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Protesters march for universal health care 

Sunday, June 20, 2004
By GREGORY A. HALL
ghall@courier-journal.com

The Courier-Journal
Protesters march for universal health care Local rally allies with national movement for single system

[sidebar photos:  Psychiatrist Sue Bentley held a sign yesterday during a Bridge the Gap for Healthcare rally in Waterfront Park.   Melanie Phillips, right, and her husband, Aaron Phillips, held a banner reading "$32 million Athem CEO bonus"  as they marched from Waterfront Park]

About 42 million Americans do not have health insurance and 30 million to 40 million are underinsured, said Dr. Adewale Troutman, Louisville With purple signs saying, "I'm a health care voter," a collection of activists, union members and health care professionals rallied yesterday in support of a national health care system.

Universal access to a single system of health care is "a long struggle," said Dr. Adewale Troutman, director of the Louisville Metro Health Department. "It's not a new struggle."

Troutman, who said he was only representing his personal views, recalled am similar rally on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 when he was president of the Student National Medical Association.

About 42 million Americans are without health insurance and an additional 30 million to 40 million are underinsured, Troutman said.

Both Troutman and Dr. Garrett Adams, the keynote speaker and retired University of Louisville Medical School professor, said that a national system could provide health care without any more money than is currently being spent.

Such a national system would include allowing patients to choose their hospitals and doctors, "taking these decisions back from insurance companies," Adams said.

Adams said the current system has failed and is experiencing spiraling costs.

"We're not getting what we're paying for," Adams said.

About 80 people, including about a dozen children, and a couple of dogs took part in the march, which started at Waterfront Park, went across the Clark Memorial Bridge and returned to Louisville's riverfront.

The Louisville event was part of a number of similar rallies and walks planned across the country. The national effort was sponsored by Americans for Health Care, Jobs With Justice, Rock the Vote and the Service Employees International Union.

The Louisville version had a decidedly Democratic Party flavor, with signs and supporters of the party's presumptive nominee for president, Sen. John Kerry, and a speech by state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, who is a registered nurse.

Republicans "are letting the health insurance industry run health care," Marzian said.

Shelton Talbott, a Louisville Metro Housing Authority employee and service employees union member, said his wife recently lost her job and had to be put on his health care.

"The costs of it are just continually going up," Talbott said.

And his son, Shelton Talbott Jr., 18, is in danger of losing coverage under his father's health insurance because he recently graduated from Atherton High School and will be looking for a job.

One of the organizers, Sandra Limpert, said in an interview that the march and rally were important to her because she is uninsured.

"This is a very personal issue for me," said Limpert, who lives near Churchill Downs.

Limpert said she is a University of Louisville student and single parent who can't get Medicaid because the support payments she gets for her child count as income.

Neither the proposals of President Bush nor Kerry go far enough, she said.

"The people have to stand up and demand of their legislators that they listen and (that) something be done," she said.

Kay Tillow, a member of the Nurses Professional Organization, said that American health insurance is "a disaster." Deductibles are so high for a number of people that they make health insurance unaffordable, particularly when it comes to regular checkups and preventative treatment.

"We have to fix it," she said