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Health care debate 'about real people'

Fargo-Moorhead residents attend a Wednesday night vigil on the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead in support of health care reform. David Samson / The Forum

Lisa Smith stood in the middle of the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo and Moorhead on Wednesday night to push for health care reform.

"I'm here to represent the uninsured," the Fargo woman said. "I feel like we're all being ignored."

She wasn't ignored, though, by dozens of fellow public health care advocates. They joined her, holding signs and lit candles to shed light on the stories of people like her - hoping it will help put pressure on federal policymakers to create change.

"The longer we wait, the more people that suffer," said Dean Hulse of "This debate is about real people."

The progressive political advocacy group hosted Wednesday's vigil, which was part of hundreds of health care reform events hosted across the nation in the past few weeks.

"We have to show them what we want ... and remind elected officials that they have a lot of constituents that care passionately about this," said volunteer Andrew Lindner of Fargo. "It's a national solution. (But) it's a local problem."

The crowd of more than 50 listened for about an hour to stories from those affected and heard from leaders such as state Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, in what was a relatively quiet and peaceful event.

"I'm tired of the over-politicization of the issue," Fargo resident Scott Edward Haugen said. "I'm sick of the delays."

Unlike contentious congressional town hall meetings and raucous rallies, Wednesday's event aimed to put politics aside in favor of the stories from those who are affected.

"The health care debate has somewhat taken an ugly tone," Lindner said. "We're forgetting there are people who are suffering every day. We really want to put an emphasis back on their stories."

And so they did, reading stories of people who are denied or unable to afford health care. People like Smith, who said she works 50 hours a week at a local food franchise that doesn't offer health care.

"I just have no choice," she said. "To go and get it myself would not be affordable. And that's the situation others face."