GARY, Ind. – “No more Band-Aids!” was the opening theme of a Forum on the Health Care Crisis held here Sept. 13. By the end of the forum, the theme had expanded to “Everybody in, nobody out!” as speaker after speaker gave ringing endorsements of HR 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act, also known as the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.
The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) is a moving force in the coalition that organized the forum. Two hundred thousand steel retirees lost health coverage in the last year when their companies went bankrupt. The latest blow was the loss of health care for 95,000 Bethlehem Steel retirees. This calamity has convinced the steelworkers to call for government action to assure health care for all.
Dr. Quentin Young, of Physicians for a National Health Program, reported that support is building for HR 676 and single-payer national health insurance. That includes labor support, according to Young, who quoted Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers: “The only solution to take- backs on health care is a national health care system.”
Support is building among doctors, too, said Young. At first, only 770 signed the doctors’ statement for a single-payer national health care system run by the government. The number of signers is now at 10,500 and organizers expect to get 20,000 doctors to sign on. They have support from the National Medical Association, the American Women’s Medical Association, and 40 percent of members of the American Medical Students Association, Young reported.
Twenty local rank-and-file unionists presented Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) with stacks of USWA petitions bearing tens of thousands of signatures for “National Health Care for All.” Visclosky made a fighting reply. “Basic to solving the steel problem in the U.S. is solving the health care problem,” he declared. He blasted the loss of manufacturing jobs and then concluded, “We have a government in Washington that has no patriotism and no loyalty to these United States.”
Al McDougall, a miner from Sudbury, Ontario, credited Canadian unions for winning that country’s national health care system, province by province. “National health care saved my life,” he said dramatically. “Now we are busy trying to stop privatization of our health care,” he added.
Members of the coalition that organized the forum included several Steelworker Union locals, SEIU (service employees), HERE (hotel and restaurant employees), AFSCME (state, county and municipal employees), Steelworker Organization of Active Retirees, the Coalition for a Clean Environment, labor studies faculty of Indiana University Northwest, and the Calumet Project.
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