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April 19, 2014

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Nationwide tour promoting health care reform ends in Las Vegas

Crowd turns out for rally organized by supporters of Obama’s agenda

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Organizing For America Deputy Director Jeremy Bird thanks hundreds of rally participants for their support during a Health Insurance Reform Now rally in Las Vegas.

Health care reform rally

Demonstrators gather while holding signs Thursday night during a Health Insurance Reform Now rally in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Roadtrip to Healthcare Reform

President Obama's "Health Insurance Reform Now: Let's Get It Done" Bus made it's last stop in Las Vegas Thursday night after 18 months of touring the country to gather support for the healthcare reform bill being debated in Congress. More than a hundred supporters gathered to cheer on the bus as it rolled in to the Culinary Workers Union. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller called for bi-partisan support of the bill, while a doctor and local mother told how their lives have been affected by a lack of healthcare reform.

A nationwide bus tour to drum up support for President Barack Obama’s vision for health care reform wrapped up its trek Thursday night in Las Vegas.

About 700 people showed up to cheer on the Organizing for America team – an outgrowth of the Obama campaign that is working at the grassroots level to promote the president’s agenda – and Nevada residents who shared stories of how the current health care system has failed them and called for change.

The rally was held in the parking lot of the Culinary Union near downtown Las Vegas. Tour organizers chose to end in Nevada because the state’s diversity and growth make it a microcosm for the United States and to reward local volunteers, who have been working hard and growing in number, Organizing for America Deputy Director Jeremy Bird said.

“Folks across the state of Nevada want to have health insurance reform,” Bird said. “They want to see it passed now. This (rally) is just one part of what we’ve been doing.”

Including phone bank activities, house meetings and neighborhood canvasses, Organizing for America staff say they’ve put together more than 14,000 events since Obama took office.

Bird said that while the rallies are a chance for volunteers to celebrate their work, more importantly, they are meant to spur them onward.

“We’re on the brink and we need them now more than ever,” he said.

The Organizing for America bus tour came to Las Vegas a little more than two weeks after another tour, the Tea Party Express, passed through town to rally opposition to Obama’s plan, calling it another example of out-of-control government spending.

Unlike other recent pro- and anti-health care reform rallies held in Las Vegas, Thursday night’s rally had no protesters.

It did have a handful of Nevada residents who told their experiences with health care that have led them to join the call for reform.

Gloria Madrid, a home health care assistant and member of the Service Employees International Union, told how her lack of health insurance has forced her to drive to her native Mexico for medical care, where she said it is more affordable.

“Tens of millions of Americans live an accident or an illness away from total financial disaster,” she said. “For people like us, Obama’s plan offers affordable plan choice. So it’s time to work together. It’s time.”

Dr. Bashab Banerji, an internist, told of how it is a daily occurrence at his practice for patients to call and cancel appointments because they have lost their insurance and for bankruptcy notices to arrive on behalf of patients who have gone bankrupt because of medical expenses.

He said he supports Obama’s plan because it would create an exchange marketplace for insurance, which would increase accessibility for the self-employed and small businesses, while driving down costs through competition.

He also supports efforts to reform medical malpractice laws and ban insurance providers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

“Now is the time to act … the question that I propose is what do we have to lose in supporting a plan that provides one of life’s basic necessities, that furthers what we all cherish in being part of a compassionate nation,” Banerji said.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller also spoke, accusing opponents of health care reform of distorting the facts and calling on them to get behind Obama’s plan.

“From an economic perspective, and just from the perspective of doing what’s right, it’s time for significant health care reform in this country,” Miller said.

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