From Guest Blogger Molly Mather, Health Access Summer Intern
Today a boisterous crowd gathered in front of the State Building in downtown Oakland to protest the proposed state budget cuts to health care. There was a wide array of faces, both young and old, all urging legislators to raise revenues in lieu of cutting funding to the programs and services that, for many Californians, mean the difference between life and death. The event was one of five budget actions taking place this week as part of a Healthcare vs. Wealthcare Days of Action campaign, sponsored by Health Access and its partner organizations in the HHS Network and other allies.
Five speakers came up to the mic and gave a personal account of why they oppose the cuts. For example, Michelle Rousey, representing people with disabilities, gave a moving account of how for her, six prescriptions a month and 10 doctor visits a year does not even begin to cover the services she needs to maintain her health and independence.
Despite coming from different perspectives and representing different groups, the speakers’ messages were the same: legislators have a clear choice between protecting big oil and corporations and protecting the safety net on which we all rely. I think it’s fair to say that everyone at the rally is hoping and fighting for the right choice.
Karen Smulevitz, of United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County, pulled the prescription medications she takes every day out of her bag and threw them one by one into the trash, wondering out loud how she would choose between her oral chemo pill for stomach cancer, her multiple asthma medications, and her osteoporosis medications, among others. And of course, no budget protest is complete without someone walking around in a Schwarzenegger mask making “cuts” with an oversized pair of scissors…
If the rally is proof of anything, it is that these cuts are not only opposed by the people that they would personally affect, but by Californians from all walks of life who hope to see the safety net held intact. Even for people who are not at risk of losing access to needed health care and services at this moment in time, it is hard to ignore that the safety net is there for a reason.