day of action” against America’s Health Insurance Plans by activists.

Thousands more Health Care for All volunteers will be conducting protests in cities that headquarter major insurance companies across the nation, but the heart of the affair is in San Francisco, where America’s Heath Insurance Plans is hosting its annual health care conference.

Joining the masses will be Walter Heath, co-director of the SLO County chapter of Health Care for All. He’s taking a bus full of SLOcals with him to the protest, and is looking forward to educating San Franciscans about single-payer health care.

“We want to increase awareness of SB 840,” he said, “which [means] Medicare for all Californians, plus vision, dental, mental health, and pharmaceutical drugs.”

Written by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, SB 840 can be molded, once adopted, to model universal health care systems used in other industrialized democracies, according to Heath, and could lead the nation in a transformation to a single-payer health care system.

“The movement is growing,” he said. “The climate is shifting. People are seeing that [others] are really hurting out there.”

Heath is optimistic, however, and plans to continue his activism until it’s no longer necessary.

“We’re very, very close,” he said, and added that if SB 840 doesn’t pass this time around, “We’re just going to have to elect a Democratic governor!”

The SLO chapter of Health Care for All holds monthly meetings and welcomes all outreach and education opportunities.

“We’ll speak to any group of any size about this issue and answer questions,” Heath said.
—Carrie Covell

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