March 4 action for health care rights

Jobs with Justice and hundreds of local unions, retiree groups and health care advocacy organizations, including the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN), have set a national “Health Care Action Day” to link workers’ struggles against premium cost-shifting and cuts in essential health care services to the larger movement to win universal health care reform.

On March 4 it is hoped that hundreds of thousands of workers and community activists across the country will wear stickers, hold rallies, and engage in creative actions to demonstrate their outrage about Bush’s Medicare sellout and to promote true reforms guaranteeing health care for all.

Everyone is on this train

Leaders of JwJ and UHCAN have fashioned a broadly-based health program that will appeal to everyone. They speak for Americans without health care who desperately need it. They speak for workers (union and not-yet-union) who have decent health care benefits and want to keep them and to prevent employer cost-shifting. They are a voice for caregivers and community activists fighting against cuts in essential services. They speak out for seniors opposed to Bush’s new prescription drug program, which encourages employers to cut back on retiree benefits and allows for privatization of Medicare.

With health costs spiraling out of control, most employers are demanding that costs be shifted to workers through premiums, co-pays, and deductibles. For example, 70,000 Southern California grocery workers have been on strike or locked out since October as their employers, led by Safeway Corp., demand the right to phase out funding of their health benefits program.

The Health Care Action Day coalition urges a targeted Congressional strategy that focuses on H.R. 99 and Senate Bill 41. These concurrent bills direct Congress to enact legislation by October 2005 that provides access to comprehensive health care for all Americans and includes points like these:

• Affordable, removing all financial barriers. • Cost-efficient, spending maximum monies toward patient care. • Comprehensive benefits, including long-term and mental health benefits. • Promotes prevention and early intervention. • Parity for mental and other services. • Eliminates disparities in access to care. • Addresses special health needs and underserved rural and urban populations. • Promotes quality and better health outcomes. • Adequate numbers of qualified health care caregivers to guarantee timely access to health. • Adequate and timely payments to guarantee access to providers. • Fosters a strong network of facilities. • Ensures continuity of care. • Maximizes consumer choice of providers. • Easy use system that reduces paperwork for patients, providers and practitioners.

An organizing kit for March 4 Health Care Action Day, including a sample outreach letter and the Health Care Access Resolution now before Congress, can be obtained at the Jobs with Justice web site, Please send in reports of your local action to this column.

The author can be reached at