“Unless you have been in our wheelchairs, you don’t know what it’s like….”

This is the message that  disabled citizens wanted to get across to legislators as they rallied yesterdayat the Utah Capitol in protest of the cuts being made to health care in Utah as part of HB67 Health System Amendments and the budget cuts being made this year.  The bill is before the Senate after passing the House on February 11th. (See previous post on this issue here.)

The Deseret News reported on the rally in today’s news.

“….[the legislators] are compounding the problem by supporting bills against health care reform,” said Stevie Edwards, a West Jordan resident who said he came to the Capitol to “do what I can to make sure that they understand that their positions have real-life consequences for those of us who depend on a little assistance just to get by.”

Several attending the rally, which was organized by the Disabled Rights Action Committee and the Anti-Hunger Action Committee, said the bill is premature, likely unconstitutional and makes outlandish claims without any convincing evidence to back them up.

“And they are compounding the problem by supporting bills against health care reform,” said Stevie Edwards, a West Jordan resident who said he came to the Capitol to “do what I can to make sure that they understand that their positions have real-life consequences for those of us who depend on a little assistance just to get by.”

Organizers of the rally had these things to say:

The coalition’s chairwoman, Barbara Toomer, who has been a wheelchair-bound disabled rights activist for years, said….”By bringing health care reform into this new push for state sovereignty, lawmakers should know they are reaching for that high ideal by standing on the backs of the disabled and the 258,000 uninsured citizens who would finally have coverage under federal reforms,” Toomer said.

Utah lawmakers pride themselves on being health care reform leaders in their own right, said Bill Tibbetts, head of the anti-hunger coalition. “So far, the main health care reform solution is to do less every year.”

Participants in the event are tired of fighting this issue year after year.

“This is not national health care reform leadership, and HB67 is a lie,” said protestor Jason Weeks, a disabled local keyboard player and Web-based music promoter.

“I’m just here to be part of the group that has to constantly fight tooth and nail to keep on being able to fight tooth and nail their whole lives,” Weeks said. “The federal options are not the obscenity some lawmakers are trying to make them out to be. Besides that, it hasn’t even happened yet, and who knows if it will.”

In an effort to avoid raising taxes, the legislators have proposed deep cuts to many services as part of this year’s budget balancing act.  (View post about budget proposal here.)

(cross-posted to Utah Legislature Watch)

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