Addressing a COVID-19/Medicare for All town hall with Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Monday, UE Local 1177 President and Western Region Vice President Larry Hopkins told the town hall that “I will continue to fight for Medicare for All.”
Hopkins detailed the difficulty that he and his co-workers at Hallcon have getting the health care they need. “My employer provides an insurance plan that most hospitals and clinics do not accept. Many of my co-workers I talk to do not have access to health care and my employer offers an expensive plan that has no upper limit in costs and it will come out of our pockets.”
UE represents approximately 2,000 Hallcon drivers, who transport rail crews for the railroad industry, in over a dozen states across the country.
“Our members deserve good health care, which we do not have at this present time,” Hopkins told the town hall meeting. “We need to introduce and pass a bill to provide medical services to all.” He also referenced the resolution “Healthcare for All” passed at last year’s UE convention.
Rep. Garcia, a long-time ally of UE in Chicago who was elected to Congress in 2018, introduced the town hall by noting that “Whether it's a loved one who has lost a job or died from COVID-19, this year has tested us more than we ever imagined and, regrettably, it didn't have to be this way.
“For the millions of people in our country who lost their jobs because of the pandemic, losing a job also meant losing their health insurance. In fact, tens of millions of Americans have lost their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic, and when they need it most.
“COVID-19 has exposed a deeply flawed and unprepared health care system in our country. If there's anything that we have learned so far, it's that never again should health insurance be tied to employment. It is a recipe for catastrophe.”
Other speakers at the town hall included Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, a former activist and organizer with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, Chicago City Council Alderman Matt Martin, retired Cook County physician and Physicians for a National Health Plan president-elect Dr. Susan Rogers, physician and small business owner Dr. Pamella Gronemeyer, insurance industry whistleblower Wendell Potter and Sheilah Garland-Olaniran of the Illinois Poor People's Campaign.