Regarding HCAN

Healthcare-NOW Position Regarding Health Care for America Now

Prepared by the Healthcare-NOW Board Steering Committee

On July 8, 2008, a coalition of organizations called Health Care for America Now (HCAN) announced a campaign for healthcare reform. A spokesperson for the group stated that they plan to run a multi-million dollar ad campaign and will promote health care reform that offers a mix of public funding and private insurance.

We share the group’s condemnation of our current failing health care system and their noble goal of reaching a solution that brings care to all. We recognize among the HCAN coalition many who also work with us to promote single payer non-profit health care as embodied in HR 676, national legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers.

Healthcare-Now welcomes all to the debate and applauds all activities that expose the role of the profit making health insurance and drug companies as the cause of our current health system’s failures.

Partly because the name of the new group is so similar to our own, it is important that we point out what distinguishes the HCAN position from ours. Even more essential, the distinction is important because the policy issue is the crucial foundation of successful health care reform. We have to get it right this time around.

First, we have to start from a proposal that works. It must make economic and policy sense. We have seen bad policy fail repeatedly as state after state has hoped to reform their health care yet been unable to achieve their goals. The initial surrender to include the private insurance industry in these state bills has sadly undermined all of these well intentioned efforts, and all states are now struggling with the costs of care in these times of economic hardship.

The central role of private insurance companies in the HCAN plan will leave us with the same bad actors that are currently running amok in our health care. We cannot place the fox in the hen house and then hope to regulate his diet. It is in the nature of private health insurance corporations to seek to enhance their profit. (1) The private health insurance system we have leaves 48 million Americans uninsured, causes 18,000 deaths/year, and accounts for half of the bankruptcies each year.

Secondly, we must start from proposed legislation bold and beautiful enough to inspire a nation to rise up in unprecedented action to insist upon its enactment. No good reform can be passed without a grass roots movement that dramatically changes what is possible inside the beltway. HR 676 will bring all medically necessary care to everyone with no co-pays, no deductibles, and no premiums. (2) It will make healthcare a human right and HR 676 a struggle for social justice.

Third, we encourage our friends working on health reform to take heart. It doesn’t make the nightly news, but support for HR 676 has grown so rapidly that it takes your breath away.

HR 676 has 90 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives. It has been endorsed by the Kentucky and New Hampshire Houses of Representatives, the New York State Assembly, and by dozens of cities and counties from Baltimore to San Francisco and from Warren County, Tennessee, to majority Republican Renssalaer County in New York.

The recent General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA proclaimed single payer, universal national health insurance “the program that best responds to the moral imperative of the gospel.”

The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalists recently endorsed HR 676. The U. S. Conference of Mayors, representing over 1,000 cities with populations over 30,000, unanimously adopted a resolution in support of HR 676.

Union support for HR 676 grows daily and includes 34 state AFL-CIO federations, 110 central labor councils, over 445 union organizations and an expanding number of international unions.

In a rising revolt against insurance companies that deny care and interfere with practice decisions, a recent poll of physicians showed that 59% now support single payer. Nationwide, 65% of people believe that: “The United States should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that is run by the government and financed by taxpayers.” (3)

Just as the organized labor and other social justice movements ignited the fire that shaped the FDR era, so we must galvanize a health care movement that will mold the outcome of the era to come. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called us to this mission: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” We must stay the course, building support for the national, single-payer health insurance program embodied in HR 676. We cannot join forces with a coalition that will leave the same failed system in place.

The popular support for single payer is there if we but hold onto our courage and build the movement to win it.

(1)See Navarro, Vincent. “Yes We Can! Can We? The Next Failure of Health Care Reform,” Unch Special report, 3/6/08). See also Rodberg and McCanne, “The Case for Eliminating Private Health Insurance,”, 7/13/07. The insurance industry’s ongoing efforts to privatize Medicare have increased costs and decreased effectiveness. See

(2)Section 102 (a) of HR 676 is very explicit about this. “The health insurance benefits under this act cover all medically necessary services, including at least the following: (1) primary care and prevention; (2) inpatient care; (3) outpatient care; (4) emergency care; (5) prescription drugs; (6) durable medical equipment; (7) long term care; (8) mental health services; (9) the full scope of dental services (other than cosmetic dentistry); (10) substance abuse treatment services; (11) chiropractic services; (12) basic vision care and vision correction (other than laser vision correction for cosmetic purposes); (13) hearing services, including coverage of hearing aids.” Section 102 (c) states “No cost sharing – No deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance or other cost-sharing shall be imposed with regard to covered benefits.”

(3)AP-Yahoo poll, Dec. 2007

For those who want to read more commentary that attempts to clarify this issue, we suggest the following:

Rose Ann DeMoro, California Nurses, takes on HCAN

Has MoveOn lost its mind?

Dr. Quentin Young’s response (PNHP)

Dr. David Himmelstein’s response (PNHP)

PNHP’s blog

Radio debate between Richard Kirsch (National Campaign Manager, HCAN) and Dr. David Himmelstein (PNHP)