Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Senator Kerry Visits Twin Cities

Senator Kerry Visits Twin Cities

Senator John Kerry found himself in friendly territory Tuesday. He appeared in a state he won in 2004, before a crowd of unionized nurses and other supporters at Carpenter's Hall in St. Paul.

The man who led the Democrat ticket in '04 is now campaigning for Kids First, a movement dedicated to covering 11 million American children who now go without health insurance.

The Massachusetts senator recalled a similar meeting in Austin, Texas in which a pediatric emergency room doctor told of a woman who brought an injured son to the hospital, "The kid was bleeding all over the place, and obviously crying and upset, and the mother says to the physician, 'Please don’t give him a cat-scan, I can’t afford it.'"

Kerry called the United States the only industrialized nation that views children in this manner, "In the United States of America, before you give tax cuts to people making more than a million dollars, we’re gonna see to it that every child in this country has health care."

At one point Senator Kerry turned the microphone over to a Beth Granger, woman who works two part-time jobs, has adopted two boys with disabilities. Granger has struggled to keep medical coverage for her biological daughter and her husband.

"At one point we were buying into Medica," Granger told the crowd, "But when the premium for the coverage on the three of us, myself, my husband and my daughter surpassed the house payment we had to quit."

Granger was without medical coverage between March of 2002 and April of 2005. She told of being bounced around between Minnesota Care and General Assistance Medical Care, as her income changed.

Currently she can't afford private insurance, but she makes too much to qualify for Medical Assistance, "My best shot at getting medical assistance is if I quit my jobs, but then I wouldn't be able to pay my other bills."

Kerry was a guest of the Minnesota Nurses Association, and listened as several MNA members related stories of children forgoing needed care. A school nurse told of a child who broke several bones in his hand on a Friday night, but waited until Monday morning to see the school nurse because his family had no health insurance.

Senator Kerry framed the issue as a matter of priorities, "Enough nonsense. We gotta get mad. We gotta organized. And we’ve got to get out there and do what’s right for the children, in fact all the citizens of this country."

Kerry's Kids First health plan envisions the federal government fully financing health coverage for all children at or below the poverty line which is $15,700 for a family of three. Currently some of those children are covered by state plans that mix state and federal funding.

In exchange for the federal government covering the poorest children, state government would be asked to cover those children who are between 100% and 300% of the poverty line, or families making up to $47,000 a year.

Kerry said with universal coverage of children, there would be no questions asked about eligibility, "We enroll them automatically. You go to school, you’re enrolled. You to the doctor’s office, you’re enrolled. You go to day care, you’re enrolled."

The senator says he can pay for his plan by rolling back, or partially undoing, the income tax cut people in the the highest income brackets are scheduled to receive next year.

As he put it, "Long before you give people earning more than a million dollars a year $32 billion worth of tax cuts next year, we should cover every child in America with health care."

Outside the union hall, a small group of University of Saint Thomas students gathered on behalf of the College Republicans organization.
The flip-flop twins, brothers Nick and Tim Erickson, appeared wearing giant thong sandals labelled "flip" and "flop." It's an act they debuted last summer at the Minnesota State Fair.

They were advocating that John Kerry take himself out of the running in 2008 and clear the path for Senator Hillary Clinton of New York to bear the Democrat standard.

College Republican Tyler Sunderman passed out "Minnesotans for Hillary" flyers and explained, "We're out here trying to point out the feud that's going on in the Democratic party right now between the elements that support John Kerry and the elements that support Hillary Clinton."

Sunderman pointed out that Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton had already endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and predicted a deep division in the Minnesota DFL party.

When asked about the GOP protesters, Kerry said most people are tired of politics, "This has nothing do to with running. This has to do with a real priority we're trying to get people to focus on. And that's a problem, everybody always thinks in terms of just the elections. But this is a policy, it makes a difference to children, it's a simple choice. Tax cut for millionaires, or health care for all the kids in America."

But Kerry's health care strategy does depend in large part on the ballot box. He told the St. Paul group that the best chance of changing priorities in Washington is to elect people in 2006 who believe in universal health coverage for children.

Kerry appeared rested, relaxed and much more energetic than he did in the waning days of the 2004 election, when his campaign would take him to at least four states a day.

He had enough extra energy that he made an unannounced stop at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where he popped in on a meeting where his wife, Tereza Heinz Kerry was speaking.


Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

I hope Kerry can work to provide health coverage for many children as the children deserve to have coverage.

4:50 PM  

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