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Ground Zero for Health Care Reform

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Sep 11, 2009

The devastating attacks on the World Trade Center stunned our nation and nearly ripped apart our city. Eight years later, there is still little comfort for the families who lost sons and daughters on Sept. 11. Our city remembers those thousands of loved ones today. We should also remember, and draw from, the way all Americans, red and blue, liberals and conservatives, legal and undocumented, pulled together.

Even before the towers collapsed and dust clouds covered lower Manhattan, New Yorkers were on the scene at Ground Zero. Firefighters, paramedics, police officers and other city workers went beyond duty. Everyday New Yorkers also rushed to lower Manhattan right after the attacks and in the days, weeks and months following to offer anything they couldtheir expertise, their volunteerism and above all, their commitment to getting our city through the most horrible event in its history.

There were few color, class or other lines of division during that emergency. For example, off the bridge to Williamsburg, a neighborhood sporadically affected by inter-ethnic tension, Puerto Rican and Dominican workers crossed into Brooklyn and were met by Hasidic residents offering them bottles of water and other supplies.

Yes, we reeled and grieved. But a spirit of cooperation immediately emerged from the recognition that this crisis could not be allowed to sink our city.

This is the same approach we should apply to a crisis that is ostensibly less shocking but no less lethal.
Each year, tens of thousands of Americans die not from terrorist attacks or the wars that sprouted out of them, but because of a lack of health insurance. Between not being able to afford private health insurance coverage or having insurers delay or deny adequate health care, lives are lost to cancer and other diseases in which treatment is time sensitive.

More than 46 million Americans are uninsured. More Americans are at risk of losing their insurance. Many do not have the kind of insurance that would cover a serious condition. And among the sick are those who responded to the attacks.

Some leaders with a political agenda are trying to undermine what should be fundamental health reform legislation the kind that makes quality health insurance and prescription drugs truly affordable and that overall, makes health coverage a right, not a privilege.

Our city and nation survived terrible attacks by coming together for a common goal. We most certainly must, and can, do the same to prevent the continued suffering of the underinsured and uninsured.

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