Conyers promises a fight to get health-care reform bill through Congress

By Tim Louis Macaluso for

To the Baby Boomers who packed the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s Eisenhart Auditorium last night, Representative John Conyers (D-MI) is something of a folk hero. He has pushed for health-care reform for more than a decade. In his soft-spoken Walt Disney-like voice, he said, “We’re at a crossroads in this country,” referring to the ailing US health-care system. Meeting President Barack Obama’s request for a bill he can sign into law by the end of this year that would reform health care is going to be difficult, he said.

Conyers is the author HR 676: The US National Healthcare Act, a single-payer approach to health-care reform. He was here to talk about the bill and the obstacles to getting it through the House and Senate at “Rochester Speaks Out.” The meeting also featured Representative Eric Massa (D-NY), actress and activist Mimi Kennedy, and University of Rochester professor Theodore Brown. Rochester was one of 50 cities nationwide holding similar meetings.

Conyers warned that just because Democrats hold power in the White House and control the House and the Senate, history shows that Democrats can’t be relied on for health-care reform any more than Republicans. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, not only sought the wrong advice on crafting new legislation, they made it too complicated, Conyers said.
Obama, he said, is heading down a similar path.

“Some of the people in his Cabinet are not the smartest people,” Conyers said.

And he is worried that Democrats will not have the political will to stand up to opponents of single-payer care. Polling from mainstream media shows that the public knows that the health-care system doesn’t work, but is divided about action to correct it.

HR 676 has 75 co-sponsors, but there are Democrats who still have not signed on to the bill, including Rochester Representative Louise Slaughter. And some Democrats in Congress, Conyers said, are actively trying to block the bill.

Part of the reason similar bills have failed in the past, Kennedy said, is due to an attitude in American society that says, “Some people are going to suffer, probably due to their own self-inflicted misfortunes.” Many Americans seem to believe that the reason people don’t have health care is because they are unemployed or work low-skills jobs. More education is needed to help Americans shift away from a system that links health care to employers, Kennedy said.

Since taking office, Massa said that he has had 35 families come to him for help because a child or a parent was being denied life-saving medical care from insurance companies.


  1. Kenny on June 2, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I have no doubt in my mind that we CANNOT simply sit around and wait for healthcare reform to be handed to us on a silver platter. There are too many vested interests in decent healthcare continuing to be a privilege of the wealthy in the USA, while in Europe, even with the defects it may have,healthcare is available to all, as it should be. It is a basic right. We need to start demanding more for the money we pay in Social Security taxes, instead of being as docile as we have been in the past. We need to start questioning. WE are supposed to be the government in a government, and if our representatives don’t do what we want them to, are we going to shrug our shoulders, lower our heads and accept our humilliating and injust “fate”? We certainly shouldn’t! Stand up for your rights!!!

  2. MOCKBADOC on June 3, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Well said, Kenny!!! I couldn’t agree more! I am standing up for my rights, too. As a doctor myself, I have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    I choose to stand up for my right to life by refusing to allow others to claim a false “right” to my skills and abilities, hard-won by years of debt and struggle, by enslaving me within the confines of a socialist health care system.

    I choose to defend my right to liberty by refusing to enter into a doctor-patient relationship with people simply because I am forced to by the government, at the point of a gun, or with the threat of removal of my licensure, and therefore, the threat of the removal of my ability to feed my family. I will not be coerced by threat of force.

    Finally, I claim my right to pursue happiness by making a living by plying my trade. It’s no different than a grocer or a plumber, or a carpenter, or a machinist expecting to be paid for their work. What I do has an intrinsic value, and I assert that I have a right to negotiate directly with citizens to determine an appropriate price to be attached to the service that I provide. I also reserve the right to give my services away for free to the needy, but at my discretion, as charity.

    Thank you for your very well-stated post, reaffirming individual rights! And here I was, thinking that everybody on this site was just a blind guide. How silly of me.

    Your pal,

  3. Ronald Moreno on June 4, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Please, We need single payer universal healthcare now……What about a government by and for the people? Its about time.

  4. James Pence on June 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Conyers had this to say about Barack Obama:
    ” We seem to be getting an inordinate amount of reverse advice giving.”
    “Well, listen to Amy Goodman.” She’s got the tapes of him making some of the most brilliant remarks in Support of HR 676 that anybody has ever made, but he ain’t making them now.”
    The 45 second video clip of that.