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Liberal groups to protest insurers

From NBC's Kelly Paice
Leaders of the left-leaning groups Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and MoveOn.org say they're organizing an anti-insurance rally outside tomorrow's annual conference of health insurance companies. In a phone conference with reporters, HCAN's national campaign manager, Richard Kirsch, said it's "a crime to deny care" and that the nation's insurance companies represented by America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) have "harmed people grievously in order to increase profits."

Tomorrow's rally will highlight seven families' stories of being denied care by insurance companies. In response to the study AHIP released last week criticizing health-care reform, Kirsch said that the anger of the American people was "like a dam breaking," and that AHIP had "hit the panic button" at that point when they put out "this bogus report."

One face of the rally tomorrow will be Ian Pearl of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, who was born with muscular dystrophy and requires 24-hour care. Guardian Insurance is planning on canceling his policy at the end of this year, according to his mother Susan Pearl. Susan suggested that Ian's case puts a face "on the horrendous insurance company abuse that countless Americans experience on a daily basis." She called what insurance companies are doing "illegal discrimination," and she will be participating in the rally outside the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington, D.C. tomorrow to share Ian's story and end the insurance companies' "business as usual" approach to providing care.

MoveOn Executive Director Justin Ruben added, "This is really the home stretch for health-care reform," and last week's "attempt to derail health care reform" by AHIP shows that insurance companies have "more interest in protecting profits than patients." Ruben announced the release of two upcoming MoveOn ads -- a Washington Post print ad and a television ad starring actress Heather Graham -- condemning the insurance industry for opposing health-care reform and also reinforcing the message that the public option is the best way to lower costs for families.

When asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moving towards pushing a robust public option, Kirsch said, "The thing that people have to remember is that the public option is not just about ideological banter. This is about the quality of care... It's also about saving money and making health care more affordable."

Also, when asked about Virginia gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) saying that, if he won the governorship and was given the choice, he would consider taking Virginia out of the public option, Kirsch replied that especially for a Democrat running for office "stepping away from the public option is dumb."