CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2009


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Spring 2009 issue of "CommonHealth," the biannual newsletter of the Universal Health Care Education Fund (UHCEF) and Mass-Care.

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CommonHealth Newsletter - Spring 2009

  1. 1. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 2 ~ SPRING 2009 CommonHealth Mass-Care & UHCEFs Challenges for 2009 What We Can Do Now to AchieveNational health reform is back on the table for the first time in almost a Single-Payer Health Caregeneration, and the Massachusetts reform law of 2006 is already 1. Volunteer for Mass-Care!beginning to buckle under the financial pressures of a terrible recession • We need office volunteers to make phone calls,as state legislators have now proposed to make documented immigrants write letters, stuff envelopes for special mailingsineligible for the states subsidy program to save money. Mass-Care and • We need volunteers who will work on theUHCEF, along with our grassroots activists and coalition partners, have Legislative Committee of Mass-Care to supportour work cut out for us in the coming year! Here are some upcoming and the bills we have helped sponsor, organize theongoing campaigns that we hope you will get involved with: districts of key legislators to support our bills, go to the legislature and lobby legislators, develop• Mass-Care has joined a national movement to have the single-payer perspective heard during national deliberations on health reform, legislative strategy with the committee including at President Obamas public forums and Congressional • We need volunteers to work on fundraising: grant briefings. Here in Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy is leading health writers, event planners, single payer signs, reform deliberations in the Senate, while Senator Kerry is a senior stickers and posters, house parties for “SiCKO”, member of the Finance Committee that will vote on health reform. and any new ideas. Additionally, three of our Representatives - Markey, Neal and Tierney • We need volunteers to help on broadening our - sit on committees of jurisdiction in the House, which will also vote on access to the media; new contacts with health reform. We need to ensure that Congress hears the full range newspapers, TV and radio stations, local access of health reform options available to residents of the US, and bases TV, press releases its deliberations on what will provide the most equitable and • We need volunteers to be speakers for Single comprehensive access to care in an affordable and sustainable manner. Payer when groups ask us to come and give a• Mass-Care is attempting to build a network of business people presentation. We are going to have a speaker’s representing small- and medium-sized firms. We know from surveys training session soon. that a large portion of the business community supports 2. Go speak to your legislators and be sure they comprehensive reform of the health care system, including single understand what single payer can do for health care payer, but they are not represented by the dominant business in Massachusetts. Keep them informed about new associations. We will be launching a pilot project in Cambridge. developments on single payer and cost control bills• Mass-Care hopes to develop an online tool allowing Massachusetts that need their support. residents to publicly tell their stories of being denied care, struggling 3. Work on the political campaigns of candidates to access or afford the care they need, fighting through health that support single payer bureaucracies, and facing the high costs of the care we do receive. We 4. Host a house party and show “SiCKO” or “Sick hope to make this web-site a powerful tool for collecting, in a single Around the World” on DVD. Mass-Care will provide place, the testimony that virtually all of us hear from our families, our speakers to discuss the movie neighbors, our co-workers and others, and to translate this testimony 5. Work with your local Town Democratic into an effective voice for patients in the health reform process. Committee to support single payer• Mass-Care will continue its close collaboration with Physicians for a 6. Give generously to support Mass-Care financially National Health Program, organizing medical professionals for a because this is a crucial year to elect progressive national health program, and with the Cape Care Coalition, working candidates who will support single payer when towards community-run public health care for all on the Cape. We look Chapter 58 unravels. to volunteer! forward to building our coalition with every year, and keeping up our education and mobilization-oriented campaign work. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein PAGE 1
  2. 2. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 2 ~ SPRING 2009 Massachusetts Single Payer Health Care Trust Bill Business for Single Payer Revised, Refiled as HB 2127 with 49 Co-sponsors! Mass-Care has started an outreach project to engage the business community in a Business forThanks to the hard work of many Mass-Care volunteers before and after Single Payer group. Businesses that have in thethe January filing date, 49 legislators became co-sponsors of HB 2127, the past been reluctant to support Single Payer areSingle Payer Massachusetts Health Care Trust bill. The bill, when enacted finding that the high cost of providing healthand implemented, will provide all Massachusetts residents with quality, insurance for their employees has left themaffordable and accessible health care, end insurance premiums, deductibles with the nasty choice of dropping healthcareand co-pays, and save the Commonwealth about $9 billion per year! coverage altogether or losing the business.To help guarantee health coverage as a right for all Massachusetts Single Payer should appeal to businessesresidents, please check our website ( to see if your because all employees will have guaranteedState Senator and State Representative have signed on as co-sponsors. If health care coverage through the Health Careyour Representative and/or State Senator is missing from the list, please Trust and won’t need coverage through theirexplain that while the deadline has passed to sign on as co-sponsors  they employer. Under Single Payer, employers will nocan still sign on as supporters by calling Peggy Connor in Representative longer have to spend money and time selectingPatrick’s office.  If your Representative or Senator is on our list, please and managing health plans for their employees,thank them and ask them to please talk to their colleagues about and health care costs will no longer cause asupporting HB 2127. competitive disadvantage with other companies or countries.If you feel you need more information to convince your legislators, pleaselook at our website for supporting facts and excellent articles or contact Mass-Care’s new project, Business for SingleMass-Care and one of our volunteers will be glad to go with you to talk to Payer seeks to engage and organize businessesyour legislator. Common reasons that legislators have used for not interested in supporting Single Payer in order tosupporting the Health Care Trust bill include “it’s not politically possible”, develop an activist business lobby to work with“we need to continue to support the reform law of 2006”, “it will cost too the legislature, the Governor, and othermuch”.   The answer is that we are the grassroots political force that will coalition members to adopt a Single Payermake it possible by making our voices heard.  We can convince the system. The first phase of this project will belegislature that it is time to dump the 2006 reform law and support Single carried out this spring and involves conducting aPayer which costs less than what we have now, is sustainable for the long survey to assess the views of local smallterm, and guarantees coverage for everyone. business owners on health care and health insurance as well as to identify businesses weHB 2127 was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health. Co- can partner with in the future. Mass-Care issponsors of our bill who are on that currently in the process of testing andcommittee are Senator Susan Fargo implementing this survey, targeting members of(chair) and Representatives Balser, the Cambridge Local First (CLF) businessToomey and Lewis.  Other members organization. In the future, we will beof the Joint Committee on Public expanding this network to include otherHealth are:  Senators Montigney, communities around Massachusetts.Buoniconti, Chandler, Flanagan,Hedlund and Representatives If any business owner is interested in joiningSanchez (Chair), Quinn, Murphy, this project we welcome you! If there areTurner, Aguiar, Brady, Evangelido. It volunteers who would like to help byis really important to organize visits participating in focus group discussions or doingto these legislators now and in the some on the ground interviewing of selectedcoming weeks! businesses, please contact Ben Day, Director of Mass-Care via email at date of the hearing on HB We need to build support from the business2127 will be October 20 at community in order to broaden our grassroots10:00.  Save the date to support effort for Single Payer! - Brett Schmitz PAGE 2
  3. 3. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 2 ~ SPRING 2009 Real Health Care Reform ... Single Payer HR.676 Among the many issues President Obama has pledged to address in his first 100 days in office is the battle to reform healthcare. The question is: What defines reform? Over a warm weekend back in January, I traveled to Saint Louis, courtesy of SEIU 509’s COPE Committee, as one of 150 delegates from 31 states to participate in the “Labor for Single Payer Health Care” conference. I was greeted by Spring Fundraiser at Ryles a Huge Success! brothers and sisters from every labor union imaginableThe Spring Gala/Ben Gill Memorial Event was a rollicking success! representing a true grassroots gathering of labor activists.First of all $13,200 was added to MassCare/UHEF coffers, the The group discussed strategy regarding coordination ofmost money raised at the annual event in recent memory. The efforts across our country to bring the issue of singlevibrant atmosphere at Ryles was enhanced by the presence of payer to the table of every working man and woman, to ourPresident Obama (life-size cutout), balloons and a raffle table. neighbors, and also to our elected officials, both inApproximately 100 attendees, including state Senators Eldridge government and in our unions.and Galluccio and Representatives Toomey and Wolf, munched on avariety of tasty snacks catered by S&S Deli while they listened Dues-paying union members are only too familiar with ourand danced to the music of the Joe Lillyman Band. constant struggle regarding the cost of our health insurance. The price of health insurance begins to soar andOur keynote speaker, Dr. Gordon Schiff, Past President of we hear from our union leadership to “lace up your sneakersPhysicians for a National Health Program, gave a riveting ‘cause we’re going to Beacon Hill to beat back the attemptspresentation, explaining some of the “dirty words” of the health to shift the cost increases to the workers!” We have hadcare industry including “pre-existing condition”, “rescinded tremendous success lobbying our state reps and senators inpolicies”, and “cherry picking”. He urged us to make our voices this area, but the real issue - why costs continue to soar -heard now to support Single Payer in Massachusetts and in never really gets addressed. We need real Health CareCongress. Reform!!Honorees this year were three of Mass-Care’s chapters. Cape Care Representative John Conyer’s HR.676 represents realhas designed a “first in the nation” regional Single Payer model to reform. The bill focuses on a single payer health carebe run by county government. Legislation to establish a Barnstable system through the expansion of our current MedicareCounty Single Payer plan was filed in January to provide system. HR.676 ends deductibles and co-payments whilecomprehensive, affordable care for all county residents. Cape providing necessary medical care for everything fromCare has built an unprecedented Single Payer grassroots network. primary care to prescription drugs, vision care, dental, andBerkshire Mass-Care/PNHP has been an incredibly successful local long term care, to name a few.chapter by getting all but one of the state legislators in Berkshirecounty to support Single Payer reform through an active and Don’t just take my word - please do your own research.persistent grassroots campaign. Franklin Hampshire is the oldest Websites where you can read for yourself and decidechapter of Mass-Care, providing consistent support through include andorganized community events, public forums, lobbying efforts and, a Massachusetts organization.coalitions. It has organized several non-binding ballot initiativesfor Single Payer all of which have passed overwhelmingly. Mass-Care salutes the dedicated volunteers in each of the chapter swho have made such a difference in educating the public andgetting Massachusetts closer to true health care reform!To top off the afternoon, comedian Jimmy Tingle providedeveryone with laughs galore. His good-hearted humor ranged fromSingle Payer reform to the Pilgrims on Cape Cod and proved that agood laugh is the best antidote to insurance industry outrages. PAGE 3
  4. 4. UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE EDUCATION FUND ~ VOLUME 3, NUMBER 2 ~ SPRING 2009 How to help Mass-Care! Mass-Care and UHCEF need your financial support now to make our voices heard in this extremely important year – the year of healthcare reform! We want true Single Payer reform, not just more incrementalism. We don’t want our present Massachusetts health reform law to become the “model” for the nation because it doesn’t cover everybody; it isn’t continuous; it is not affordable National Focus for individuals, families, municipalities, businesses orBoth anticipation and anxiety are running high as Congressional leaders the state; it is not sustainable over time; and it isconfer with industry “stakeholders” on national health reform, declaring not patient-centered. It is outrageous that theresingle payer off the table and barring advocates from any meaningful are 50 million uninsured in the US, 22,000 people diepresence within the Beltway. Yet pressure for real healthcare reform each year only because they have no healthintensifies, reflected in civil disobedience in the Senate Finance insurance, and the quality of care is the lowest in theCommittee chambers and increasingly militant demonstrations. Here are OECD nations. Your financial support is crucial toa few of the actions Mass-Care has been involved in: achieve Single Payer reform here in Massachusetts and nationally.• January 10-11: Labor for Single Payer formed, with Massachusetts represented by a diverse fifteen-member delegation. Marianne Kiely’s We are very fortunate that we have matching funds write-up for 509 News is reprinted here on Page 3. for the first $7000 contributed in this fundraising campaign. Please be as generous as possible and• February 7: Teach-In on Single Payer & Chapter 58 at Harvard Medical School sponsored by PNHP & Mass-Care. every dollar given up to $7000 will be doubled. Your gifts will save lives and help build a healthier and• February 25: Congressional briefing on Chapter 58, organized by Ben more humane America! Thank you so much for your Day, hosted by Donna Smith, chaired by Representative Eric Massa support! (D-NY); panelists: David Himmelstein, Sandy Eaton, Senator Jamie Eldridge, Mary Ford, Peter Knowlton & Arthur MacEwan; Representatives John Conyers & Dennis Kucinich came to testify as well. (See photo above.)• March 17: White House Regional Forum on Health Reform in Burlington, Vermont, co-hosted by Governors Jim Douglas & Deval Patrick; vigorous single-payer rally outside, highly structured format inside; Ben Day, Sandy Eaton, Peter Knowlton & Bill Walczak allowed in, never called upon to present their views.• March 20: Representative John Conyers visited Northampton, CommonHealth, Volume 3, Number 2: speaking to packed auditorium on prospects for HR.676, Medicare for Director: Benjamin Day All. (Photo at right, compliments of Andrea Burns, PDA) Editor: Sandy Eaton Production: Erin Servaes• April 19: Senator John Kerry hosted “stakeholders” forum on Copy: Pat Berger, Ben Day, Sandy Eaton, Marianne Kiely, healthcare reform at BC Law School; Pat Berger, Benjamin Day, Sandy Bea Mikulecky, Brett Schmitz Eaton and Julie Pinkham raise problems with individual mandate. Photos: Andrea Burns, Ben Day, Sandy Eaton, Rand Wilson• May 20: Fifteen-person delegation met with Representative Ed Printing compliments of Massachusetts Nurses Association Markey’s staff at his Medford office, pressing him to endorse HR. 676; follow-up demonstrative actions planned at Markey’s Framingham and Medford offices, and at Representative Richard Neal’s Universal Health Care Education Fund c/o Mass-Care Springfield office, if endorsements not forthcoming. 33 Harrison Avenue, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02111• May 30: Health reform teach-in at Harvard Medical School, P: 617-723-7001, F: 617-723-7002 cosponsored by Mass-Care, Jobs with Justice and Health Care for America Now. PAGE 4