2008 National Strategy Conference Round-Up

Thank you to all who made it to Chicago for the Healthcare-NOW! National Strategy Conference! It was a weekend packed with review, assessment, strategy, and inspiration for those of us bracing for the upcoming legislative battle for single-payer. For those of you who weren’t there, you missed a GREAT conference!

This post contains a detailed report back that stresses the most important points covered during the weekend, so please take the time to familiarize yourself with the new developments and strategies. As you know, it is a very busy time for all of us in the single-payer movement, and we need EVERYONE to be as active as possible.

About 100 activists attended the conference in Chicago.

Healthcare-NOW! activists are reaching out to the current HR 676 cosponsors, and in unity with Progressive Democrats of America, we will have report backs on all contacts to cosponsors by December 3rd. In the upcoming months, we will be focusing on coordinated lobbying efforts and days of action. Please stay posted for how you and your local coalition can be involved!

The theme of the Healthcare-NOW!’s conference was to BUILD and DELIVER – Build the movement and Deliver impact to the new administration and Congress.

Saturday, November 15th

National Partners Meeting

On November 10th and 11th, 2008, an historic meeting took place in Washington DC that brought together national organizations ready to take leadership in the single-payer movement especially as the legislative debate heats up in Congress. The alliance of Healthcare-NOW!, Physicians for a National Health Plan, California Nurses Association, and Progressive Democrats of America was established as the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care over a year ago, but the meeting in DC on Nov. 10th and 11th was initiated to bring together the leaders of the single-payer movement to build a more coordinated effort on the national level. Nearly 60 people attended representing national organizations ready to lead on single-payer.

The first panel in during the Healthcare-NOW! Strategy Conference in Chicago on Saturday evening was to report back on the DC meeting. The panel consisted people present at the meeting in DC: Don Bechler, Single Payer NOW!, Mark Dudzic, Labor Party, Kay Tillow, All Unions for Single Payer, Ray Stever, Industrial Union Council, Quentin Young, PNHP, Hal Sanders, Western PA Coalition for Single Payer, Joe Jurczak, California Nurses, Donna Smith, American Patients United, and Tom Knoche, Healthcare-NOW! Many topics were covered, but the most important aspect of this meeting is that meetings will be sponsored by Congressman Conyers’ office in DC for the National Partners to meet and continue to strategize. The next meeting will be on December 3rd. We are going to use this national leadership to communicate to the grassroots for lobbying efforts, national days of action, and deliver real impact on the next Congress because it will need to focus on the work being done in the Congressional Districts to make a real impact on Congress.

There is currently a lot of Senate Activity around Healthcare Reform. We are vigilant to report when Senate Hearings on health care are planned and will use tactics to pressure Senators to support single-payer. A sample letter to Senator Kennedy is here.

Celebrate Our Work in 2008

Excellent movement building steps took place in 2008 within the Healthcare-NOW! network. We heard from a few of the amazing activists that helped push this movement forward including:

  • Rebecca Elgie and Donna Smith on the launch of the Single Payer New York State Coalition and NY State Road Show
  • Don Bechler reported on the success of the passage of SB 840 in the California State Legislature, though it was voted down by the Governor.
  • Chris Lindberg reported on the Northwest WA Road Show
  • Hal Sanders discussed the great work of the Wester PA Single Payer Coalition
  • Ethel Long Scott and John Horgan discussed the Regional Conferences on Individual Mandates and Health Care as a Human Right
  • Katie Robbins discussed the amazing work that went into the coordinated days of action including the June 19th Day of Protest Against the Insurance Industry and July 30th Medicare’s 43rd Birthday

Please watch the wonderful slide show put together by Philip Swift to highlight the wonderful work of Healthcare-NOW! in 2008. Many of our activists make an appearance.

John Conyers “How we will win HR 676”

Here is an excerpt from John Conyers’ speech:

“We were playing defense until NOV 4th. Now we are playing offense. That means we have to share in the exchange of ideas-–let’s take to the streets picket etc that’s a point of view-–another view–-let’s start talking with each other about this–the media and political establishment is trying to avoid it-–no talking it over. It’s the 600 pound gorilla. Not supposed to be talking about it, but everyone is thinking about it-–question–-how do we engage in this discussion-–we’re the ones who are using facts-–there is no study about SP that is something that we have to dodge or deny–we are taking a magnificently complex and all encompassing piece of legislation to America and the world-–not hiding anything or fudging figures-–trying to anticipate them-–this is the greatest learning experience that any member of congress is going to have about any subject. We’ve got to bring this to them and let me know that we have the majority of people already, we don’t have to persuade them-–ask them HR 676 vs. anything else–-you don’t have to take a night school class.”

Sunday, November 16th

Skill Building Workshops for Early Risers:

Protests and Rallies – See Online Tool Kit for ideas!

Win-Win Campaign – Tom Knoche led a great discussion this GREAT campaign. Activists all over the country are working on it! Join up today!

Winning State Legislature Support – John Noronha and Ray Stever discussed influencing State Legislatures to support HR 676.

Building Media Support for Single Payer – Donna Smith and Rebecca Elgie led a great workshop on getting local media for local events.

Organizing a kick-ass local coalition for single payer – Don Bechler of Single Payer NOW.

Don has been organizing for single payer in California for over 15 years. He shared some great advice for building and managing a local coalition. We are hoping to have video footage of Don’s presentation soon because it is concrete info that every single-payer organizer needs to know and use.

John Conyers’ 2nd Presentation, “How Healthcare-NOW! can help win HR 676”

Excerpt from Congressman Conyers’ second presentation:

“This is the most single powerful domestic issue facing us. It can easily be corrected once we organize. We’re gonna hold hearings at the local and municipal level. State level people who can understand what it is that we’re trying to do. We’re gonna take Stevers idea-–what he’s doing for the New Jersey Leg–-a document and resolution for state house–-gonna do this in every state (Applause) another hearing on what 676 means to the homeless – ½ homeless not unemployed. They are catching hell as if they were at the bottom of the barrel. I close with this idea–-we are writing a history of how we got there. Every year, every month, every day, we are writing our own history , we won’t need a historian to come along, we’re gonna do that ourselves, and we are also going to do a historical health study of every health system on the planet. This is not just an episodic adventure on one bill, we will bring a new attitude about health care through out the world by just thinking and talking occasionally. Every one of you hear is part of our family–-I mean we’re not related. Conyers came out of a plantation in Georgia-–started a junction-–now there is a Conyers Georgia, prosperous suburb, and that’s enough for me. I consider you my extended family, because we believe in the same thing, we’re related by ideology. Because we share the same world view, not on everything, but on this subject we are one and that’s why we’re gonna win.”

Regional and state-Wide Organizing Panel

Mark Dunlea, Moderator

Regional Workshops – Hal Sanders – A wonderful resolution in support of HR 676 was put forth by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Hal Sanders is assisting in the planning of 10 Regional Workshops in 2008 educating people about HR 676. The first will take place in Pittsburgh.

State Legislators – Sandy Fox – We’re very proud of Pittsburgh – we have the good fortune to have access to state senator Jim Furlough. He is willing to do whatever he needs to do to sponsor 676. Passed along idea to senator Furlough – to spearhead effort to sign onto statement in support of 676 – even if resolution cannot pass, individual legislators can sign on in support. This is another avenue to get their support. Draft of cover letter to senators – met with Furlow last week and talked about these ideas. Hoping to build this constituency – urgent appeal to president elect Obama. Walter game me his first draft – Obama – HC is a right At least 10 and maybe 20 signers for the cover letter. Need people on the ground, organizers, willing to follow up. If you are interested in helping to support this effort with your local state legislators, please contact Sandy Fox at sm2fox@yahoo.com.

State-wide Coalitions – Rebecca Elgie, Mark Dunlea, Donna Smith, and Ray Stever

Health Care: A Human Right Means Single-Payer

Ethel Long Scott of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project led an excellent panel detailing their work on health care as human right. WEAP has held Teach-Ins and Truth Hearings while also working with the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Coalition to educate poor people on their right to health care.

Jael Myrick, STRONG (Standing Together to Represent the Next Generation) — 2007 – We decided to focus on the issue of health care. 13.7 million b/t ages of 19 and 39 without health insurance. Started doing trainings with Ethel’s group. We didn’t know the specifics. Started doing trainings. There are people in our org who aren’t in college, are in community college, grad, professionals. Working as a catalyst to educated more people about SP – spread the word – do the ground work. Another reason we got majorly involved – during pres elections / primary thought UHC was equivalent to mandates. Worked hard to defeat that. Use the Health Care is a human right framework. Making sure that this is something that everyone has a right to. Also wanted to talk really quickly, young people were a major part of making sure tat BO was elected people think that it’s because he’s a celebrity or cute or something, but the truth is that if you are my age you have experiences one of the most borderline fascist govt. that we have ever seen. They were voting based on issues. He was elected by people who want SP HC. I want to talk about this idea that we need to give him a space – the best thing you can to do to make sure he is reelected make sure he passes USPHC – MO 11% w/out Health ins. If in 4 years they have HC and they see a real change in their lives then he is going to win in the biggest landslide we’ve ever seen.

Nicole Martin – WEAP – Why the Human Rights framing is so important for this movement – this is the strategy that we should use and it is doable and is effective. Will convince people to mobilize and pass – based on principles not just a piece of leg. This strategy is very practical – move forward and take advantage of movement behind Obama. Article from People s Health Movement – Lora T. “the right to health, one of the worlds best kept secrets” Based on really important principles. What we need to remember is that this is an internationally recognized slogan. What’s important is that our govt is not holding up this right. A lot of people in media misuse the message of universal – need to reeducate about what this means. Statement about right to health – tied to the poverty of a nation – also need to eliminate poverty. Why WEAP organizes for Single payer in tandem with poverty issues. These are the groups that are marginalized the most. Right of making choices that affect health. Rights apply to everyone without exception. Really explain and talk to people about what it means – make it real. We can’t claim our rights unless we know what they are. HR 676 is the only piece of leg that will get us there. WEAP organizes with this framing with everything that we do. Hold truth commissions once a year. Teach ins once every 2 months. Make lit to fit the group we will be talking with. Over all message–solution. Health Care is and Economic Human Right tool kit.

“How the economic crisis presents opportunities to advance HR 676” – Economist: Dr Arthur MacEwan

Read a summary and listen to the audio here!

Roughing Out and Refining Healthcare-NOW!’s Strategy in 2009

This portion of the Healthcare-NOW! Strategy Conference is the most critical aspect of bringing everyone together each year. During this time there was a plenary brainstorming session where all of the ideas below were presented. Then, specific ideas were highlighted as priorities for the year. Healthcare-NOW!’s work for this year will be largely built around this outline.

Strategy/Tactic suggestions from Nov. 15-16 Healthcare-NOW Strategy Conference

We have highlighted the suggestions that attendees suggested should be priorities. We combined suggestions in a couple of cases where they included or enhanced the same idea.

1. Strengthen Local Coalitions by doing any or all of the following:
a. Add new partners (business, faith, NOW, AMSA, ARA, patients, welfare rights advocates, etc.)
b. Meet regularly
c. Tailor HR 676 message to local issues (e.g. auto workers dilemma in districts with auto factories
d. Phone trees
e. Tabling to sign up new people
f. Local fundraising to provide some operating $
g. Letters/cards generated at every meeting
h. Build data bases by Congressional District
i. Teach-ins to bring in new folks, with action component
j. Increasing diversity of coalitions in terms of race and gender, and in terms of variety of interest groups represented
k. Develop local action plans focused on CDs in coalition area

2. Take quick action to confirm support in next Congress from present co-sponsors. Encourage them to sponsor again and not jump to other bills. Healthcare-NOW targeted states include: FL, GA, LA, MD, NJ, PA, SC, TX, WA, RI, WI.

3. Make Obama a focus of our pressure, too. Engage youth especially in this endeavor. Valerie Jarrett is a key contact in the Obama transition team.

4. Make better use of social networks.

5. Use Win-Win campaigns to build new support and put HR 676 in context of economic crisis. Tie endorsers into special hearing Conyers may have on how HR 676 could benefit state and local government. Tell Congress people about savings local governments in their district could realize.

6. Rethink “Healthcare not Warfare” slogan because it implies we need money from the war to fix the healthcare system, which is not the case.

7. Conduct a second round of local hearings. Have people testify to help show why Kennedy and Baucus approaches won’t work. Invite Conyers and/or local Congress people to attend. Use regional action meetings (such as Presbyterians propose) in a similar way.

8. Have a targeted list of Congressional members. Use doctors in delegations designed to move “knuckleheads.”

9. Plan a presence in Washington, via national days of actions, rallies, marches, etc. Two proposed include the day in January when HR 676 will be introduced into the 111th Congress, and February 11 – anniversary of when HR 676 was first introduced.

10. Use MLK Day events to energize local coalitions for their work in 2009. (Some expressed concern that this would interfere with the celebration of the civil rights movement. Others thought local coalition organizing consistent with spirit of MLK Day).

11. Get State legislatures and legislators on board with HR 676. Could begin with a local hearing. (Legislative bodies in NY, NH, KY have already endorsed.)

12. Sponsor monthly call-in and/or lobbying days. Feb. 11 could be one – anniversary of when HR 676 was first introduced.

13. Do our piece of the national partners goal of 1,000,000 letters campaign.

14. Get letters to Senator Kennedy to move him toward HR 676. Use HR 676 co-sponsors to help push Kennedy.

15. Use our web site as a clearinghouse for CD level meetings with Congress people. Idea is to strengthen local delegations with reps from other national partners.

16. Have a single-payer “hour strike.”

17. Name Healthcare-NOW reps to be part of the national steering committee. (Our Board has already voted to have Healthcare-NOW join the national coalition.)

18. Have State legislators sign a pledge (as individuals; there are 7,408 of them) to endorse HR 676. Couple list with DC press event, testimony in DC, impact at events such as National Council of State Legislators.

19. Message HR 676 as a:
a. human right (note relevant Dec. 16 event?)
b. moral imperative;
c. economically sound way to address current crisis; and
d. sound public policy.

20. Plea for national endorsers to do more. (Healthcare-NOW will be requesting donations from many of them!)

21. Question CNA’s “Start from scratch” campaign. Problem is that Expanding and Improving Medicare is not “starting from scratch.”

22. We need a good logo to go with the One Plan, One Nation motto. The logos presented at the conference were not on the mark.

23. Develop a moveon.org type campaign for single-payer.

24. Get 20,000 HR 676 signs out at the inauguration.

25. Do more to address the job impact of HR 676. (Congressman Conyers has said the version of HR676 that will be introduced in January will have stronger provisions regarding displaced workers.)

26. Attend the bi-weekly meeting with Conyers’ staff. (Healthcare-NOW’s Steering Committee has agreed to make sure the meetings with Conyers’ staff are covered. Chris Townsend was suggested as additional person to help with this.)

27. Use celebrities (M. Moore, Oprah, Donna and Adrian from SiCKO, etc.) to promote HR 676.

28. Organize our database by Congressional District.

29. Make better use of patients and people who have been abused by health-care system.

30. Have local coalitions do an assessment of the Congressional districts they cover, and develop a strategy to win support from Congressional reps. It should also address whether either of the Senators in the state could be possible HR 676 supporters. (Mark Piotrowski will work with staff to develop a guide to assist with these assessments.)

31. Get a companion Senate Bill introduced. Analyze possible Senate supporters and ask what it will take to get them on board.

32. Sponsor a single-payer speaker tour.

33. Support the regional meetings that the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be sponsoring.

34. Understand the Congressional hearing process and rules for participation so that we can effectively participate in Baucus hearing (Nov. 19) and others that will follow.

35. Work to add more diversity to our movement, nationally and locally.

36. Have the names of those who lost their life because of lack of insurance or denial of care read in Congress.

37. Send congratulation letters to those elected and or re-elected to Congress. Ask for a meeting to discuss HR 676.

38. Tell the Governor of IL to appoint a Senator to fill Obama’s seat who supports HR 676.


  1. Peter Christiansen on November 27, 2008 at 1:36 am

    We need a single national health program to guarantee that people don’t die from losing their private for-profit health insurance.

    Unemployment should not become a life threatening disease.