Health Activists Say “We Need to Make Health Care a Right for All People!”

Report Back from Healthcare NOW!’s Strategy Conference in Philadelphia on November 13 and 14, 2010


Healthcare-NOW! members renew support for national single-payer health care to make health care a right for all, start plans for divestiture campaign from private health insurance, and urge support for advanced state single-payer movements in Vermont and California.

(Philadelphia, PA) Last weekend, 130 single-payer activists representing 24 states, Canada, and Washington DC, gathered in Philadelphia for Healthcare NOW!’s annual strategy conference. Participants were tasked with identifying the way forward for the grassroots movement for single-payer health care through a democratic, bottom-up model of decision making.

Healthcare NOW! represents a broad constituency of people engaged in the struggle to win guaranteed health care for all people with no financial or other barriers. Participants at the conference included social workers, nurses, doctors, patients, the insured, uninsured, and underinsured, people of faith, and medical professionals –folks on the front lines of the healthcare crisis – who are working at both the state and national level to win single-payer payer health care.


Launched in 2004 by founder and visionary Marilyn Clement, Healthcare-NOW! has grown to 54,000 supporters nationwide. With the continued passion of the grassroots movement as on display in Philadelphia, we will continue to grow and win.

The conference was facilitated by Laurie Wen, Healthcare NOW! NYC, and Don Bechler, Single Payer NOW, California.

Activists renewed support for the movement for single-payer national health care, and legislation HR 676. Excitement about advanced state efforts inspired many in the room. Vermont and California are gearing up for serious campaigns to push for passage of single-payer legislation on the state level. Support for these advanced efforts was affirmed as a way to build the movement for a national single-payer health care system.

The agenda was packed with plenary panels focusing on the new health law and its failure to solve the health and economic crisis, the recent PASNAP strike in Philadelphia, organizing in communities of faith, the history of fighting for universal health care, as well as workshops on the Win-Win Campaign for Healthy Cities, Health Care is a Human Right, Outreach and Base Building, Speaker Trainings, Technical Support, and State Strategies.

Decision making was done in the break out groups. 6 fronts of the struggle were identified as themes for the break out groups:

1) Deficit Commission/National Legislation
2) State Strategies
3) Challenging Corporate Power
4) Labor
5) Outreach/Base Building
6) Education

Facilitators were tasked with reaching consensus on recommendations from each break out group so that several refined recommendations were made to the larger group. It is a great achievement to capture the energy and ideas in the movement for the way forward to make health care a right for all. The recommendations from break-out groups are summarized here.

This past weekend represented a success for democracy, grassroots organizing, and the renewed commitment that winning the right to health care in this country is both necessary and possible.


Special thanks to all of the leaders of the workshops, panels, break out groups, and program sponsors featured in the conference program book.

Every attendee received a packet containing new resources including information on how to affiliate with Healthcare NOW! and receive tech support, the new OUTREACH GUIDE, and the NEW IMPROVED MEDICARE FOR ALL BOOKLET (coming soon).

Comments are welcome on the revised booklet as we work to develop useful resources for activists. We welcome you to download and distribute or contact to order more.

Couldn’t make the conference? You can watch each of the plenaries and panels online.

Yours in the struggle,

Katie Robbins


  1. Stuart on November 27, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Lobbyists in Washington should be banned!!! It’s clear that most of our leaders in congress accept the bribes and promises to THEM rather than thinking about the PEOPLE!!! What I would love to see is single payer going to a vote BY the people…SERIOUSLY… Let’s do that and find out truly what Americans think about single payer…A true democracy would do that!!!

    • Linda J on December 2, 2010 at 12:06 pm

      I’m with you on the vote of the people! Sorry to see this website “welcoming back” the losers in Congress who could not even get a public option, much less single payer. And this when 72% of people supported a “government run” option for healthcare!

      Spin doctors working for big insurance aren’t going to let that kind of info out anymore. So Congress will have even more excuses not to work for universal care.

      We need to go to the people, if that is still possible with all the $$ they have to buy Congress and the press.

    • John "Hai" Knapp on December 5, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      AMEN!!! Stuart. They call it lobbying; it is bribery; the same crime that would land you or me in jail. May be capitalism; but it is not democracy.

      I thought much about this, is out of reach medical debts a violation of Ammendment 13? I have even found another from a Florida single-payer group who also thinks it is. Forcing debt on somebody because they get sick; nobody chooses to get sick. If I can’t get away with this argument I will go with violation of the Hypocratic Oath, promise to do no harm. The medical community sicks a dangerous animal on us in exchange for their services. This dangerous animal is called “debt.” I realize that healthcare doesn’t come without a cost and providers are entitled to a fair share. The Bible says “a workman is worthy of his pay.” But, a common way to insure the providers a fair share is HR-676, single-payer.

  2. […] hope this report provides some insights into how Healthcare-now functions as an organization – a report of the conference is available on their website with a write up of strategies from each breakout […]

  3. Richard Heckler on November 28, 2010 at 9:28 am

    NO MORE special interest funding of elections!!!

    Follow the Money!

    WE VOTERS need to say NO MORE special interest funding of elections!!!

    Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run!

    Replace 95% of all elected officials every 4 years for the house and every 6 years for the Senate.

    Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

    Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America :

    Demand an opportunity to vote this change into law on the next ballot.

    Incumbents say NO to the voters and YES to corrupt special interest money.

    We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Demand an opportunity to vote this change into law on the next ballot.

    Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers plus their bought and paid for politicians!

    When will the media get on the the band wagon for public financing of all elected political offices? Local,state and national elections YES. Let’s keep the costs down so many others can afford to run!

  4. Michael Cavlan RN on December 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Linda J

    Could not agree more about your comment on the “welcoming back” statement.

    I had run against one of the people being “welcomed back.” Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota.

    I am a Registered Nurse standing for Single Payer as well as decades long peace, justice and media activist.

    Not only would the Congressman REFUSE to engage in a debate but our merry little campaign was censored by the corporate media. This censorship was mirrored by the “progressive” media and “progressive” blogs out here. Then the League of Women Voters shut us out of debates, no polls were taken and in fact the League of Women Voters shut us out of their printed Voters Ballot Guide.

    The whole experience was horrifying, to say the least.

    I am at a loss as to how we go forward. Even here people cry out “we have to get money out of politics.”

    Who had that as a central message? Ralph Nader.

    Who attacked him without mercy?

    Many, many “progressives.”

    You want money out of politics? Which is the CENTRAL issue of Single Payer, the Wars, loss of rights etc etc etc.

    Then support those campaigns WHO HAVE NO MONEY.. Stop falling for the Democratic Party bait and switch. Stop calling on the Dems to develop a spine.

    Develop one yourself folks. Our campaign got 1% of the vote.

    • charles on December 5, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      You are right Michael Calvin. Unless voters are willing to discipline legislators who vote against single payer, and for war and corporate wealfare, they are just wasting their breath complaining. Not one dollar, not one minute, not one vote for candidates who fail to deliver, not just rhetoric, but actions an results.

  5. Anthony on December 4, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    I think lobbyist is the new boogie man. Some lobbyist work for those that have no voice (the poor, working poor, low information, disabled) and then there are those that lobby for the 6 biggest drains on our economy, big difference.

    Greenpeace hires lobbyist you want to band that?

    We should be focusing locally. The coast are where we can make the most progress. Gov-elect Brown in California will not stand in the way California’s Single Payer health car overhaul. We should help them push it into law. Some with other states that have moved into a position to have Single Payer.

    Forget what happens in D.C that place is lost for the time being.

    Obama is going to go to the well again and we’ll have to show him, we don’t need him for big ticket items and we can use the typical Republican “States Rights” BS against them.

  6. John "Hai" Knapp on December 5, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    What can we do, we must remove the insurers and their crimes,
    install H R 6 7 6 for now it is the time,
    with a single-payer healthcare everyone is covered and noone’s left behind,
    alas health care will be our right, oh won’t it be so fine,
    hand and hand we’ll fight this fight, healthcare will be our right!!!
    boom boom boom
    bang bang then our silver hammer falls on insurer’s heads,
    bang bang then their wicked practice will one day be all dead.
    Beatles, Maxwell Silver Hammer Parody,

    Let’s Doctors be doctors, not slaves to insurers, your doctor decides for you what’s best.
    with the single-payer, as your team player, H R 6 7 6 will ace the test.

    I hope that folks come to believe, that single payer comes quickly,
    hard to believe so many folks think our care’s so great
    while one bad illness away from bankruptcy!
    Owl City, Fireflies parody

    He longed for the crumbs that fell from his table
    of that rich man from so long ago.
    Please consider the poor and sick that you see,
    for it could have easily been you or me.

    Oft I hear from anti-healthcare reforms,
    “I don’t want to pay for your healthcare!!”
    they remind me of that stingy rich man,
    who with Lazarus would never share.
    my own lyrics and melody