Nationwide hearings support HR 676

Activists press Congress for single payer system which provides comprehensive medical care for all=

From California to New York, from Alabama to Michigan, single-payer health care activists are organizing hearings to press Congress to listen to the human voices of the health crisis. The Campaign for a National Health Program NOW is calling on communities nationwide to organize citizen/congressional hearings to spotlight the need for action to secure a system of comprehensive health care for everyone in the United States.

Three hearings have already been held — in St. Louis, New York City and Aliquippa, Pa. Plans for 70 other cities are underway.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), who introduced HR 676, the universal single-payer national health insurance act, is organizing the 46-member Universal National Health Care Task Force to attend the hearings and assist local groups. According to a recent poll by Results for America, 67 percent of people in the U.S. (including 48 percent of self-described conservatives) think government should guarantee universal health care coverage. The citizen/congressional hearings are designed to make that national sentiment register publicly and in the halls of Congress.

Missourians for Single Payer led the way. Their four-day program began March 31 with local leaders Mimi Signor, R.N., and Julia Lamborn talking about health care on National Public Radio station KWMU. The next day, the “Health Angels” performed at four locations throughout St. Louis County. The theme of their music, rhyming, and street theater skits was: “You can’t fool us. We know health care for all is possible.”

On April 2, the Missouri group, in conjunction with the Campaign for a National Health Program, held the first citizen/congressional hearing, chaired by John Carlton, health care reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Two Democratic members of Congress, Lacy Clay and Russell Carnahan, joined by seven members of the Missouri State Legislature and an audience of 150, were there to take the testimony of the 50 witnesses. Some witnesses drove more than five hours to attend the event and tell their stories.

Three standing ovations welcomed the message of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) on “Health Care Ethics” at the St. Louis Ethical Society on April 3. Missourians for Single Payer, an all-volunteer grassroots organization, brought together 152 organizations, businesses, and individuals to accomplish this four-day health care blitz.

In New York City, three members of Congress attended a hearing at the Riverside Church in Manhattan on May 14. From nine in the morning to six at night, Rep. Conyers presided over a steady stream of speakers who reported on the health care crisis in the Big Apple.

On May 21 in Aliquippa, Pa., steelworkers, nurses, retirees and many others packed the Croatian Hall in industrial Beaver County, west of Pittsburgh, to testify on the health crisis in their community. Rep. Kucinich and state Sen. Jim Ferlo chaired the session. One of the witnesses, Scott Tyson, a pediatrician and small business owner from Allegheny County, stressed the need to take control back from the insurers in order to save the health care system. He noted that Highmark, the largest health insurance company in Pennsylvania, made $300 million profit this year, on top of a $2.3 billion reserve. “We need to give health care back to the patients and the physicians,” he said. “Please ask that everyone nationally support HR 676.”

HR 676 would create a national single-payer insurance covering everyone for all medically necessary care. This would include physician, hospital, rehab, diagnostic, long-term care, mental health, prescriptions, dental, vision, home health and physical therapy. The plan improves care to everyone, even those who currently have insurance, while extending health care to the 45 million who are now uninsured. HR 676 would transform for-profit health institutions into non-profits, simplify administration through a single-payer system and put the savings into taking better care of everyone.

Marilyn Clement of the Campaign for a National Health Program NOW is working to facilitate more hearings across the country. She states, “Virtually everyone who learns about how a single-payer system would work is convinced that we can do it. It will help save our national economy by costing hundreds of billions less and making health care, rather than profits, the priority.” Further information is available at www.CNHPNOW.org.