Healthcare-NOW! Interviewed by Mickey Z

Mickey Z, of, interviewed our own Katie Robbins.

Here is the interview, in full.

My fellow Big Apple resident Katie Robbins is one of the lucky few able to make organizing and movement-building a full time job. She’s worked on projects with Food Not Bombs in her hometown Akron, Ohio, advocated for family rights through Head Start, and is credited with organizing and directing the first community-based production of The Vagina Monologues to Seoul, Korea (where the bilingual production is still being performed annually by both Korean and foreigner actresses and activists). But while any of those credits would be worthy of a discussion, none of them are specifically why I’m interviewing her here. This conversation relates to her important work with Healthcare-NOW!

Healthcare-NOW! — with chapters and networks working for national health care in almost every state in the union — is a single-issue campaign supporting the movement for a single-payer, national, guaranteed healthcare plan in the United States. Healthcare-NOW’s mission is to eliminate health care injustice in the United States by implementing Bill HR 676 (introduced by Representative John Conyers).

Katie and I exchanged e-mails over the course of two days and here’s how it went:

Mickey Z: It seems no one (outside of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, of course) is happy with America’s market-driven health care system. Do you think the country–particularly in light of the current economic crisis–is finally ready to embrace single-payer as a logical alternative?

Katie Robbins: Yes, the country is absolutely ready, and we’ve got the polling to prove it. According to an Associated Press poll in December 2007, 65 percent responded that the United States should adopt a universal health insurance program in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare. Another poll-side victory was celebrated this year when a study showed a solid majority of doctors–59 percent–now support national health insurance. The current free-market health system in the United States is ruled by health care disparities, waste, and greed that results in poor health care outcomes. A single-payer, Medicare-for-all system provides a simple, effective, and morally-just alternative.

MZ: In response to such support, heavily funded corporate interests have worked long and hard to portray single-payer as socialized medicine that will result in rationed care, long lines, no choice in terms of doctors, and bureaucratic nightmares (which, ironically, describes what we have now). Can you tell us why this is nothing but a smear campaign?

KR: Ah yes, the “S” word…mentioning socialized medicine has proved a successful method of striking fear into the hearts of the American people. The unfortunate reality is that the health care nightmare is right here at home. We are ranked 37th in the world for our health care system, and we have a higher infant mortality rate than countries like Cyprus and Slovenia.

While it is true that the United States has access to the best health care technology in the world, U.S. residents also experience the most extreme form of rationing because health care is only available to those who can pay for it. Financial barriers to care prevent over one-third of the people from accessing needed care resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths each year.

The current system functions with insurance bureaucrats sitting behind desks to advise health care professionals how to treat their patients. People are dying before they get the approval for needed care. Each denial results in direct profits for the insurance companies. A single-payer system (not socialized medicine) removes profit from health care allowing people to choose any doctor in the country and will provide accurate, streamlined payment for quality care delivered in a timely fashion to everyone…while simultaneously saving money.

MZ: In the face of an economic crisis, Congress was able to come up with a plan for $700 billion to do something that the architects of the bailout plan claim will protect the American people. A local news station reported that the amount for the bailout equates to 2,000 apple pies from McDonald’s for every person in the United States. Your thoughts?

KR: It would take a lot less apple pie to provide comprehensive health coverage to everyone in the United States. There have been countless cost-benefit analyses done on HR 676, and every time the savings is a staggering amount somewhere between $70 billion and $350 billion in the first year of implementation. Savings that will go directly to the people who are currently paying outrageous healthcare premiums, copays, and deductibles: individuals, families, schools, city, county, and state government, small businesses, and more. Under HR 676, the savings wouldn’t first go through Wall Street where profits are skimmed off the top, leaving less for the people of the United States. We need to tell our elected officials that health care is the economy, and that we can’t afford not to have single-payer national health insurance.

MZ: Okay, let’s say you reach enough Americans with this kind of information–you energize and motivate them to take control of their health and health care–we’d still have two major party candidates refusing to consider single-payer. How can someone reading this interview work for universal, accessible, affordable health care outside of the current electoral farce?

KR: Great question. Waiting for a president to get elected on a single-payer platform is pretty unlikely. Regardless of the Nov. 4th outcomes, we need a Congress in place that will be courageous enough to pass this much-needed legislation. History shows us that any window of opportunity for national health insurance has slammed shut only to be loosened up again every 10-20 years or so.

Why does this cycle keep repeating itself? Consistently missing from each historical opportunity for health care reform is a massive groundswell directly from the people demanding change. People have been working on single-payer health care reform for decades, but no matter how many health professionals or policy wonks support the idea, without pressure on elected officials coming from their constituency, nothing will change for the better.

If you want to contribute to working for real health care reform, join the movement. Make your voice heard. Vote for single-payer candidates. Find a list of candidates we are tracking at Get a group of people in your district to visit your representative. Make your elected officials nervous. Show them the polls of support for single-payer.

Healthcare-NOW! has used a variety of different techniques to create more momentum behind HR 676. A coordinated Day of Protest was held on June 19th, 2008. People took to the streets in front of almost 20 different insurance companies around the country. Healthcare-NOW! has sponsored hundreds of Truth Hearings around the country where people gather town-hall meeting style with elected officials to hear the stories directly from the people who have experienced injustice in health care.

As a result of these and other concentrated actions, HR 676, the National Health Insurance Act, has 91 congressional cosponsors–more than any health care reform legislation to date. Even better, Healthcare-NOW! is a bottom-up movement meaning that the network of activists develop the actions taken each year at our national strategy conference. So join us!

1 Comment

  1. Courtney in Houston on December 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    HCN Strategy Conference, January 28-29 in Houston TX; Suggestions from around our Houston table of activists & our WinWin google group…. Prefer that this conference primarily focus on STRATEGIES to advance single payer during 2012 election year and “Best Practices”, successful tactics towards single payer movement building; Demanding that candidates include their position on potential of universal coverage legislation, GOTV even though PresO administration & Congress committees kicked Single Payer OFF the table?
    Send eblast to HCN contacts, Facebook & include request on conference registration form to SEND in WRITE-UP of their best practices & successful experiences + group/org contact info PRIOR to conference; Nat’l Nurses United-NNOC-TX has offered to Compile write-ups for handout to be distributed to all conference attendees & orgs who sent info;
    Some time should be allotted to comparison political movement analysis. Ours is the CIVIL RIGHTS movement of our time. Who can research & summarize? Dr.Margaret Flowers? Dr. Ana Malinow? Kevin Zeese? Rita from GA?)- Summarize lessons from civil rights, women’s reproductive choice movement transferable/ applied to single payer movement;
    Who are the orgs/organizers who convinced populous of Mississippi to defeat the fetus-personhood & harmful to women’s health bad bill? How much did it cost & who involved? Lessons from VT & Maine’s health care as a human right campaign- HOW to alter deep seated belief in populous?; KatieR (NY)& MarkP (FL) experiences w/ OccupyWallStreet. & how OWS has been draining, yet energizing our single payer cause? Single Payer as part of the larger ECONOMIC JUSTICE MOVEMENT? Somebody__? from Profit-Making Insurance Must Go org on HOW to turn populous against profit-making hlt insurance? HOW many actions at hlt insurance companies have occurred during 2011? How many single payer action arrests? How many stockholder meetings disrupted/spoken to/ affected? how has this tactic furthered the movement & made ANY change?;
    TWO-hr. focused discussion among SOUTHERN single payer groups, then 15min. summary report to the whole group on SundayPM about organizing single payer in the SOUTH;
    Update on WinWin Campaign in southern munipalities with written How-To materials;
    Update on US Social Forum principles & who has connected single payer movement since June 2010? Summarize notes (written ahead of time) on Facebook & websites utility from Single Payer & ALLY groups, including PDA, PHNP, NNU, specific alerts & response rates during 2011, SEND in answers PRIOR to conf. Nat’l Nurses United (TX) will compile. Other social networking? how many hits, costs, utility usage summary; then somebody spend 15 minutes to summarize all to the whole conference;
    {Don’t be put-off or dissed by “15 min. limit on panel”. Consider that most every other conference, like the huge American Public Health Association allot 15 minutes to cover diverse topics with large databases, years of study, all important” topics. One can generally even READ 6 double-spaced typed pages in 15 minutes.}
    Update on Divestment profit-making ins. campaign & summary report about completed proposals (e.g. the Presbyterian church & upcoming action);
    Summary report- Who & how did we save Medicare/Medicaid & Social Security from the chopping block during 2011?; Research ahead of time–historical context social movement & legal etc.-HOW other groups have successfully influenced Supreme Court historical outcome? Anticipate SpCt decision on “mandated” hlt insurance coverage. How we will respond?
    Who outreaches with cultural workers to successfully influence S.P opinion & activism? Speaker from Madder Than Hell Doctors Tour & the Singing for Single Payer Tour (with Anne Feeney etc)? Union rep speaker-Who got the musicians union to pass their resolution in support of single payer?
    UNCUT rep who organizes flash mob at banks & tactics transferable to SP; Art? photos, film, theatre, performing parody songs & mass media? At lunch or dinner or closing have a rousing couple of sing-a-longs with songsheets to take home & use with local group. As Joe Hill is attributed to saying, ” folks may leave a good meeting and remember a few sentences from a rousing speech but in the morning, they wake up humming the tune”… “A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once,” Hill wrote, “But a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over”…How is cultural work as a tactic successful to movement building?
    Somebody from ___SOJOURNERS magazine or religious leader activist should summarize 15minutes about who is involving faith community & how they moved folk to speak out about SP as economic justice?
    How to get & Rebuild the Dream to send out alert about single payer plan & flood Congress with massive support HR676, etc. lobby letters?; DonB. SF-SinglePayerNowCA– HOW to build a 18,000 state wide database?
    Which SP orgs besides BobH (Medicare for maintain a CONSTITUENT database documenting SP support by Congressional district? Who in Congress do we need to target in 2012? Report on results of Congressional “town halls” during 2010; Summary of public opinion polls on Single Payer- how many people now claim to favor a national single payer plan? Who are we reaching and changing, How many more people/orgs have we won in the last year to the single payer movement?