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“The Time is Now.” said Congressman John Conyers to the Healthcare-NOW national strategy meeting, November 12, 2006, in Chicago. Conyers and 60 Healthcare-NOW organizers from 16 states joined in thinking about how to push forward for a single-payer national healthcare system in the United States in a marathon 10-hour strategy session. Healthcare-NOW is a bottom up movement organization, so the strategies evolved throughout the day came from very few speeches and a lot of discussion. Conyers's bill H.R. 676 will provide healthcare for everyone in the United States by eliminating the profits of the insurance companies and negotiating drug and other treatment costs. It will be paid for on a sliding scale by all of us together. We will have no bills, co-payments, deductibles, denials, or bankruptcies. And we will be paying less than we are now.

Conyers told the organizers, “It is a great thing to look back on your life and see the opportunities to make history. It is a wonderful way to live.” He spoke of his first decision to run for Congress as a young lawyer. He won by 128 votes! He has been key to many investigations, impeachments, forward-looking and controversial legislation including the Martin Luther King Holiday, and visionary leadership. Now, as he becomes the leader of the House Judiciary Committee, he will have jurisdiction over many areas, including “bankruptcy.” As we look into the future, bankruptcy hearings will be able to uncover the reasons why 50% of the personal bankruptcies in the United States are caused by healthcare crises. Healthcare-NOW can help provide the testimony. That is just one example of why we feel hopeful for this coming period.

The Current System

Some people say, "Why don't they just get a job?" Surprisingly,80% of the people who have no healthcare coverage in the U.S. are in families with jobs, sometimes two and three jobs.

The healthcare system is probably the most devastating factor in the failure of our economic system, particularly for families. Almost 50 million with no coverage; another 50 million with inadequate coverage; and another 50 million in fear of losing their jobs or their coverage.

But, family budgets are not the only budgets affected:

  • Labor unions are no longer able to get raises and better working conditions for workers because their negotiations are virtually all about health benefits; Workers are afraid to move on to better jobs because they might lose what’s left of their benefits and encounter a terrible healthcare crisis in their family;
  • Businesses, large and small, are laying off employees, outsourcing jobs, and cutting other investments in the U.S. economy;
  • Non-profit organizations , foundations, and faith-based organizations, are hard-pressed to continue their mission at a normal level because of insurance costs for their staffs;
  • Doctors and nurses are daily faced with a patchwork system that curtails their responsibility to make good medical decisions and rejects the needs of almost 50 million people every day;
  • Children, the elderly and those who are disabled suffer many healthcare denials with even fewer resources than most people.

A New Organizing Strategy

Healthcare-Now believes that we have come to a crossroads, as a nation, on this issue. Our national effort to get universal health care was lost fourteen years ago for many reasons, not the least of which was the stranglehold of the insurance industry in control of the media and the U.S. Congress.

Instead of a healthcare crisis, we have a Greed Crisis. The profits of insurance and pharmaceutical drug companies have multiplied during the same period that people’s healthcare has become less comprehensive and less affordable.

Special Interest money has turned health care into an incredibly profitable business, ranking second only to the military-industrial-congressional complex. Another word for our healthcare crisis might be a "Profiteer Crisis." Over $2 trillion each year is at stake in the healthcare industry. But all of that could be changed fairly quickly if we cut the profits of the profiteers and put that money into real healthcare.

What Is the Difference This Time?

There is a movement building to change the system. Many more people are beginning to realize that our country is at an economic disadvantage under this economic drain. Every other advanced nation in the world has a national health care system for all. Try asking a crowd of people if they know anyone in Europe who doesn’t have health care coverage. Or in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Costa Rica, Cuba or dozens of other countries in the world.

Healthcare-NOW has a new set of strategies that can help build on the overwhelming sentiment for universal healthcare nationwide. (65% of the people). We have begun by building a new partnership between:

  • faith-based groups—charged by policy and by scripture with the role of caring for the sick;
  • doctors whose Hippocratic oath brings them to the campaign for an humane national system,;
  • labor unions who have always led this struggle for worker rights and healthcare for all across the world and who know they can not go it alone in the face of this system.

Healthcare-NOW is building a foundation that will lead this effort to build a huge movement, and to secure a healthier and more responsive Congress that will hear our demands in 2007 and 08 and 09 for a single payer national healthcare system. What we want is a privately administered, publicly funded system, an American-style system that provides for people to choose their own private doctors to administer the health care that is needed, without having to seek permission from insurance company clerks whose main interest is profits. Our system would be publicly funded using the same money we are now spending. Everyone would pay less money than we are now paying. (See HR 676 as a basic model for this effort, or our website for a summary).

How Can We Do This? - A Publicly Funded/ Privately Administered System with Freedom of Choice

Healthcare-NOW is building a movement similar to the movement for voting rights in this country in the 1960's. At the time, we were told that we were moving too fast and demanding too much, that the times were changing and that civil rights would come in due time if we just kept waiting patiently. We refused to wait then and we must refuse to wait NOW.

The Economic Case

The U.S. economy is in its worst shape in many years. Oil prices are at the highest level ever. Many people need not apply for healthcare insurance because they are banned – pre-existing conditions and low income level make it impossible.

We are convinced that the success of this campaign could change the economics in this country, that working to cure the healthcare crisis has the possibility of opening up a new deal for our citizens in the health care sector and other sectors if we win this one.

Our plan would not only provide health care for everybody. It is a very conservative plan, and it would save hundreds of billions of dollars. We would move a huge portion of the federal budget into the public sector, providing the opportunity for people to make their own decisions about spending their own money.

Families would have more money in their pockets to spend on their other needs if we passed a single payer healthcare plan. People would have more choices and the economy would flourish with a new infusion of consumer capital and consumer confidence. Our people would be healthier in body and in spirit.

Jobs would be created in the health care industry because there will be almost 100 million more people eligible to receive the health care they need. People who need dental and optical care, mental health care, drug treatment, physical therapy, prescription drugs, and long term care, all of these and more would be covered and we will need healthcare professionals to respond.

How the goal can be reached

The 30,000 people on the Healthcare-NOW email list probably played a role in electing a “healthier Congress” November 7, 2006. Those who voted for the Healthcare Congress deserve to have a heads-up on what is coming next. We may never have a better possibility of pushing forward for a national healthcare system than right now, during the next few months. If not now, when?

1. The bill will be reintroduced in January. We will probably have the same bill number, H.R. 676.

2. Before January, we want you to seek endorsement from all of the new Members of Congress, those whom we’ve signed on during the past 18 months and all others –Republicans, Democrats and Independents, Senators and House Members. Get the Senators to commit to join with others in introducing a companion Senate bill. The task for you is to visit your Members of Congress NOW before the end of the year. Take an influential delegation with you – a labor leader, a doctor or nurse, a faith leader and others;

3. Take Healthcare-NOW’s pamphlet with you so the Members will begin to understand the issue and the solution;

4. Get your City Council, your union, your church, your community group, your peace group -- all to endorse H.R. 676 and to become members of Healthcare-NOW. See ENDORSE on our website.

5. Plan new Public Congressional Hearings on the Healthcare Crisis in your city. We debated the name for these hearings, but the idea is to be creative and to keep the pressure on your member of Congress. We plan to do 1,000 of these hearings including one very large one in New Orleans.

6. Get ready to send postcards and engage in call-in days. We might try to organize these on the 6/7th of each month to make it easy to remember since we are organizing for 676.

7. Plan to create or be involved in one of thousands of events on April 4th or that weekend (the 6th and 7th) in your town. That is the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Healthcare for everybody was a major passion of his. This 40th anniversary will be a day to call attention to his leadership and to assume the responsibility of leadership ourselves.

8. We will do a teach-in in Washington at a pre-arranged date together with major members of Congress.

9. Healthcare-NOW is becoming a membership organization. $25 for individuals and $50 for organizations. Of course we will not turn anyone away, but we really need your commitment to help us escalate this work. Contribute through our website “Donate NOW”.

10. In addition to the positive message “Support H.R. 676,” be sure to challenge any plan that is being proposed by Congress that would add more money to insurance companies’ profits. They make hundreds of billions in profits – It is the biggest factor in denying healthcare for everybody in the United States. We don’t need insurance companies; we just need healthcare. Oppose any Congressional plan that keeps them in control of our healthcare system. Maybe we should have a new slogan or button, “No insurance companies; just health.”

11. The Older Women’s League will be celebrating Mother’s Day next spring with its campaign for H.R. 676. We’ll be able to get their Mother’s Day cards and more of their great materials. We want to do lots of media work. We have a critical message.

Virtually every candidate who was elected had something to say about healthcare. They know that the voters want them to take a stand for healthcare. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times, “Now, they say, they have to produce – to deal with long-festering problems like access to affordable healthcare, loss of manufacturing jobs, and an exit strategy from Iraq. There is a strong populist tinge to this class.”

Be in touch with Healthcare-NOW for materials, for contacts in your area, to let us know what you are doing, and to participate on the conference calls with the organizers if you are planning to organize a Community Congressional Hearing on Healthcare. Now is the Time.

This is the introduction to a series of articles on a A National Single-Payer Healthcare System That Will Cover Everyone In The United States.

The preceding was compiled from information written by Marilyn Clement, National Coordinator, Healthcare-NOW. Click here to contact Ms. Clement and Healthcarde-NOW or telephone: 800 453-1305.

Click here to read any of the articles in this special BC series on Single-Payer Healthcare.

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November 16, 2006
Issue 206

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