This is a guest column from Chuck Pennacchio. I'd also add that I dug up three $250 contributions ($750 total) to Rep. Eachus from pharmacist and Lower Luzerne County Chair for Lou Barletta for Congress (Republican candidate) John Keegan.
"Healthcare, Power Politics, and the Press"
On Wednesday, 10 a.m., March 19th, virtually all of Harrisburg's
political media attended Rep. Todd Eachus' press conference on
anti-crime legislation 'soon to be introduced' to the House, 50 feet
down the hall from Pennsylvania's first-ever standing committee
hearing on single-payer universal healthcare legislation --
legislation introduced last year in both the House (HB 1660) and
Senate (SB 300), and the product of a four-year, statewide citizen
effort to restore sanity to healthcare financing and delivery.
By stark contrast, the political press was all but absent from our
historic hearing on HB 1660. However, the bill's importance was not
lost on insurance and pharmaceutical opponents of HB 1660, members of
the "alternative" Pennsylvania Health Alliance Network, as well as
Rep. Eachus' own staff -- all of whom closely followed the
As Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George pointed out in his
endorsement testimony, our historic hearing is the kind of event
"always" covered by the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Associated
Press, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Harrisburg
Patriot-News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Erie
Times, Scranton Times, Calkins Media, major television and radio
networks, and more. Given the public's overwhelming concerns about
healthcare, the fact that 4 million-plus Pennsylvanians are uninsured
or underinsured, and that we had assembled stakeholder expert
witnesses from all over the Commonwealth, responsible citizens are
left wondering, why did the press duck such a critical hearing four
years in the making?
As I would learn immediately after our hearing, and then have
confirmed several times by high-level sources, Rep. Todd Eachus had
tried, unsuccessfully, to stop the hearing on House Bill 1660.
Failing at that, he scheduled the above press conference, at 10 a.m.
on March 19, to coincide exactly with our hearing on HB 1660.
After almost three hours of gathering the above information, I stopped
by Rep. Eachus' office, at 4 pm, to visit his healthcare legislative
aide. After gathering her awestruck reaction to our hearing, I asked
if Mr. Eachus would now schedule the meeting he's been promising me
for over a year now. She politely replied, "It won't happen" because
Rep. Eachus has "other priorities" on healthcare. Nor, I discovered,
would he reconsider his steadfast opposition to an economic impact
study on the "Family and Business Healthcare Security Act" (HB 1660)
that we have long sought, and that both Democrats and Republicans
As I've stated to colleagues and coalition partners numerous times
over the last year, Rep. Eachus should immediately step down from one
of his two conflict-of-interest posts in the Democratic Party
Leadership: General Chair of the House Democratic Campaign Committee
(which means control over the Party's House election campaign money),
or as Chair of the Democrats' Policy Committee (responsible for
vetting the Party's issue priorities).
For a Party leader who has become increasingly dependent on campaign
funding from the Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industries, how can Rep.
Eachus -- holding two self-contradictory positions of immense power --
objectively view and evaluate the kind of sweeping reforms advocated
in the "Family and Business Healthcare Security Act" (HB 1660)? By
now, it should be obvious that he can not.
Despite the press' continuing obedience to Party power and its
commensurate inattention to the people's business, Wednesday's HB 1660
hearing was a smashing success. Health and Human Services Committee
Representatives Oliver (Chair) and Manderino (Prime Sponsor of HB
1660) have now promised further hearings outside of Harrisburg; a
consensus of Republicans and Democrats on Health and Human Services
want to fund an economic impact study at the earliest possible time;
our coalition picked up the fresh endorsements of the 900,000-member
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and 35-chapter League of Women Voters; our
citizen movement has shown its strength, once again, by packing yet
another hearing room with 200-plus supporters on a weekday morning; we
are not going to allow strong-arm political tactics to stop our
progress; and a new crop of reasonable, responsible, and open-minded
people from all walks of life recognize that "eighty-seven nations and
our own Medicare system can't [all] be wrong [on single-payer]."
As the only proven method for delivering quality, affordable,
comprehensive healthcare -- while saving our state's economy -- HB
1660's publicly-funded (single-payer), privately provided, universal
healthcare is coming to the Keystone State. And at this rate, we'll
pass HB 1660, pass SB 300, and Governor Rendell will sign it into law
(as he's repeatedly promised) -- and the only way people will find out
about it is through word-of-mouth, fliers, e-mail, and bloggers.
Healthcare for All Pennsylvania