Both friends and foes greet health reform bus caravan at the UMAB campus

August 03, 1994|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

A bus caravan on its way to Washington to lobby for universal health coverage stopped in Baltimore yesterday, drawing about 80 protesters and supporters to the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Five "Health Security Express" buses carrying about 160 people arrived at Davidge Hall shortly after 5 p.m. The caravan started out from Boston on Sunday and is due in Washington today, where it will join caravans from Portland, Ore., Dallas, New Orleans and Independence, Mo. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will meet with the bus riders at the White House today. Tomorrow, a windup rally will be held at 11 a.m. on the Capitol steps.

In Baltimore, officials welcomed the "reform riders" during a 45-minute rally. "With 40 miles to go, we have never been this close to health care reform in history," Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala told the cheering crowd of bus riders and university medical personnel.

"I promise not to knock anything off the podium, but I'm excited as the president," said Ms. Shalala, referring to Mr. Clinton's speech in Jersey City, N.J., Monday before members of the same bus caravan. As hecklers sought to disrupt his remarks, he slammed his fist so hard on the lectern that the presidential seal fell off.

Ms. Shalala praised the efforts of the "reform riders," noting that they would share a similar place in history as the "freedom riders" of the civil rights movement.

One was Larry LaTour, 49, who runs a small engineering firm in Rhode Island. "My people spend more waking time with me than with their families. So I feel a moral obligation to provide them with [health] coverage."

"This bus is full of ordinary people who have fallen into bad times," said Kathy Young, 45, of Boston. "We're already spending a lot of money. We can set up a system that can work more efficiently and cover more people."

About 40 protesters gathered outside, chanting and holding homemade signs such as "Hillary's HealthScare" and "This is a democracy not a hypocrisy!"

"I'm totally opposed to any more government intervention into people's lives, especially health care," said Mike Sneeringer Jr., 31, of Catonsville. He held a sign that said: "Heil Hillary Hon!"

Barry Pritchard, 33, of Towson wore a Frankenstein mask to express his dismay with "the type of bill coming out of Congress." He called the result of the health care debate "a mish-mash of bad ideas."

Shouting "Health care now," about 40 supporters of health care reform were separated from their foes by police.

"We need to take health care into our own hands. We can't wait for the government or politicians," said Jimalatice Thomas, 23, spokeswoman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The bus caravan campaign, which has cost $1.9 million, is sponsored by organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association, HealthRIGHT and Families USA.

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