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Locals support health care reform

Posted: September 4, 2009 9:51 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A small group holds signs in favor of health care insurance reform at the corner of Valencia Boulevard and The Old Road on Friday.

 
Local proponents of President Barack Obama's health care reform stormed Congressman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon's office on Friday, carrying signs that read "Who would Jesus deny?" in hopes that the Republican congressman would support health care reform.

"The reason I'm here is because I see how efficiently government health care works for me," said Dennis Bartash, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran who lives in Canyon Country.

Bartash is battling a series of health issues that he receives care for through the Veteran's Administration. The government-run health care is what keeps him alive and Bartash said he wants the same for others.

"They should be getting health care because they're Americans," he said.

Bartash and three other Santa Clarita residents barged into McKeon's office Friday to sound off in favor of health care reform. Each one told personal stories of struggles with what they called the broken health care system and implored McKeon to support changes.

The protest comes days before Obama plans to address Congress on his vision of health care reform. At the same time, a group of three Republicans and three Democrats, dubbed the "gang of six," are hashing out a health care reform deal.

Obama has given the gang of six until Sept. 15 to come up with a compromise.

Sherryan Lima, 49 of Newhall, has a medical condition she fears may be cancer.

"If it is cancer, and I have to go to hospital, I can't afford that," she said. "That will put me in bankruptcy, the medical bills won't get paid and eventually taxpayers will get stuck with the bill."

Lima lists herself among the 47 million uninsured Americans.

McKeon has put his support behind the Republican plan for health care reform that includes allowing small businesses to band together and purchase health care, which would lower cost and open up health care to more Americans.

McKeon's spokeswoman Lindsey Mask said any health care reform package that passes must include language that would help and not harm small businesses.

"The majority of jobs in America come from small businesses," Mask said.

She warned that an ill-conceived health care plan could kill more jobs, but insisted that McKeon wants reform.

"He wants people to have affordable care and quality care," Mask added.

However, just sending McKeon the message that some constituents want reform wasn't the lone reason health care proponents popped up at the congressman's office.

"I got cut off the teletown conference that's why I'm here," said Patti Sulpizio, 53, of Valencia.

McKeon held a teletown conference on Aug. 17 to discuss health care. Those who signed up in advance they would be called along with random calls made to residents in McKeon's 25 Congressional District.

Sulpizio and Lima signed up. Lima was never called and Sulpizio got cut off from the conference call.

"We had limited reports of technical difficulties and each time we do the teletown halls we work with the vendor to reduce the glitches," Mask said.

Bartash said the teletown hall meeting just doesn't measure up when compared to an in-person meeting.

"I don't know why he didn't have an in-person town hall meeting," he said. "On the phone you don't have the same options. You can't make comments."

Mask said in-person town hall meetings would have been difficult due to the size of McKeon's district and his August schedule - which included visits to several military installations. The teletown hall was the best way to reach the largest number of constituents, she said.

Mask also said the comments made at McKeon's office on Friday will be forwarded to the congressman's office.

Bartash unabashedly waved the Organizing for America signs that call for health care reform on Valencia Boulevard on Friday. For Bartash, the decision comes down to reasonable thinking.

"Common sense says that if we cover everyone and everyone pays into the system, we will have an efficiently run health care system," he said.

For those fearing a government takeover of health care, Bartash reminds them this is their country.

"People forget government is the people," he said, "and we get the government we elect."

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