Protests at White House healthcare hearing in Iowa

By Kay Henderson for Reuters

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – The latest White House regional forum on healthcare drew protests and complaints on Monday along with a promise that government-run insurance was at least on the table for discussion.

“Why are we having this shameful event?” said Mona Shaw, a political activist, at the start of the session. “People are dying,” she said, because of what she termed a callous insurance industry.

Iowa Governor Chet Culver who chaired the event cued up a video message from President Barack Obama as security personnel escorted Shaw from the room.

It was the third of five regional meetings which Obama hopes would help Congress figure out how to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, which is the most expensive in the world even though some 46 million Americans have no health insurance.

Obama plans to make sweeping changes to the system this year to try to cut the number of uninsured while improving the quality of care and controlling costs that are forecast to reach $2.5 trillion dollars this year.

About 20 protesters at the meeting waved signs and chanted “Everybody in, nobody out” — a demand for universal coverage.

Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa Hospitals who was with the protest group, told the meeting a majority of Americans support a “single payer” or government-run national health insurance program.

“Can we put it on the table for discussion?” Fiedorowicz asked Nancy-Ann De Parle, director of the White House Office on Health Reform.

“Can we study costing? Can we study feasibility of this truly universal, socially just and fiscally responsible alternate to our currently unjust and woefully inefficient system?” Fiedorowicz asked. Many in the crowd applauded.

Vashti Winterburg, 61, co-chair of Kansas Health Care for All, said she opposes any plan that keeps health insurance companies in business.

She said the Kansas nonprofit board she serves on is finding it more and more difficult to pay the premiums of workers who provide in-home care to the elderly.

Chris Peterson, 53, who farms near Clear Lake, Iowa, said he cannot buy private health insurance for his wife or himself two years after his insurance carrier dropped them. They now have $14,000 in medical debt.