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Healthy votes

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In the spirit of this rag's annual "Best Of" issue, News Hits decided to join the parade and toot tribute in a category of our own creation: "Best way to cure what ails us."

After a careful counting of all the ballots, and then conducting a thorough recount to deal with that persistent hanging-chad problem, we're able to conclusively report that there's been a landside victory, with the Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network, or MichUHCAN, receiving an astounding 100 percent of the tally (which would be the single vote we cast seconds after creating the category).

By the time you read this, news may already have hit that MichUHCAN has finalized the wording of a proposed amendment to the state Constitution. Details were still being ironed out as we wrote this, but the overarching purpose of the effort has already been etched in stone: Access to health care should be a universal right, and, absent a national plan, the state needs to step in and guarantee we'll be cared for.

Exactly how that goal is achieved will be for lawmakers to decide. We just need to say in no uncertain terms that we want it done.

The plan is to begin collecting signatures for the ballot measure in January — organizers of the drive have six months to get the 375,000 valid signatures needed — and then have voters decide the the proposed amendment's fate in November 2008, when we'll also be selecting our next president.

Health care reform at a national level is certain to be one of the hottest issues debated during the run-up to that election, but the folks at MichUHCAN say we can't wait for the whole country to clean up a mess that has the United States ranked No. 37 in the world when it comes to quality of health care.

What has proponents feeling optimistic is the knowledge that this isn't an issue that pits the well-off against the poor. As Michael Moore's documentary Sicko clearly depicted, access to health care isn't just a problem for people who can't afford insurance. Far too many middle-class Americans are also falling through chasms in the system when they become too sick to work, losing their jobs and, consequently, the insurance provided by their employers, at the time when it's most needed.

In a shocking number of households this isn't an abstract concept — it's a harsh reality. Which is why polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans say they want a system that's obviously sick to be made right. The way to do that is to follow the old maxim: Physician, heal thyself.

We have the power to make change happen. Start by going to MichUHCAN's Web site, michuhcan.com, and see what you can do to make things better.


No losers here

Interestingly enough, although there was only one vote cast in the "Best way to cure what ails us" category, we did have a runner-up that deserves mention because of its exceptionally strong second-place finish. That would be HR 676, brought to Congress by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the long-serving Detroit Democrat.

Conyers' bill, if ever passed into law, would "cover every person in the U.S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs."

That description comes to us via the group Unions for Single Payer HR 676, which announced last week that the 57,000-member New York State Public Employees Federation had endorsed the measure. That brings the number of union organizations backing the bill to 325.

But getting this bill the support it needs remains an uphill battle. To see how you can help, contact Conyers' office at 313-961-5670.

X marks the spot

Finally, in keeping with the can-do theme we've got going here, News Hits would like to draw attention to the worthy third-place finishers in this Best Of category we've created. Here we have a tie between the group Catholics United and a coalition that includes MoveOn.org, a couple of national labor unions and some grassroots activist groups. Both Catholics United and the coalition mounted separate ad campaigns targeting key members of Congress who opposed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which was vetoed by that walking disaster area occupying the White House, George Bush.

A vote attempting to override that veto is scheduled for this week; to be successful, more Republicans will have to cross the aisle and side with the Democrats. Among the GOP-ers in Michigan with targets tacked to their backsides by both factions are U. S. Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-Bloomfield Twp.) and Tim Walberg (R-Jackson).

On the radio ads Catholics United intended to begin running Monday, the script calls for a woman to read: "I'm the mother of three children, and I'm pro-life. I believe that protecting the lives of our children must be our nation's number one moral priority. That's why I'm concerned Congressman X says he's pro-life but votes against health care for poor children. That's not pro-life. That's not pro-family."

Finally, the great divider George Bush and the lemmings who follow him have found a way to unite the right and left: their abject failure to live up to claims of being compassionate conservatives.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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