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Celebration at Capitol

August 10, 1994

* I participated in the Americans With Disabilities Act celebration at the White House ("Clinton Appeals for Bipartisan Health Bill," July 28), and I rolled in my wheelchair from the White House event to Capitol Hill. Our group, Real Health Care for All, which consisted mainly of disabled people, was denied entrance to the Capitol. In fact we were surrounded by about 60 federal police, who instructed us to leave the accessible entrance to the Capitol at once or we would be arrested.

Since many disabled people have experienced discrimination by insurance companies firsthand and know perhaps more than anyone where the troubles in the current system are, we have become very vocal for reform. We know that government legitimization of insurance company practices (waivers that exclude certain conditions or treatments, exclusion of pre-existing conditions, exclusions for durable medical equipment like power wheelchairs and respirators, lack of personal attendant services and the ability of insurance companies to terminate policyholders at will upon disability or increased premiums to prohibitive cost), has contributed to the 66% unemployment rate among disabled people.

As long as the only way for many disabled people to get health care remains through Social Security programs like Medicaid and Medicare, we will be forced out of the work force and into poverty-based programs.

As the events unfolded, I was reminded that the interests of big insurance companies were at the heart of the exclusion of this denial of entrance to a public building containing representatives who make policy for the people. The article reports that Sen. Bob Dole's office was the target of the protest. It is ironic that Dole, a man who has done much for the disabled community in the past, is siding so squarely with insurance companies and is thwarting reforms that would help disabled people gain employment.

MARTA RUSSELL

Encino

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