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Havre de Grace resident goes on 'Patients Over Politics' bus tour

BY MARISSA GALLO, Record staff

10:29 PM EDT, August 29, 2012

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Havre de Grace resident Don Mathis, best known locally for his past leadership of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harford County, was about to leave for Tampa, Fla., Wednesday afternoon, but not for the biggest event happening in that city this week.

Doctors and patient representatives from across the country, including Mathis, are part of a 12-day bus tour called "Patients Over Politics," sponsored by Doctors for America.

"We're advocating for keeping the Affordable Care Act," Mathis, the president and CEO of Community Action Partnership, said.

The tour began Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is slowly making its way to the Republican National Convention this week and will end Sept. 6 in Charlotte, N.C., at the Democratic National Convention.

At each stop, doctors will be providing preventive care to the public, such as screenings for diabetes, and at some stops there will be press conferences to educate people on the Affordable Care Act.

"We're asking the Republican convention to look carefully before it decides to discard everything [in the act]," Mathis said. He admitted it still needs "some improvements," but the majority of the legislative act "does a lot of good stuff."

Some of that good stuff, Mathis noted, is making pre-existing conditions not a reason for terminating a person's health care, providing free breast cancer screening and letting dependents stay on their parents' health insurance until they are 26 years old.

From what Mathis heard from the road, the tour has been "resonating pretty well" with the public. The general idea of the trip, he added, is to "not get political" but rather to "take a proactive stand."

"The major purpose of the tour is to make the case that as an action there are a lot of people that don't get health care that need it," he said. "There's a lot of health care that is inordinately expensive and not available for people."

Part of the bus tour is dedicated to a public education campaign, Mathis said, to "explain what's good, what some of the myths are and what can be improved" about the Affordable Care Act.

The Havre de Grace resident will be in good company with other Marylanders, as there are a few doctors and medical students from Johns Hopkins, as well, on the tour.

The bus tour will make stops Friday in Gainesville, Fla., head to Atlanta, Ga., the next day, then to Columbia, S.C., and finally to Charlotte, N.C., Monday in time for the Democratic convention.