Syracuse Med Students, Activists Protest SCHIP Veto

This story was written by Al Ortiz, Daily Orange
Members of the American Medical Student Association rallied Tuesday with SyracuseMoveOn.org to support an override of President George W. Bush's veto preventing expansion on healthcare.

The State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, compromise was proposed by the Senate and House of Representatives to provide health insurance to 3.8 million more uninsured children across the United States. The program contended for $35 billion in government funding during the next five years.

Advocates of the program attest that the new compromise would have significantly improved the current SCHIP, while the administration says it must veto the bill because it is fiscally irresponsible.

Austin Ted Paulnack, coordinator of SyracuseMoveOn.org, was one of the chief organizers of the local pro-SCHIP movement. He was one of about a dozen people hoping to get attention from leaders of the political world.

"What we're doing today is adding small public pressure to get congressmen from upstate New York, Randy Kuhl and Tom Reynolds, who voted with President Bush against SCHIP, to vote to override the veto," Paulnack said.

The rally's purpose was to bring the national issue to a personal level and get the attention of pro-SCHIP Congressman Jim Walsh, R-N.Y., Paulnack said.

"We need a few more votes, and we are asking Congressman Walsh in this petition we have here to persuade Tom Reynolds and Randy Kuhl, who are friends of his, to vote to override this veto," Paulnack said.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote in favor of the bill to override a presidential veto. The vote is scheduled for Thursday.

While the petition was being passed around and signed by members of the event, there remained a positive attitude among the organizers as they were overtly willing to give interviews to various members of the media, hoping to publicize their message.

Much of the event, which lasted from noon to 1:30 p.m., consisted of people conversing with one another about their views on the issue and holding signs that read "Save Lives, Save Healthcare" and "Syracuse Health Care for All."

Among the protestors was second-year Syracuse University medical student Brendan O'Connor, president of the American Medical Student Association, who voiced his opposition to the veto.

"First of all, we want to move children who have no health insurance to health insurance, and the best way to do that is to provide the coverage directly," O'Connor said. "To spend government money, like Bush wants to do, to provide uninsured children with private health insurance is to employ a middle man we don't need -- an inefficient, profit-driven middle man."

O'Connor was not the only medical student on site to show support for an override. This issue hits close to home for Sara Averill.

"It's very difficult when you have kids with chronic illnesses. My son has asthma, and it's very stressful," Averill, mother of two, said. "I know a lot of families have a hard time getting insurance for their kids, and this is a really fundamental issue."

This event, although small in size, was part of a series of events that took place across the country.

Thousands of similar demonstrations were being held coast to coast Tuesday, Paulnack said, with the intention of convincing representatives who were against the SCHIP to change their minds.

If the plan to reverse the president's veto does not go through, it doesn't necessarily mean that the American health insurance issue will go unnoticed.

"We lack probably a dozen votes, and if the override of the veto fails on Oct. 18, the Democratic leaders will try to do a new bill," Paulnack said. "President Bush this week announced that he wants to compromise, he wants o get together and work out a deal. There's a lot of movement going on, and I'm optimistic."

While the protestors gathered for various personal motives, O'Connor reasons were clear.

"If Congressman Walsh can put away partisan differences and put children first, then why can't the president do this, and why can't Congressman Kuhl and Congressman Reynolds get on board and say, 'Funding health care for poor children is a priority, is important to the voters, is important to the health care professionals?' It should be important to our leaders," he said.

"This story appears courtesy of UWIRE, a news service powered by student journalists at more than 800 universities. To learn more, visit UWIRE.com."
© 2007 Daily Orange via U-WIRE
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