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Belly dancers 'shake it up' for health care

March 30, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Advocates of a government-run health-care insurance system rallied and belly-danced Monday outside U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito's field office in Martinsburg.

The colorful, music-fused demonstration in front of 300 Foxcroft Ave., billed as "Shake It Up for Single Payer," garnered a few honking horns from passing motorists as a small group -- adults and children -- held posters in support of their message.

"I am extremely concerned how the insurance companies are handling it," said Genesee Bondurant of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., as she held a poster in the air. "What we have now doesn't work. In doing this, we're talking to Shelley. I think she hears us and will hear us -- I do."

Two women belly-danced during the 45-minute presentation.

Angela Petry, one of the belly dancers, said in an earlier news release, "So, we thought we could have some fun, go and dance in front of her office and see if we could shake things up a little bit."

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When asked for comment about the protest, Jonathan Coffin, spokesman for Capito, R-W.Va., said the congresswoman recently met with single-payer advocates in Washington, D.C.

"The congresswoman believes affordable health care is an incredibly important issue for West Virginians and she appreciates hearing from her constituents on the issue," Coffin said in a prepared statement.

"She believes in crafting common-sense health-care reform, yet she's hesitant to support a nationwide government-run program in the Canadian model that inherently puts government in charge and limits patient autonomy," according to the statement.

Bondurant, 54, said she has never had health insurance in her work as a baker, which is part of an industry where benefits are scarce.

"I lead a good, clean, healthy life and that has helped me a lot," Bondurant said.

But eventually she expects to reach a point where she will really need coverage.

When asked whether she had any hesitation about empowering the government with overseeing a single-payer system, given past troubles with Social Security and Medicare, Bondurant said she believed there was little choice.

"We are the government. We have to do it, we have to make it work," Bondurant said.

In a news release, protest organizer Russell Mokhiber of Berkeley Springs said a study by the Institute of Medicine found that more than 22,000 Americans die annually from a lack of health insurance and more than half of all personal bankruptcies are triggered by medical bills.

Mokhiber also cited a number of polls that found substantial interest in a single-payer system, which he acknowledged would hopefully include "checks and balances" to ensure it didn't fail.

Mokhiber recounted his own insurance coverage woes when he was ill a few years ago and being treated at Winchester (Va.) Medical Center, an "in-network" health-care provider, but by an "out-of-network" physician. While at the hospital, Mokhiber said he discovered a planned $4,000 ambulance ride from the hospital to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for continued treatment wasn't covered by his insurance.

Coffin, meanwhile, cited reported failures in government-run health-care systems in other countries, including long waits for services and the opening of private clinics in Canada to combat the need to serve people.

"Patients deserve health-care reform to lower costs and improve access to care, but they also deserve better than a government system that tells them when, where and how they'll see their doctor," Coffin said. "Right now, patients from Canada are coming to the U.S. because they can't get the procedures they need under the Canadian plan. That's not a sustainable model."

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