Tired of tea parties and looking to get their message heard, supporters of national health-care reform are planning to rally in north Wichita Saturday.
Three Democratic state representatives from Wichita — Geraldine Flaharty, Nile Dillmore and Delia Garcia — are scheduled to speak. Flaharty is the ranking Democrat on the House Health and Human Services Committee; Dillmore is ranking Democrat on the Insurance Committee and Garcia is ranking Democrat on the Local Government Committee.
In addition to the legislators, the speaking lineup includes Tom Kluzak, a doctor representing Physicians for a National Health Program, and Leslie Page, an obstetrician/gynecologist.
The rally, being organized by the group Forward Kansas, will begin at 10 a.m. at the corner of 21st and Amidon, in the legislative district of state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services committee.
Landwehr, Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia and Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, are leading an effort by conservatives to amend the Kansas Constitution to assert state sovereignty over health care and exempt Kansas from laws that mandate universal coverage, a keystone of the health plans pending in Congress.
Bad idea, said Garcia.
“I’m disappointed she (Landwehr) wants to do that,” Garcia said. “After all, we’re working for Kansans, not insurance companies in Kansas.”
She said the bills under consideration in Washington would reduce the ranks of the uninsured, make health insurance more affordable for individuals and small businesses, and put an end to discrimination in the health system against people with pre-existing medical conditions.
“I want to protect the 335,000 Kansans — and especially the 58,000 children — who are uninsured,” Garcia said.
Landwehr said she’s not trying to deny Kansans anything, but wants to protect the choices they have now.
“I don’t believe they (the opponents) have read the amendment, I don’t think they understand the amendment,” Landwehr said. “It says the people of Kansas cannot be mandated into any health system. “You can look at it as a stay-out-of-jail card. The federal government wants to put you in jail for not buying a health-care policy.”
Landwehr said the rally is more about Democrats targeting her politically than health care and that she’d welcome calls from constituents to hear her side of the issue.
“I figure if they’re giving me that much attention, I must be doing something right,” she said.
A similar rally earlier this month in Shawnee — Pilcher Cook’s area of interest — was met with a quickly organized counter-demonstration by supporters of the conservative “tea party” movement who oppose national health care.
“We had a bunch of (tea party supporters) come out and get pretty much in everybody’s faces,” said Sarah Burris, a spokeswoman for Forward Kansas. “They just want to raise a ruckus.”