By Kevin Gosztola for OpEdNews

November 10, 2009

The grassroots organization, Mobilization for Healthcare for All, returned to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) D.C. Office on Tuesday morning and confronted Lieberman for taking money from insurance companies and opposing healthcare as a human right.

Sam Pullen, who engaged in a sit-in at a Blue Cross office in Los Angeles on Oct. 15th, was arrested, and then pledged to stay in jail in L.A. until Blue Cross stopped denying care to those that need it most, participated in the action along with others from the Washington, D.C. area.

The action involved a visual act of theater where someone playing Sen. Lieberman appeared enlightened as music was playing and agreed to give the money he had accepted from insurance companies like Aetna back to the companies so they could use it to cover consumers.

Pullen explained this was designed to “provide an image of what it would look like for a senator to give back the money that they’ve received from insurance companies and agree that they’re going to fight for healthcare to be a basic right for all.”

Those who entered Lieberman’s office hoped to catch Lieberman before he was able to sneak out the back exit like he did last time they came to confront him. And, they were prepared to risk arrest and go to jail.

Pullen was prepared to be arrested and stay in jail so he could continue to bring attention to the need for real healthcare reform.

“This really is a critical time, things are moving forward, and there’s probably a little bit over a month to influence the political process with our grassroots,” said Pullen. He added, “There’s a long tradition—which I’m proud to be part of—of citizens who speak their conscience even if that means landing themselves in jail.”

To those skeptical and cynical toward Pullen’s pledge to remain in jail, he said what he is doing is part of “inspiring the American people to speak out” and demand that healthcare be a right for all Americans.

This action from the Mobilization for Healthcare for All came less than a week after a similar act of civil disobedience occurred in Lieberman’s D.C. Office on Thursday, November 5th. It occurred simultaneously with an action at Lieberman’s office in Connecticut.

And, it took place as the national coordinator of Mobilization for Healthcare for All, Kai Newkirk, and one other single-payer advocate from Connecticut, who were both arrested last week for taking direct action against Lieberman, remain in jail in D.C.

One might wonder why the single-payer movement is still mobilizing and making sacrifices for healthcare reform after so many stunning defeats last week.

Between Thursday and Saturday, the movement witnessed Pelosi’s refusal to allow any amendments on single-payer to come to the floor, Obama’s message to Congress to not allow a vote on single-payer so close to a vote on his health insurance bill, Kucinich’s and Conyers’ decision to not support a vote on single-payer in the House, and a vote on an anti-choice amendment brought to the floor by conservative Democrats and Republicans after Pelosi declared no amendments to the bill would be allowed to come up for a vote.

But, assistant national coordinator of Healthcare-Now!, Katie Robbins, suggested people look past recent failures to build support in Congress and remember how far the single-payer movement has come this year.

“We’ve come from being completely blocked out of the conversation in many ways to leveraging our way in to having congressional hearings and having single-payer advocates testify in Congress,” said Robbins. “I don’t think Democratic leadership expected single-payer legislation to be alive at this point.”

Robbins and other advocates now turn their attention to the Senate as the health insurance enrichment bill moves onward.

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) contends that the House bill with a weak public option is “dead on arrival,” as Senate Democrats and Obama continue to suggest this for-profit healthcare system can be made to work for the American people, single-payer advocates now turn their attention to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who they hope will bring his single-payer amendment (S.703) to the Senate floor.

“As a movement, it’s important for us to continue to educate people that this is not enough, it’s not sufficient, it’s not addressing the problem that we have, it’s not going to be universal or financially sustainable,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers, who is with Physicians for a National Health Program. “And, at this point, it’s important to turn our attention to the Senate. We still have an opportunity at the very least to try and get the Sanders single-payer amendment that would allow states to pass single-payer legislation.”

Update:

At least five were arrested in Lieberman’s D.C. office today after engaging in a theatrical demonstration urging Sen. Lieberman to stop taking money from health insurance corporations.

Fake dollar bills were thrown throughout the building. Printed on the money was Lieberman’s face and the words “Insurance Money Kills Democracy.”

One single-payer advocate protesting marched throughout the building with a cardboard cutout of Lieberman’s face yelling, “I’ve had a change of heart,” and scattering the fake money in the hallways and foyer of the building.

Lieberman did not agree to meet with any of the protesters.

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