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Dozens gather for health care reform vigil

Submitted by on 1, September 3, 2009 – 6:00 amNo Comment

8About 80 people from across the East Bay gathered at a candlelight vigil at Towata Park on Wednesday night to show their support for President Barack Obama’s health care reform effort.

Participants shared their own personal horror stories about the existing health care system, which they said breeds such insecurity that it drives people to stay in jobs (and marriages) they don’t want for fear of losing coverage. And they said government-run health care in other countries is better.

Ronald Wilcoxen of Lafayette said he was recently laid off from his job and can’t afford health coverage due to a pre-existing condition that puts the cost of care out of reach.

“I know too many people without health care,” Wilcoxen said.

Natalie Cicairos of Fremont said that in 2005, her husband was hospitalized five times, at a cost of $277,000 per trip. Even though the family had health insurance at the time, they still had to pay 20 percent of that cost.

Cicairos, who no longer has coverage, said she recently suffered a heart attack while visiting Mexico. Her eight-day hospital stay there cost $30,000, she said.

Leslie Walsh, the local woman who organized the event, said she had grown tired of the raucous opposition to reforming the health care system, a change she said she has long felt is needed. But the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy last week ultimately spurred her to action. She said she got an e-mail from MoveOn, “and before I knew what I was doing, I organized this.”

Walsh said she knows people who have opted not to divorce in order to retain health care, and participants said people have kept jobs they’d prefer to leave in order to maintain coverage. (One concern she had, though, was the lack of clear, simple to read information on the plan, which is laid out in a 1,000-plus-page bill.)

She urged participants to write to their local members of Congress to support reform. President Obama is expected to speak to Congress about health care reform on Wednesday.

The event was one of hundreds across the country organized by MoveOn.org to show support for health care reform and specifically for a “public option” or government-run health care plan, something that many, including the nation’s biggest union, support but that others, notably Congressional Republicans, are urging President Barack Obama to drop.

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