NATIONAL ACTION CAMPAIGN /
ADOPTED July 14, 2000 AT
ALLIANCE for DEMOCRACY CONVENTION 2000
1) THE URGENT NEED AND THE OPPORTUNITY
The current crisis and chaos in U.S. health care provide both the motivation and the
opportunity for Americans to develop a national health care system that meets the needs of
all the people. The health care system is full of inefficiencies, inequities, waste,
fraud, and abuse created by our having allowed health care -- a fundamental human right
-- to be converted into a mere commodity in the marketplace. So we are witnessing an
undignified, anarchical squabbling over services, profits, and position among warring
vested-interest groups that include workers, employers, labor unions, doctors groups,
HMOs, insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry. The United States holds the
singular position of being the major industrial nation in the world not taking care of the
health of its own people. It is timely for the people to insist that the government
take control of health care delivery in this country.
The current disorganized, commodified approach to health care is a national disgrace.
It costs us a whopping 15% of our GDP, yet has resulted in an unjust distribution of
health care, with 45 million uninsured people, plus millions of underinsured people, and
millions of insured people to whom health care insurance is becoming an increasing
financial burden. The total number of people in these categories, augmented by all the
compassionate people who deplore this social inequality, could well add up to some 100
We can probably rely upon the following trends to give us plenty of ammunition: the
growing number of uninsured, the continuing failure of the HMO system to provide adequate
care to those it does serve, the rising cost of health care and pharmaceuticals, the
growing number of bankruptcies among hospitals, clinics, insurance companies and doctor's
groups, abd the embarrassing surplus in government tax collections while these conditions
prevail. On the positive side we can point to the success of Medicare providing for the
elderly and the organizational campaign can proceed with the confidence that many of the
people forming this movement are personally motivated by their strong need to ensure
adequate health care for themselves and their children.
The major opponent to health as a human right (a basic right included in the UN's
Declaration of Human Rights) is the insurance/HMO industry, which handles over $300
billion a year in health transactions. Secondary opponents are the American Medical
Association (much weakened since its heyday in the 1950's), the drug companies, and other
2) THE GOAL
As in other industrial countries, our government should be our only health care insurer
and provide basic health care to all. Existing health insurance companies are an
unnecessary obstacle and expense. The prices of pharmaceuticals are unreasonable and need
to be regulated, as in Europe. We must design an optimum U.S. universal health care system
containing the best features of national health care systems operating in the other
industrial nations, while avoiding any shortcomings of those systems.
3) THE STRATEGY
It is clear that the aforementioned 100 million Americans share a personal interest in
the pressing issue of achieving an equitable system of universal health care in this
country. Based on this common interest, a significant percentage of them can be mobilized
into a powerful movement to realize that goal -- a political movement so strong that it
can prevail against the well-organized and well-financed vested interests with their
Harry-and-Louise ads. To mobilize the disparate members of this broad constituency we will
need to identify them, locate them through their natural cohort groups, reach out to them
in a personal way at those locations where they meet or seek help, and enlist their
help in our mutual effort.
Can the process of mobilizing this constituency profit from the lessons learned in
mobilizing the millions of people who participated in the monumental and successful civil
rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement and the peace movement?
Indeed, the existing supporters of these movements may constitute a recruiting field for
the volunteers we will need as well as provide us with ideas for our organizational
structure. In addition we must build upon the growing discontent which permeates the
health care system itself including the patients, the doctors, the employers and the
general public. Each of these groups can be motivated to become our activist volunteers
and the rank and file of a "health care for All" movement.
Those so mobilized will begin realizing how corporate power has dominated not only
health care but also the media, the Congress, the presidency, and so many other aspects of
our society. One this occurs the mobilized people will constitute the entering wedge
toward forming a massive U.S. populist movement that can reclaim our democracy.
In order to simplify matters, this proposal works on three assumptions 1) you don't
need to know the words "universal health care" to be for universal health care--
all you really have to support is the idea of "health"; 2) a wide range of
people/organizations are interested in health and will volunteer for this effort if the
actions are kept simple; and 3) this is a plan which will eventually meet the needs of
everyone, a truly "universal" plan.
The national effort to achieve universal health care currently involves literally
hundreds of organizations working independently. The mobilization of a mass movement
toward achieving universal health care will depend upon forming a coalition with existing
advocacy groups. To that end Dr. Quentin Young, National Coordinator for Physicians for a
National Health Program (PNHP) has been invited to the convention as one of the major
speakers, and representatives of the following organizations have been invited to attend
our health care sessions on July 15: Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!),
Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO) of California, Washington State's
Health Care 2000, the California Nurses Association, the Labor Party's Just Healthcare,
American Mental Health Alliance, League of Women Voters of California, American public
Health Association, Vermont Health Care for All, American Academy of Family Physicians,
Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, California's
Health Care for All, California Physicians Alliance and the Kensington Welfare Rights
Union of Philadelphia.
4) THE ELEMENTS OF THE LONG-TERM STRATEGY
(1) Multi-year. We should plan for at least a five year campaign.
Time is on our side as the present system heads for a possible collapse and the number of
uninsured continues to grow. The initial leadership must come from advocacy groups and
dedicated individuals. A national steering committee must coordinate the overall effort
with sufficient financial resources to provide educational and recruitment materials. It
will also require local branches which will organize committed individuals to seek out
support from local organizations and enlist individuals in churches, civic clubs, ethnic
organizations, welfare offices, emergency rooms, drop-in clinics or wherever the uninsured
and underinsured are to be found.
(2) Diverse. Identify populations which are most under served: i.e. children without
wealthy parents, the poor, the sick and disabled, the families of the sick, the mentally
ill, minorities and the otherwise uninsured. Organize these groups into a coalition,
together with doctors and nurses who genuinely care, and service and advocacy
organizations which support universal health care.
(3) Create a public presence. -in the streets with rallies, -in the media with creative
actions., -on the Internet with a web site and e-mail lists, -- in the legislature with
signs and protests, -- civil disobedience in creative ways as appropriate (e.g. sit-ins in
for-profit hospitals' .lobbies and doctor's offices, not necessarily disruptive, just to
show the extent of apartheid in health care), -- lectures at service clubs and community
-- press conferences, letters to the editor and op-ed
pieces. These will spread the truth about the ineffectiveness of the U S. health care
system and about actions occurring every day to oppose injustice in that system.
(4) PUBLIC. -All meeting and activities will be out in the open.
(5) Politically progressive. Insist on health care as a right, all-inclusive, no one
left out. All who are able will contribute to support the system. In addition our campaign
must be linked to another objective of the Alliance for Democracy -- Campaign
finance reform. The political climate must be changed together with the law. If our allies
and our constituents will back political candidates who are not in the pockets of the
corporations and the wealthy they will also be candidates who will likely support our
(6) Combat apathy. "Yes of course I support health, but it's not politically
feasible because of the insurance companies." We hear this all the time. To counter
it we must have a realistic, multi-year action plan with a time frame with concrete goals,
and simple actions people and organizations can take to participate in their piece of the
plan (e.g. go door to door in their neighborhood distributing informational fliers). Put
out a call for volunteers on the web site, in all materials, and set up a volunteer
headquarters so everyone who wants to can participate.
(Thanks to the publication "YES on Health" by Ida Hellender, M.D., Executive
Director, Physicians for a National Health Program', for ideas included the above plan.)
5) ACTION STEPS 2000-2001
1) Secure hundreds of co-sponsors among national and local independent organizations.
Secure thousands of individual supporters who are members of these cosponsoring
organizations. At the same time reach out to independent caring individuals and ultimate
beneficiaries of universal health care: the poor, the sick and disabled, the families of
the sick, the mentally ill, minorities and the otherwise uninsured. Build up and maintain
a database of all supporters.
2) Prepare a budget for this mobilization which will include necessary staff, overhead
support, office expense for supplies, telephone, travel, printing and mailing.
3) Submit applications describing this plan and budget to appropriate foundations to
obtain first year set up and operations coverage. Begin implementation under a subsequent
4) Develop a "Universal Health Care Action Kit" to provide voluntary
recruiters with materials needed to broaden the support base.
5) Obtain commitment from hundreds of voluntary recruiters from the existing database
and provide them with the "Universal Health Care Action Kit" with instructions
on how to mobilize supporters from other organizations, caring individuals and ultimate
6) Maintain and finance the existing web page at http://afd-online.net/uhc to provide
an Internet linkage between the administration and supporters of the program.
Alliance for Democracy
Health Care Action Group
Calvin Simons, Chair, (707)527-7191, firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Cohen, email@example.com
Peter Mott, firstname.lastname@example.org
John Shearer, email@example.com