Lawrence residents plan to rally at City Hall for health care reform

Activists also plan to address City Commission meeting

Health care rallies

Two rallies in support of health care reform are set for 6 p.m. today near City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

The rallies, “Big Insurance: Sick of It” and “Billionaires for WealthCare Reform,” are open to anyone.

Sponsors include members of and Organizing For America.

Lawrence residents tonight will be taking the issue of health care reform to City Hall.

A “Big Insurance: Sick of It” rally will begin at 6 p.m., and then residents plan to address the City Commission during its weekly meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Jo Andersen, coordinator for the local Council, said the focus would be on the increasing cost of health insurance.

In Kansas, health insurance premiums rose 4.2 times faster than median earnings, according to a report released last week by Families USA, a national organization for health care consumers. The average annual health insurance premium for family coverage rose from $6,237 in 2000 to $12,397 in 2009, or 98 percent. Meanwhile, median earnings rose 23 percent.

“The focus is pretty much on health insurance companies and how they keep raising the rates and lowering the amount of coverage,” said Andersen, a former city commissioner and mayor. “This proves to us that we need greater competition, and this can only be achieved with a public option in the health care bill.”

She said the issue should hit home with city commissioners. The city changed its health insurance plan this year from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas to Cigna and Delta Dental to cut down on increases that were costing about $1 million per year.

The Lawrence school district also recently changed health insurance providers from Cigna to Coventry because of costs. Julie Boyle, district spokeswoman, said the renewal increase would have been 48 percent with Cigna.

“We want to ask the City Commission to pay attention to this because it is a dire local issue, and we are going to ask them to contact senators and representatives on behalf of ourselves,” Andersen said. “We really need help in this area and we need them to advocate for a real public option so that we don’t keep facing these rate increases every year and lowering of coverage every year.”

Another rally — “Billionaires For WealthCare Kansas” — will take place at the same time across the street from City Hall, and people will be dressed as tycoons.

“That’s going to be very fun,” Andersen said. “We have got a lot of people who are dressing up as billionaires. Of course, they don’t want health care reform because that will not protect their billions. So they want wealth care reform.”

The rally is sponsored by members of and Organizing For America and is open to anyone.

“If you support health care reform, come on out and join us,” Andersen said.