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Activists in Scranton read aloud all 1,000 pages of health care bill

Demonstration to boost support for legislation gets help from 9-year-old boy.

SCRANTON – How many people have read the full health care reform bill known as HR 3200?

Organizers of a public reading of the bill that took place in downtown Scranton on Wednesday say not many. And for that reason, organizer Roxanne Pauline said that more than 38 people, old and young, with and without health care coverage, signed up to help read the more than 1,000-page bill.

The reading at the Lackawanna County Courthouse Square began at 5 a.m. and continued for over 15 hours. And, according to Pauline, it is said to be the first public reading of the bill in America.

The event gained national attention from USA Today featuring a preview story about the reading and international attention from BBC Radio live at the reading.

Pauline said the reading aimed to inform members of the public and organizers of the reading about the bill.

“We’ve been learning a lot as to what sections are what sections, and when anyone asks we can now say ‘Oh, that’s on Page 142,’ so it’s actually very good to hear it read out loud,” said Pauline.

She said that most importantly, hearing the bill read could get rid of misconceptions of what is in it. For example, she said that death panels are not in the legislation and the “killing grandma” claim is not backed with any proof.

One of the readers that gained attention for the media and passersby was 9-year-old Willy Jones of Waverly, who is just over 50 inches tall and entering third grade next week at Waverly Elementary School. He read pages 116-124, a section which details the public option.

Words like “judicial” and “consistency” were practiced beforehand with Willy’s mom, Pam Jones. She stood alongside him while he read. Pam stood by with tears of joy in her eyes.

She said that her son first came up to her during Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency, asking to get involved in political campaigning.

Overall Willy, who says that he could be a potential future president if marine biology doesn’t work out, logged over 300 hours helping Obama’s campaign.

“He got really involved in it and got me involved in it so when (U.S. Rep. Chris) Carney had the town hall meeting (held at the Eagle Hose Company in Dickson City last week) we went to that and the organizers recognized Willy and asked him to read. We talked about it, and I told him what was involved and he looked at me as and he said ‘Will it help you get health care?’ and I said ‘Yeah, I think it will’ and he said ‘I’ll do it.’ ”

“For everybody who doesn’t have health care coverage, I just want to make it a little easier for them to afford it,” said Willy Jones. “Because then everybody can be happy,” he said, comparing people without health care receiving it to his friends without toys receiving toys.

“I’m so proud of him,” said Pam Jones.

Pauline said that passersby on Wednesday generally seemed to be receptive to the concept of the reading, although some spoke out against reform. Not many stayed long, but she said that she was glad that the message of “what is really in the bill” was getting out to the masses.

The reading was videotaped by the reading’s organizers and Pauline said that those who missed it could possibly see the video online in upcoming weeks.

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