COLUMBIA — Everybody has a health care story to tell, but those might need to reach the elected representatives to make sure the public option doesn't get defeated.
That's what Grass Roots Organizing asked its supporters and community members to ensure. The group asked them to call and write to their representatives to rally support for the public option during its meeting Thursday in Columbia's Labor Temple.
"We are fired up and can't take it no more," said Fenny Dorsey, an organizer of Grass Roots Organizing. "Without public option people are in trouble."
Grass Roots Organizing is a social justice organization based in Mexico, Mo. One of its campaigns this year, "Fix our Healthcare," is working to gather support for the public option in the health care reform bill. It is working with Health Care for America Now at the national level.
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee turned down two Democratic proposals to create a government insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. The committee chairman, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., voted against both proposals.
Meeting attendees booed at the mention of Baucus' name in a short recap of events at Capitol Hill. Proponents of the public option say it will lower prices and ensure better benefits, while opponents fear the government would control most of the health care industry.
Stacy Applebee, 33, is a student at Moberly Area Community College and a part-time worker. She can't afford an insurance plan. After two years of pushing back the need to see a doctor for an ailment, she finally got medication through a women's care program. Applebee, a Mexico resident and a mother of three children, feels close to the public option debate.
"People are dying without care every day," she said. "We can't wait anymore."
Organizers proposed two ways to be an active watchdog for the public option. One way was to follow the money.
"Sen. Baucus gets $600,000 from the insurance industry by a conservative estimate," said Lily Tinker Fortel, an organizer for Grass Roots Organizing. "We pay the salaries of the representatives and senators, we hire them and fire them. We still have the vote."
Organizers of the meeting also asked the members to be more aware of the insurance industry. "They make money by denying people care," Tinker Fortel said.
The group will organize a rally against health insurance companies as part of a national day of action. The rally does not have a set location yet but will be in Columbia on Tuesday. Cigna, WellPoint and United Health insurance companies are the focus of the rallies at the national level. According to the company, one in nine Americans receives their medical coverage through WellPoint's affiliated health plans.