Healthcare-Now Strategy Convention – Nashville, TN
December 13, 2013
New York State was well represented with 14 participants from NYC, Albany, North Country, Ithaca and Buffalo.
Benjamin Day, Healthcare-NOW!, Director of Organizing
Opening remarks by Benjamin Day, Healthcare-NOW!, Director of Organizing set the theme for the conference. He said, “The ACA has the potential to sideline the single payer movement (i.e. ‘Let’s give it a chance to work.’) It is our job to keep healthcare on the table and mobilize within our communities. This presents us with an opportunity for outreach and organizing. We must shift our focus from general education to grassroots organizing. One example is building a broad based grassroots movement, beginning in our local communities. Other examples include: weekly vigils opposing cuts to Medicare and Social Security, working against privatization of hospitals and ‘Troublemaker Schools’ focused around healthcare.”
The first session presented the Southern Strategy. The session looked at characteristics of the South and the difficulties they have had with the refusal of Medicaid expansion, as well as anti-immigrant and undocumented hostilities, a war on women and the privatization of human services. This is setting the stage for change. There is a new Latino electorate. People are angry. The single payer movement is building solidarity with other movements (i.e. the homeless) and is moving in a progressive direction.
TENN Care benefited low income and blue-collar workers but it began falling apart because of political attacks –a lesson for us today? The ACA – builds up community health centers but the homeless won’t qualify, nor will undocumented workers. Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) – mergers and acquisitions of hospitals and primary care practices is leaving the South underserved with few good choices and many uninsured. Without Medicaid expansion many in the 0 to 100% category of poverty won’t be covered by the ACA. This will be quite a high number in the South. This inequality in healthcare could be used to draw people together and provide opportunities for organizing toward single payer. Other organizing ideas include teach-ins, town halls, visioning, and relating healthcare to broader movements.
The discussion provided insight into the inhospitable territory even amongst peers that the Single Payer individuals work in. Tension was acknowledged between our goal for Single Payer Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Single Payer caregivers face this contradiction everyday as they try to serve their patients and help them access to healthcare through the currently limited system. The ACA improves in some ways, but fails under the standard of universality. The private insurance industry is the issue, its affect on the economy. We should use the ACA as an opportunity to broaden the conversation toward Single Payer through education, organizing, lobbying, labor solidarity since their pension benefits are being imperiled. There is a need for a two-prong effort to deal with the nature of the South: Healthcare is a Human Right, and the ACA is here, so we need to work through it. It is essential to continue solidarity with people seeking healthcare, whether through the ACA or beyond. We should not wait until the ACA is ready to collapse. We must be ready to move forward when it does.
Panel – Connecting the Dots for Healthcare Justice
The workshops dealt with the themes of the conference: building the movement, forming coalitions with other groups and looking for new ways to reach out and educate new constituents.
Our members presented two workshops. Josh Starcher and Katie Robbins outlined their 100X100 Petition campaign to grow the movement and educate others about a single payer – Improved Medicare for All plan. As a result of the workshop two communities are talking about replicating it. Alice Brody was part of a five-person panel that discussed the work of states to build movements around state single payer bills. Another panel discussed Building the Movement by organizing around HR 676.
Mark Dudzik – Labor for Single Payer
Other Workshops included Labor for Single Payer with advocates from NYC, Detroit, DC and California who reinforced the idea that the next logical step is to get the active support of unions and their members because SP will benefit workers, retirees, and employers. Labor should represent ALL workers, not only those with collective bargaining rights.
We “need to support the needs of the needy;” uniting private and public sector unions in the struggle against dismantling employer-based healthcare; Taft-Hartley plans are under extreme pressure – we should respect the plans currently in place, while informing them about Single Payer. We can’t resolve these issues at the bargaining table, only through large-scale social movements. Retiree health plans, e.g. GE, IBM, etc., are being dismantled. Many retirees are not yet eligible for Medicare and will be forced to purchase care on the exchange. Another theme of the conference was making connections with other social movements including: the medical committee for Human Rights, Occupy – Healthcare for the 99% and learning from past social movements such as passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Frances Fox Piven – How Social Movements Change America
Frances Fox Piven, the keynote speaker presented a history of grass roots movements since the mid 1800’s. She stressed that “movements are powerful when they threaten to disrupt major institutions. Most reforms are not as complete as activists hope for but the threat of mass refusal and disorder it threatens is the power of protest movements.”
She felt that we should take part in mass refusal of cooperation, engage in the community, demonize the medical industrial complex and point out the role of the insurance industry in all this. Strike debt could be broadened to include healthcare rallying against bankruptcy and medical debt by shaming those in power. Piven stated, “We need health care from sperm to worm.”
From Words to Action: Closing
Dr. Rahn Bailey, NMA, Mark Dudzik, Labor for SP Healthcare, Tim carpenter, PDA, Cindy Young, NNU
Now is the time for our movement to make a noise. We have developed a Single Payer Activist Guide to the Affordable Care Act. There are three types of opportunity that will be created by the Affordable Care Act.
1. A teaching moment through media outreach, forums and use of social media.
2. Outreach to our natural allies.
3. Organizing supporters to pass resolutions, get legislative support, or divestment activities.
Healthcare-NOW! coalition partners Working Together for Change and Exploring our Direct Action Potential
Representatives from National Medical Association, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare, Public Citizen and National Nurses United joined together to discuss how social change happens. Struggles must be rooted in people’s needs. Social change can only come about when workers understand the system. Some of the questions we need to ask ourselves.
Which fights do we tackle?
Can we win? How?
Who are our allies?
Who has the power?
Who is our constituency?
The conference was a time to renew past acquaintances with organizers such as Donna Smith and make new ones, as well as to get re-energized, to go home and renew our efforts on behalf of Improved Medicare for all Everybody in, Nobody Out!
Ways to be Involved
1. Please Donate
This is an important time for us to have a strong national organization. Healthcare-Now needs your financial support with donations. Please consider being a recurring donor. This would enable the staff can spend their time on organizing rather than fundraising to cover their salaries. Please Go to healthcare-now.org to DONATE.
2. Join our Next Activist Connection Call – January, day and time TBA
3. Ways We Can Communicate: Let your voice be heard – Use our Social Media to do this
a. Website – singlepayernewyork.org. Please send articles, events, etc. to: Alice Brody – email@example.com or Barb Harrison – firstname.lastname@example.org.
b. Facebook – singlepayernewyork – to post events send to: Peter Robbins – email@example.com
c. Activist Listserve – post your articles, opinion pieces, comments to other articles, start a dialog. Sign up at the top right of this page.
Photos Thanks to Barb C. Harrison