For ninety-nine years the campaign for universal health coverage has relied on conferences, panel discussions, petitions, and rallies. These vent moral indignation but lack power. Today, 51 million Americans without medical insurance and 30 million Americans paying for inadequate coverage will not get prompt affordable health care through polite legal means.
That’s because Congress and insurance companies are now significantly owned by multinational investment firms. Thus policy is made in remote boardrooms that maximize profit and minimize people. These stuffed suits and their puppets have no concern for suffering Americans, slick advertisements notwithstanding.
Therefore, to take effective control of medical care, the uninsured and our allies have begun organizing to damage the profitability of insurance investments, while building a new American health system.
The League of Uninsured Voters (LUV) embraces the American tradition of rowdy confrontation that ended slavery, gained votes for women, won the eight-hour workday, pressed for social security, demanded civil rights, secured AIDS funding, and established the nation.
Through LUV, we uninsured take leadership to expand Medicare to all. Liberal campaigns need our initiative, because moral indignation is less powerful than desperation. Richard Kirsch, director of Health Care for America Now said, “We would never want to organize the uninsured by themselves because Americans see the problem as affordability,” according to an AP news article. We 50 million uninsured, though, see the problem as life-or-death.
Our successful confrontations require calculating the needs and vulnerabilities of insurers and their investors, in order to frustrate them until we win. There are several ways to damage profitability. Foremost, our liberal allies can withdraw money from stock markets and move it into regional economies and local banks – especially into special funds for weatherization, solar power, local farms, and microlending. The largest stockholders of medical insurance include Microsoft, Google, Apple, Chevron, Exxon, Cisco Systems, Pfizer, Merck, Bank of America. Such divestment is necessary for ending medical apartheid.
Members of LUV do not petition Congress. We do not send them our signatures; we send them our medical bills. We enclose these with the note, “You voted against expanding Medicare, so you pay it.” Likewise we send our medical bills to HMOs with the note, “Your company lobbied against expanding Medicare, so you pay it.” Millions of such letters yearly will clog the system.
When your family, friends, or community are being violently squeezed by greed, it’s impolite to be polite. So here are more acts we are taking:
• We ask our labor union friends to demand pension fund divestment from insurance companies.
• We ask our friends abroad to divest from American stocks until America respects our lives.
• We ask drivers and truckers to boycott Chevron and Exxon, which fatten on insurance stocks.
• We turn off TV channels and cancel newspaper subscriptions when media tell us we aren’t worth the money. We’ll seek news that strengthens us.
• We refuse to vote for anyone who voted against our health. There are more millions uninsured than in AARP.
• We encourage family and friends not to enlist or re-enlist until America defends our lives. By paying taxes we get a free army. We should get free medical care, too. With bases in 150 countries, our military no longer defends the nation; it offends the world.
• We take our ailing friends to clinics tending the rich and we will not leave until tended. When challenged, we invoke the “necessity defense” – breaking existing law to prevent greater harm.
• We invade insurers’ offices, conferences, and golf courses.
• We start regional stock exchanges.
At the same time, the League of Uninsured Voters will build a new American health system.
• We will demand the right to start regional member-owned health cooperatives that develop low-cost accident plans according to strict standards of affordability, transparency, and democracy. These will provide the genuinely nonprofit infrastructure upon which national insurance can contain costs.
• We will start local health co-ops that compete with health insurance, even where in violation of laws made by insurers. We invoke again the necessity defense.
• We will create more member-owned community health clinics.
• We will demand medical schools and greater emphasis on preventive, family, and holistic care.
• Our new system will permit doctors to practice in any state.
• Our new system will permit Independent Nurse Practitioners in all states.
• We will end corporate bribes to legislators and regulators.
• We will shift budgets from prisons and war to clinics and jobs. We’re better served by creating jobs fixing our schools and bridges, and by building 150,000 new free clinics.
• We will demand clean water and air. Since health is more than pills and surgery, we’re an environmental movement.
Our actions will be nonviolent but as extreme as our situation.
Is this class war? Yes. We didn’t start it but we’ll finish it. As billionaire Warren Buffett says, “It’s class warfare; my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be.”
Paul Glover is founder of the League of Uninsured Voters, Ithaca Health Co-op, the Patch Adams Free Clinic, Ithaca HOURS local currency, Citizen Planners of Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, and other programs. He is also author of Health Democracy and A Crime Not a Crisis. paulglover.org