Healthcare petition urges: Everybody In, Nobody Out

For more than five years, medical students from the University of Kansas Medical Center have put in long hours serving uninsured patients at their Jay Doc Free Clinic.

Last year, a number of students and physicians involved in such efforts started a new group, Heartland Healthcare for All. Their aim is to push universal health care beyond the walls of their free clinics and into federal legislation that would leave no patient behind.

With a new president preparing to take office, they’re not wasting any time sending their ideas to Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Stephens, a medical student at KU Med and a member of Heartland Healthcare for All, says the organization started with a viewing of Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, Sicko, which criticizes the current model of private health care as ineffective and unjust.

“They left the movie outraged by what they had seen,” Stephens says of a group of students and professionals at the screening. “They started talking in the lobby and decided to form a group of concerned citizens.”

Since then, the HHFA has organized vigils and protests to advance a more equitable system. They’ve thrown their weight behind a publicly financed, single-payer system, like the one proposed by Michigan Congressman John Conyers and co-sponsored by Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “We really believe the most equitable and most cost-effective way to truly have a system where everybody’s in and nobody’s left out is a single-payer system,” Stephens says.

Now the group is trying to get more citizens on board.

After Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for president, his campaign called for citizens to hold meetings in their homes and to discuss the changes they’d like to see in Washington, D.C. About 40 people showed up to an HHFA-sponsored gathering to talk about health care, Stephens says. The group came up with a unanimous vision. They put that wording down on paper. Now they’ve turned that session into an online petition that demands: “Everybody In, Nobody Out.”

In the two weeks since it went live, the effort has gained more than 100 signatures. Stephens says the hope is to get as many names as possible and then send the message to the new president once he takes office.

“He’s asked for input from the people who elected him,” Stephens says of Obama. “We thought this would be a great time to show the president-elect and local representatives and senators there is strong support for this and people want it. Politicians aren’t ever going to go out on their own and do something radical. They have to know the people who voted for them want that change first. We want to demonstrate wide support for this so they can get behind it, as well.”

This weekend, the Obama camp is once again calling on citizens to throw house parties to jump-start political discussions. Before then, though, the members of HHFA will gather at the same free clinic that hosts the Jay Docs tonight to keep pushing for a system that’s open to everyone.

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