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In the debate last night, John Edwards reiterated that the battle against the entrenched interests is personal to him.  He also spoke about Nataline Sarkisyan:

What's happening now is insurance companies are running all over people. I mean, the case of Nataline Sarkisyan, which a lot of the audience would be familiar with -- 17 year old girl who lost her life a couple of weeks ago because her insurance company would not pay for a liver transplant operation. She had health insurance, but the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. They finally caved in a few hours before she died.

snip

You know, we need a president who believes deeply in here, who believes deeply in this battle, and it is personal for me.

According to Ezra Klein, and Ben Smith the family of Nataline Sarkisyan will join Edwards today on the campaign trail.  It's personal for them also.  Very personal.  Come around after the fold and let's talk about why it's personal.

During the debate last night, when asked what his greatest accomplishment in the Senate was, he said it was passing the Kennedy-McCain-Edwards Patient Bill of Rights, a bill vetoed by George Bush.  He spoke of how insurance companies were running all over people. As an example, he spoke of the preventable tragedy of Natalie Sarkisyan, whihc showed why "we need a president who believes deeply in here, who believes deeply in this battle."

Absolutely. I can tell you exactly one -- I'll give you one very specific example, a big example.

When the Democrats finally took over the United States Senate, the first issue that was brought to the table was the so-called "Patient's Bill of Rights", so that patients and families can make their own health care decisions. What's happening now is insurance companies are running all over people. I mean, the case of Nataline Sarkisyan, which a lot of the audience would be familiar with -- 17 year old girl who lost her life a couple of weeks ago because her insurance company would not pay for a liver transplant operation. She had health insurance, but the insurance company wouldn't pay for it. They finally caved in a few hours before she died.

We need a president who will take these people on. What we did -- and I didn't do it alone, don't claim to have done it alone -- but I, Senator McCain who was here earlier, Senator Kennedy, the three of us wrote the Patient's Bill of Rights, the three of us took on the powerful insurance industry and their lobby every single day of the fight for the Patient's Bill of Rights and we got that bill through the United States Senate and got it passed.

And I'm proud of having done that, but that's just an example of why this battle is personal for me. You know, we need a president who believes deeply in here, who believes deeply in this battle, and it is personal for me. When I see these lobbyists roaming around Washington, D.C., taking all the politicians to cocktail parties, I mean, the picture I get in my head is my father and my grandmother going in that mill every day so that I could have the chances I've had. Where is their voice in this democracy? When are they going to get heard? They need a president who will stand up for them and so does every American who's listened to this debate.

NY Times, Transcript of Debate

John Edwards helped pass that bill, but like many good projects, Bush vetoed it.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate overwhelmingly approved patients' rights legislation Friday that would give nearly 200 million Americans new health care protections and allow them new rights to sue their insurers.

The Senate approved the landmark bill 59-36, but moments after the vote the White House repeated a pledge to veto the bill passed by the Senate.

cnn.com

In the debate, Hillary Clinton suggested that the failure to pass this bill caused Nataline Sarkisyan's death:

"You know, Senator Edwards did work and get the patient bill of rights through the Senate -- it never got through the House. One of the reasons that Nataline may well have died is because there isn't a patient's bill of rights. We don't have a patient's bill of rights."

An Edwards aide said Sarkysian's mother will be in New Hampshire today, and that this might just come up.

Ben Smith

Ezra Klein calls this the "worse moment" of the debate.

Clinton didn't pass her health care plan, either, and that would've been far more effective than a set of privacy guarantees in guaranteeing a girl a liver transplant -- but it's hard for me to figure out exactly what she did mean to say. And with Natalie's parents on the campaign trail tomorrow, it's going to come up.

snip

Update: Some folks want me to post up the next few lines of the Clinton/Edwards exchange, so here they are:

MR. EDWARDS: Because George Bush -- George Bush killed it.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, that's right, he killed it. So we've got to have a plan and a real push to get it through.

Right. So Hillary was arguing that Edwards failed to pass the bill he named as an accomplishment, and that a girl, in theory, died because of it, or in part because of it. This seems like a low blow, albeit one I'm willing to believe Hillary didn't mean to make (heat of the moment, etc). The actual impediment to change that Clinton identifies -- George W. Bush in the White House - would obviously not exist in an Edwards or Clinton administration. Edwards' efforts were fully sufficient to pass the bill through a Democratic White House. What legislation did Hillary, or any other Democrat, pass over Bush's veto?

Later in the debate, John Edwards talked about the cost of playing the Washington game and taking lobbyists' money:

We have a battle in front of us. We do. I don't think we have a problem with politicians in Washington spending enough time with lobbyists and going to cocktail parties. They do it all the time. They do it every single day, and I'll tell you who's paying the price for those cocktail parties: Nataline Sarkisyan, every single American who doesn't have health care coverage, everybody who's going to the gas pump and paying so much money for their gas.

When are we going to have a president who actually takes these people on? That's what I'm going to do.

NY Times, Transcript of Debate

That's why it's personal.  And it should be.

John Edwards has fought these people all of his adult life.  As a trial lawyer, he sued and won against insurance companies and corporations who sold defective products or were otherwise negligent.  For example, one of his cases involved a five year who was horribly injured by a defective swimming pool drain. I'll let her parents tell the story:  

Fourteen years ago, we were just a normal family with a healthy 5-year-old daughter, Valerie. Then on June 24, 1993, our world changed forever.

Valerie was playing in the local wading pool when the powerful drain suction at the bottom of the pool almost sucked the life out of her.

In the terrible days and weeks that followed, the only words we wanted to hear from anyone were, "I can help Valerie." And then we met John Edwards.

John took on the irresponsible manufacturer of the defective part and we learned that she wasn't the first child to be maimed and even killed by this company's absolute indifference, but they hid the truth.

In our darkest hours, John Edwards gave our family hope. And then he walked into that courtroom and have that irresponsible company hell, and we won.

John ensured that Valerie's medical expenses would be taken care of for the rest of her life. And he helped change the ways companies do business to make swimming pools safer for children.

We are so thankful that today, Valerie is much better, and we hope every day for her future.

John talks about the heroes he has met in his life, but to us, he is the hero. He has the courage to take on the toughest fights - and win. And he will always have the thanks of a grateful family who gave hope to in their darkest hour and helped ensure their child would have a chance at a better future.

Sincerely,

Sandy and David Lakey

TPM, quoting Edwards Campaign Mailer in Iowa

The day Nataline Sarkisyan passed less than a month ago, an angry John Edwards minced no words about these insurance companies who lacked basic human decency:

John Edwards tonight cited the case of a 17-year-old California girl who died after her insurance company refused coverage on a liver transplant to save her life as a call to action to change the current system of healthcare in America.

Nataline Sarkisyan died last night at UCLA Medical Center after complications arose from a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. Her insurance provider, CIGNA Healthcare, first denied the potentially lifesaving transplant, but relented after a loud public protest and outrage. By that time, though, Sarkysian passed away before the procedure could be performed.

"Are you telling me that we're gonna sit at a table and negotiate with those people?" asked a visibly angered Edwards, challenging the health care companies. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again."

cbsnews, 12/21/07

According to Ezra Klein and Ben Smith, the family of Nataline Sarkysian is joining John Edwards at a rally today.  (either one or both parents)

An Edwards aide said Sarkisian's mother will be in New Hampshire today

Ben Smith

I'm quite interested in what she has to say.  It's clear that the Sarkisyan family chose to come to endorse John Edwards and speak about their daughter.  And I suspect they contacted the Edwards campaign to ask if they can help.  More than anyone, they know you cannot negotiate with these people; you must fight them.

I think it probably will be here at what is billed as a Health Care Forum:

Sunday January 6th, 2008 - 12pm
Manchester Health Care Forum with John Edwards
Franco-American Centre
62 Concord St.
Manchester, NH

Sandy and David Lakey might also be there. If you are in New Hampshire, show up and let us know what happens.

I sometimes see pundits criticize John Edwards for being "too angry." Well, if you are not outraged about what happened to Nataline, then there is something human missing inside you.

Damn right, we're angry.  So is John Edwards and he should be. It's personal.  And it should be personal.  It's not an abstraction or a philosphical argument.  It is flesh and blood real.

You know, we need a president who believes deeply in here, who believes deeply in this battle, and it is personal for me.

We need to be angry about Nataline and all the others who suffer in our obscene health care system.  But we need to channel our anger.  One way we can do so is to help John Edwards in his campaign and our movement for change.

Here are three ways to help the campaign:

Here for the phonebanking:
http://www.johnedwardsphonebank.com/

Here for general volunteering:
http://www.johnedwards.com/...

Here for contributions:

Make a Secure Online Contribution at johnedwards.com

"We have an epic fight ahead of us with these entrenched, powerful, monied interests that stand between you and a democracy that works for everybody.  We better be ready, we better be ready for that battle.  You better be ready to send someone into the arena that has what it takes inside for this fight."

Let's make it real personal with the entrenched interests who so distort our democracy.  For Nataline Sarkisyan and all others who suffered.

Update I: From NCDem Amy, who does so much for our cause, in the comments.  John Edwards with George S on ABC's This Week this morning.  

He handles George S with ease. It's great!!

He mentions Nataline Sarkisyan.  This is an epic battle, the cause of my life.  "I'm in it through the Convention and to the White House."

Update II: The rally with Sarkisyan family is on C-SPAN right now.  From the comments:

The father says "Cigna killed my daughter", (1+ / 0-)

Father says "vote for this man, vote for John Edwards". He says he can't sleep there is a hole in his heart.

Don't assume anything...Verify! It's as easy as 3.14159265

by Mr SeeMore on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 09:54:18 AM PST

Update III

Check out and recommend Edgery's diary on the rally:

Cigna killed my daughter" Grigot Sarkisyan at Edwards forum

Nataline Sarkisyan's father said today that there is a hole in his heart since losing his daughter.  "Cigna killed my daughter," he said. "Vote for this man; vote for John Edwards."

"They tried negotiating with the insurance company," John Edwards responded.  "If negotiating worked, we'd have universal health care already."

Update IV:

From Amy, who does so much work to help spread the message, video from the rally with the Sarkisyans:

John Edwards in Manchester (p2)Nataline's Mother and Brother

John Edwards in Manchester (p3)-Nataline's Father

Hat tip and great thanks to NCDem Amy for getting these.

Originally posted to TomP on Sun Jan 06, 2008 at 07:37 AM PST.

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