Conyers’ health bill gets a ‘hearing’

Jun 6, 2006 at 7:51 pm

Gregg Wagner’s health insurance sets him back $450 a month. The 43-year-old Louisville Realtor is a single, independent businessman, pretty much the worst model for affordable healthcare in America. And while myriad mitigating factors cause insurance premiums to fluctuate vastly, Wagner’s bill is more than twice the national average for a single person not covered by an employer.

Rather than become one of more than 45 million Americans who lack insurance, however, Wagner bites the proverbial bullet every month.

“I guess I just don’t understand why self-employed people cannot band together with their trade and do what other businesses do,” he said Monday, referring to federal law that prohibits, for instance, a group of Kentucky Realtors from joining forces for a discount rate similar to what businesses receive.

Wagner is one of more than a handful who will “testify” this Saturday morning at Calvary Episcopal Church during an event being billed as a Citizens’ Congressional Hearing. Co-sponsored by Kentuckians for Single-Payer Healthcare and the state chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, the event is to promote U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676, a bill that would create a single-payer healthcare system by extending Medicare to the entire population.

Single-payer, in essence, is a system by which the federal government would fund healthcare through modest tax increases.

Third District Metro Council representative Mary Woolridge said Monday that she’d like the Council to pass a resolution endorsing HR 676. At least 10 Louisville unions have already formally endorsed the bill.

Saturday’s hearing starts at 10:30 a.m. and is part of a national network of demonstrations centered on the Conyers bill, which currently has 70 co-sponsors. Under the bill, a family of three earning $40,000 a year would pay around $1,600 a year for coverage in added taxes. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average in 2004 (regardless of income level) for a three-member family was $4,424.