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Truth to Power: Alison Landes to Hare & Durbin Re Selective Empathy: “Fundraising for One Does Not Equal Healthcare for All”

Open Letter to Representative Phil Hare (D-IL) and Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), fundraising for ‘one’ does not equal health care for all

The Honorable Phil Hare (D-IL)
428 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)
309 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Fundraising effort on behalf of former Representative Lane Evans, his battle with Parkinson’s disease and its relevance to the health care debate now raging in Washington

Dear Representative Hare and Senator Durbin:

This communication appears as an open letter on the PassHR676 where others, including residents of Illinois, can register their comments. I thank you both in advance for a written reply to this letter.

Fundraising effort for former colleague, Representative Lane Evans

Several recent articles about your friendship and support for former Congressman Lane Evans (D-IL) and his assisted living costs spiraling beyond affordability caught my attention. The fundraising effort you both spearheaded on Evans’ behalf is admirable yet, in the broader context, disturbing.

Based on what I’ve read about Lane Evans and heard about him from Joan Blessington Snyder, a resident of Chillicothe, IL, and fellow advocate for Parkinson’s awareness and research for a cure, I believe former Representative Evans would want others battling Parkinson’s disease to have the same opportunity for dignity, and quality of life that you, his family, friends and former colleagues are helping make possible for him.

Under our current health insurance system, the challenges Evans and 1.5 million people with Parkinson’s and their families face from the progressive, debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s are heart-wrenching and for many, insurmountable. Too many people are underserved or not served at all. There are 1.5 million people with Parkinson’s in the United States and many of them reside in Illinois, are you doing fundraisers for all of them?

Congressman Hare, I appreciate your co-sponsorship of H.R.676, but am disappointed that Senator Dick Durbin has not supported Senator Bernie Sanders’ S-703. Hollywood and sports celebrities bring much needed attention to diseases, but that alone, is not enough.

Access to quality health care is desperately needed and that is up to our elected representatives, not celebrities and non-profits. This administration’s opportunity ought not be squandered; the moral thing to do is establish health care for all as opposed to reinforcing the last administration’s reference to the haves and the have mores.

Devastating economic, emotional and physical hardships
Too many patients are forced into bankruptcy, unable to afford medications, without which they literally cannot move. Others are emotionally devastated by hardships faced by themselves and their caregivers, who are at their loved one’s side 24/7, when unable to afford assistance with tasks of daily living.

H.R. 676 is pending in Congress since 2003. In addition to Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-IL), there are 86 co-sponsors. Former Representative Lane Evans was a co-sponsor of H.R. 676. If he was not forced to leave the work he loved, it is my belief he would still be supporting this legislation.

If thousands of young onset Parkinson’s patients were not forced to leave their professions unexpectedly, they would not have lost their health care insurance and forced onto HMO Medicare Advantage Plans when secondary health insurance companies refused to accept them because of a “pre-existing” condition.

Fundraising for a friend and former colleague does NOT equal health care for all

When I recently read an article about the fundraising goal of $100,000 for Lane Evans, spearheaded by you and Senator Durbin, I remembered Joan had been campaigning for Representative Evans. I met Joan several years ago through our advocacy work in the Parkinson’s community at a Parkinson’s Action Network conference. I mention Joan’s name because health care reform is too important for my letter to be discarded based on my not being in your “district.” Joan has read this letter and given permission to use her name in writing to you.

In reading about your fundraising effort for Lane Evans, I noticed Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’ (D-FL) contributed $1,000 toward the fund for Evans in order that he would be able to remain at the assisted living facility. It’s unfortunate that Wasserman-Schultz has not signed on to H.R.676, as I doubt her ability to make enough contributions for all constituents who are Parkinson’s patients in her district in South Florida.

I’m not certain if Congressman Ron Klein (D-FL) made a contribution to the Lane Evans Fund, but as of today, he has not signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R.676, a plan that would eliminate disparities in health care and provide access to quality, affordable care with no co-pays or deductibles.

Klein, along with numerous other South Florida politicians, Democrat and Republican, received campaign contributions from a Mutual Benefits Corp., a microcosm of what goes on in Washington and another perpetrator of a heinous Florida Ponzi scheme that sold bogus life insurance policies that would pay off when aids victims died. This is another example why major campaign finance reform is imperative.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is also a disappointment in his support of Senator Max Baucus’ plan. The plan has excluded the public option and included health care co-ops. Baucus has received nearly $3 million from health insurance and pharmaceutical special interest groups. How much has Senator Nelson received?

Campaign finance reform vs. special interest groups

Our election system MUST be revised as detailed by Change-Congress. What better time to do this than NOW. Better legislation will result when congressional elections are citizen-funded, not special-interest funded. When campaign finance laws are revised, many of the issues dividing our country will be debated and acted upon for the benefit of citizens, rather than the special interest groups.

I invite you to take a more in-depth look at the videos and articles assembled on this site about H.R. 676 and the lies and deceptions being perpetrated by the special interest groups in order to maintain status quo.

Best kept secret by mainstream media

If more people were aware of the benefits of H.R. 676 and they were not swayed by mainstream media’s relative black-out and demonizing of single-payer vs. the extensive information put forth by health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, special interests and their lobbyists, single-payer would be on the table and the public option, a smoke screen, would not be a topic of conversation.

Representative Hare, I along with many others who are committed to the passage of single-payer health care support you fully and thank you in advance for supporting the amendments on single-payer health care being put forth by Representatives Anthony Weiner and Dennis Kucinich. Weiner’s amendment, currently being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, is soon to be put to a vote before the entire U.S. House of Representatives. Both amendments need to be debated on the floor rather than simply receiving an up or down vote. The American people deserve the facts about single-payer, not the fiction.

Senator Max Baucus, in keeping single-payer “off the table,” is demonstrating an abomination of the power invested in our leaders to represent the people of the United States rather than the “blood” money of corporations making financial donations.

Fundraising effort for former Representative Lane Evans falls short

It is admirable that both you and Senator Durbin have taken up a collection for Representative Evans, however, there are 1.5 million people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers and millions of others with myriad illnesses and diseases, battling with their insurance companies instead of focusing their energy on getting well. Who is helping them? Who in the U.S. House of Representatives or in the U.S. Senate is proud of being #37?

Have either of you any idea how many young onset patients would choose Medicare if that choice were available to them? However, because they are not yet 65 and because of the “pre-existing” condition of Parkinson’s, they had no choice other than the HMO Medicare Advantage Plan. Young people with Parkinson’s, forced onto these private plans, do not have equal access or same extent of care an older patient has with Medicare.

Sadly, a talented young man, whom I know only through his writing on the Internet, died recently at age 51. He had Parkinson’s and it’s my understanding he fell in his apartment and wasn’t found until two days later. If Medicare for all was in effect, perhaps an aide checking in on him or if he had access to an assisted living facility or long term care, also part of H.R. 676, he would not have passed away, alone, at age 51.

Another young man, Bill Harrington, a Canadian citizen, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 29. Bill wrote a wonderful collection of poems speaking candidly about living with Parkinson’s, several of which will be posted on this site as a separate entry. He partnered with Lillian Dyck, a talented, courageous and kind woman, fighting her own battle with Parkinson’s, who with her family, reached out to Bill, encouraging him to join her in creating an art and poetry exhibit which they titled “With Parkinson’s, Don’t Order the Soup.”

The organization I founded in 1999, one year after my sister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 44, brought the exhibit to the United States during the debates on stem cell research. With the support of the late Senator Paul D. Wellstone, who sponsored the exhibit on our behalf, we were able to display the exhibit in the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda.

Bill Harrington and Lillian Dyck both had access to assisted living accommodations in Canada as part of their health care system. They had a private room, assistance with daily living tasks when needed, meals and access to medical care. Bill and Lillian were proud to have their work on display in the United States, urging our U.S. Senators and Congressmen to forge ahead with research for cures. Unfortunately, for eight years, under the last administration, politics stymied that research.

The late Senator Paul D. Wellstone, who was widely known as the “The Conscience of the Senate,” wrote that he spent 85 percent of his time fighting Republican attacks on working families. Were Paul still alive, he’d be fighting for the thousands who die or are driven into bankruptcy every year due to a lack of health coverage.

Senator Paul D. Wellstone introduced The American Health Security Act of 1993 (S. 491), to the Senate, a publicly accountable single-payer system that would successfully control costs, while improving access and quality. It did not pass then and years later we are still fighting to improve our underperforming health care system.

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy is often quoted as saying, ”For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Would Senator Kennedy have stood staunchly for single-payer if he were younger and not painfully aware of the moneyed interests muddying the waters in the Senate? His son, Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), a co-sponsor of H.R.676, could answer that question.

Senator Kennedy wrote in Newsweek about the importance he placed on health care. This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver–to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.

Congressman Phil Hare, can we count on you to join the rally and speak out on behalf of Single-payer?

Mad As Hell Doctors, a group of physicians, who are painfully aware of the shortfalls of our medical system, are making their way across the United States, stopping in 27 cities, with plans to be in Washington, D.C. September 30 through October 1.

We will be contacting other supporters of single-payer, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which passed a resolution in 2008 in support of H.R. 676, single-payer healthcare legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI). We’ll also reach out to Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

More than seventy labor organizations submitted resolutions to the September 2009 AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh, calling for the labor federation to endorse HR 676. HR 676 has been endorsed by 566 union organizations in 49 states including 134 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 39 state AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL, CA, AK, MI, MT, NE, NY, NV & MA).

Will you help us secure a meeting with President Obama; it is a matter of life, death and morality
We are facing a critical passage in history and health care. Will you both join Mad As Hell Doctors in Washington and other supporters of H.R. 676 and assist us in securing a meeting with President Obama? We will also reach out to Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), one of 86 co-sponsors of H.R.676, to ask for his support in seeking a meeting with President Obama.

Networks nationwide aired an interview with Obama, conducted by a young boy, Damon Weaver, from South Florida, age 11. It was cute and an encouraging message to young people across the country. It would be at least equally as encouraging and beneficial if the President were to meet with these doctors to demonstrate that large percentages of the 304 million Americans in this nation have access to the their leaders in Washington after campaigning and contributing millions of dollars to ensure the win that Democrats now enjoy, with a majority in the House and the Senate.

Risk of losing support

The Democrats should not take for granted how tired, discouraged and disgusted, the people who helped make it possible for President Obama to be occupying the White House could become, if they aren’t already. Leaders in Washington should not ignore the thousands of phone calls, petitions, letters, faxes, emails, rallies and visits to representatives’ offices. The grass roots which worked tirelessly in this last election are being systematically drowned out by the nearly $2 million per day spent by the corporate interests to maintain status quo. Citizens are demanding to have a voice without having to “buy” access to our leaders.

Campaign finance reform must be taken up in Washington as the amount of time and money wasted during these elections is unconscionable.

But until that happens, we must count on our representatives to do the right thing, to do what they seemingly went to Washington to do on behalf of their constituents.

Thank you for reminding the Democrats that they can’t expect the money and votes to keep flowing in for their re-election if they are not doing what they promised to do when we elected them.


Alison Landes, Founder & Editor,, Executive Board Member, Floridians for Health Care

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