Tag Archives: HCAN

Sick and Tired’s Turn to Stand and Fight

I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

How many times have you said or thought that? Plenty, I’ll bet. If you are like ACORN member Tamecka Pierce from Florida who suffers from lupus and serious gaps in her health care coverage, it’s a regular thing.

If you are like the ACORN members I speak with regularly, the mother who worries about her son’s asthma medicine, the partners who worry if their uninsured husbands get injured on the job, the families who face discrimination in the ambulances on the way to the hospital where a lack of insurance can take us 20 minutes farther away to a hospital that will provide care, then you know.

You are also sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Well, you aren’t alone.

Faced with a generational opportunity to fix America’s broken health care system thousands of people are joining together with Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and gathering today, June 25th, in Washington, DC. We are union leaders, healthcare workers, moms and dads, faith leaders, students, advocates, and over 900 ACORN members from around the country all coming together in the largest healthcare rally in American history! We are calling on Congress to pass a quality, affordable healthcare bill.

The sick and tired are going to halls of the well-insured and well-cared-for and telling them that now is the time to reform our healthcare system and provide quality, affordable healthcare to all Americans.

Today we are sending one clear message to our elected officials in Washington: We’ve fought too hard, come too far, and have waited too long for Congress to do too little. This fight is about quality care that people can afford, and that means a package of comprehensive benefits that gives all of us the care we need. We won’t settle for anything less.

We know the enemies of health care reform are working hard to defeat any meaningful reform. And they are being sneaky. They have to be because 72% of Americans support the centerpiece of health care reform: the Public Health Insurance Plan, the so-called “public option”. Opponents of reform say things like, “It’s too expensive.” “Now isn’t the time.” Or they rally behind the idea of buyer co-ops or state-by-state solutions. My friends, these are all stalling tactics aimed at derailing the centerpiece of any meaningful reform. Simply put, we need a robust public health insurance option and Congress needs to make it happen right now.

Because not only are we sick and tired of being sick and tired, we’re sick and tired of excuses, we’re sick and tired of delay, and we’re sick and tired of false solutions. The time is now, the momentum is with us. Now its time for us to fight and win.

The Health Care Reform Coalition Has Its Epiphany

(Not totally a local issue, but it involves a lot of local players, and continues on a subject that gets a lot of attention around here, so I thought I’d share.  Reprinted from my site.)

There’s something of a consensus that Netroots Nation didn’t offer enough adversarial panels and instead largely consisted of bloggers agreeing with one another.  But that’s not true.  I personally witnessed the most adversarial panel of the weekend, and it was spectacular, because finally, both factions of the debate about health care policy on the left were able to come together and understand the political contours of the brewing fight in the Congress.


The panel was entitled “Time for Action: How the Netroots Can Lead on Healthcare Reform,” and was put together by Eve Gittleson, who blogs at Daily Kos under the moniker nyceve.  There’s a good liveblog of the panel here, but what you need to know is that Gittleson stacked the deck.  She had some great health care activists who are doing great work in different areas of the space: Giuseppe Del Priore, MD, MPH a New York cancer surgeon; Hilda Sarkisyan, whose daughter, Nataline, died after being denied a liver transplant by Cigna; Rocky Delgadillo, Los Angeles City Attorney, who is pursuing civil and criminal investigation into insurance practices; Geri Jenkins, RN a member of the Council of Presidents of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.  And then Ezra Klein, associate editor for The American Prospect and a health care policy guru, appeared at the end of the panel.  The aforementioned speakers were all powerful advocates.  Sarkysian, whose family HAD health insurance and still couldn’t get their daughter what she needed, said bluntly “This is not a good country anymore.”  Del Priore discussed the need for doctors and patients to handle questions of care and the need to arrest insurance executives for their crimes in denying coverage.  Rocky Delgadillo outlined the schemes, like rescission (even based on spousal applications), that insurers are engaging in to maximize profit at the expense of patient care.  He also mentioned how California regulators ignored a million-dollar fine to Blue Cross because they feared they would lose the case if it went to court, which is just unbelievable.  And Jenkins argued that the insurance industry will play no role in reforming health care, and we need to move immediately to a not-for-profit system.

Good points all.  And then Eve turned to Ezra:

Eve: Ezra, why does HCAN want to condemn Americans to this kind of system? I get confusing emails from Elizabeth Edwards and MoveOn talking about the atrocities of the insurance industry, then marginalizing the only viable solution. Can you explain this new Edwards HCAN initiative, the TV commercials, etc. . . What’s it all about? What are they trying to do? It seems there are three initiatives on the table–676, Wyden  and HCAN.  What’s wrong with Wyden and Edwards? And a follow-up…what can we realistically expect from President Obama?

I hope you don’t mind that I’m sand-bagging you. I love you, really, Ezra. I just don’t agree with you on this point.

This apparently startled Mr. Klein.  But for him to not know the position of Eve and the CNA and an activist like Hilda Sarkysian speaks a lot to his cloistered state in Washington.  Because I know all about this fight.  I made one positive comment about HCAN upon their launch and took massive amounts of crap for it.  I was called a defeatist and admonished for not being true to the cause.  My only point was that having an organization with $40 million dollars to spend on calling out health insurers on their garbage is going to be tremendously helpful to whatever reform we get through the Congress, and furthermore I didn’t see them having much of a place at the table in the policy debate.  In other words they were finally an organization concerned with moving public opinion and playing the health care debate out on political grounds rather than policy grounds.  And on the panel, Klein echoed the importance of politics over policy:

You can take a lot of approaches to health reform. You can emphasize policy, politics, principles, or some mix thereof. Judging from the panel, Health Care for All, and the California Nurses, could use a bit more politics in their approach. It was a panel about “health reform” — not care or policy, but “reform” — at a conference of engaged politicos that never mentioned the Senate, or votes, or the conditions required for presidential signature.

There was a lot of talk about “fighting” insurers and other special interests, but not much about what that fight will look like, or where it will take place, or who decides the winner. My argument, was that, for reformers, insurers aren’t the real enemy. Setting them up as the opponent actually gives them too much credit. Insurers are stupid, profit seeking beasts — the enemy is American politics, and in particular, the structural feature of the US Senate that have repeatedly killed health reform in the past. No matter what your policy preference, that’s where your organizing has to be focused, because that’s where the actual fight happens: In Congress. Not on panels, or on blogs, or among the Left. In the US Senate, where you have to get to 60, or at least figure out how to get rough Democratic unity for using budget reconciliation and then convince Kennedy and Carper to vote “aye” on the same bill.

This is basically the same argument Ezra makes continuously on his site, but it appeared to hit the audience like they never heard it before.  And considering that it’s largely the correct analysis, it was generally well-received, I thought.  I spoke later with Eve, who told me that she had a conversation with someone from HCAN and “they are not the enemy.”  What a concept – all elements of health care advocacy on the left working together, for a change, toward a common goal.

Now granted, this week they all had a big juicy target.  AHIP, the health insurance lobby, put together a fake grassroots front group called The Campaign for an American Solution.  Of course, that “solution” involves funneling more cash and customers to the same broken insurance system we have now.  Now, who was the very first group to coordinate a counter-attack on this front group on the first stop of their listening tour in Columbus, OH?  That’s right, HCAN

Well, that didn’t take long.

A day after Politico reported the health insurance industry is launching a health care reform campaign next week, the progressive reformers are firing back.

Health Care for America Now announced Friday that it plans a news conference and a rally next week to counter the insurance industry’s Campaign for an American Solution, which launches in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday with a roundtable discussion among uninsured locals.

“They’re pretending that the health industry represents the American public, and we need to make it really clear to them and the public that all they represent are their own profits,” said Richard Kirsch, national campaign manager for Health Care Now.

Indeed they did attend the launch, and got to ask some tough questions, confronting the head of AHIP and asking her how an insurance industry group could possibly be objective in pushing for lower rates and higher quality coverage when they are concerned solely with the profit motive.  It got heated, and I’m glad they did.  And all of a sudden, Daou’s Triangle started closing.  Rep. Pete Stark came up with a great quote:

“America’s Health Insurance Plans’ new ‘Campaign for an American Solution’ rings as true as the tobacco industry’s efforts to end smoking. There is nothing grassroots about it. It is designed, financed, and coordinated through their Washington trade association with the singular goal of protecting their profits.

“I hope it is true that these companies intend to be a positive force in health reform efforts, but I tend to be cautious when the fox starts drawing up plans for a new henhouse.”

HCAN called up the hotline for the Campaign for an American Solution that they set up for the public to provide input… and they got an answering machine.  They’ve trickled this out one by one and pretty much ruined the launch of AHIP’s front group.  That’s REALLY important for the future of health care reform.  Because on the policy the views are far closer on the left than most people imagine.  Everyone knows that whatever system is ultimately put forward can be paid for in a far better manner than the current wasteful, inefficient system.  So expense should never be a deterrent, meaning we can build whatever system we choose and it is extremely likely to go revenue-neutral very quickly once we eliminate the shoddy budgeting of the current broken system.  We know that health insurers will not jeopardize their profit margins unless they’re forced to.  Once you recognize these two realities, the policy goals become fairly clear.  The political goals have to include attack dogs pushing back on the false memes of the right and the insurance industry, and pressuring the Senate to do the right thing.

Now Obama’s plan includes some better regulation toward insurers (including guaranteed issue and community rating) and a public option to compete with the private insurance market and take the step toward a sequential single-payer.  (His latest addition to the plan, a tax credit for small businesses who offer quality health care, is borrowed directly from the Clinton plan, raising hopes that eventually he’ll just borrow all of it, as he should).  Despite this being a fairly modest set of reforms, McCain and the right are going to denounce it as government-run “Hillarycare” anyway.  So it’s vital to have a broad coalition to give as good as they’ll get from the right and give the lawmakers backbone to push the policy forward.  Matt Stoller writes:

Coalitions are strange beasts, with multiple moving parts, but they are also the only way anything gets done.  A coalition has a core of organizers behind it, and a variety of groups out in front who each take different roles.  Some people can talk to Republicans, some people can talk to Democrats, some people threaten, some people cajole, some people talk to businesses, etc.  HCAN is driven by labor in the form of SEIU, the NEA, AFSCME, and United Food and Commercial Workers, as well as groups primarily funded by labor such as Americans United for Change and the Campaign for America’s Future.  It is also driven by direct mail and Foundation based organizations,  such as La Raza, Planned Parenthood, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Stoller goes on to make the point that HCAN should broaden their mandate and make this a fight about general health, and I agree.  Going after convenience stores that sell fatty, sugar-laden food to kids sounds like it could be a part of their mandate.  The farm bill, the transportation bill (more mass transit and more livable, walkable cities means healthier lives), and others could be brought onto the field of battle.  But the larger point is that coalitions of this nature are built because they work.  And the benefit is that they give lawmakers breathing space to do their job and the spine to do it right.  This moment in health care demands that everyone understands the political spade work necessary to reach the desired outcome.  So out of the ashes of that contentious NN panel came something pretty special.  Groups across the center-left ideological spectrum working together to end the health care crisis in America and restore treatment as a basic human right.

Health Care For America Now Launches in CA, With An Eye Toward Bush Dogs

Today marks the launch of Health Care For America Now, a national coalition which plans to organize millions of Americans at the grassroots level to advocate for quality, affordable health care for everyone.  

We’re bringing together community organizers, nurses, doctors, small business owners, faith-based groups, organizations of people of color, and seniors who believe it’s time we had an American solution that provides quality, affordable health care for everyone.  

We’re offering a bold new solution that gives you real choice and a guarantee of quality coverage you can afford: keep your current private insurance plan, pick a new private insurance plan, or join a public health insurance plan.  

We’re also calling for regulation on health insurance companies. We need to set and enforce rules that quash health insurance companies’ greed once and for all.There is a huge divide between our plan and the insurance companies’ plan for healthcare reform. We want to make sure you have the quality coverage you need at the price you can afford. They want to leave you alone to fend for yourself in the unregulated, bureaucratic health insurance market.

Our plan is affordable for people and business. Their plan is profitable for them. With no regulation, health insurance companies can and will charge whatever they want, set high deductibles, and continue to drop coverage when you get sick.   Now is the time to pick a side. Which side are you on?

Elizabeth Edwards is one of the high-profile faces of this coalition, but it’s fairly broad, including AFSCME, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America’s Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, MoveOn.org, the NEA, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood, the SEIU, the UFCW, and USAction.  Today they are running live launch events all over the country, including two in California.  One is happening at this hour in Los Angeles, featuring Lt. Governor John Garamendi.  There’s another event in San Francisco on the steps of City Hall at 11:30 featuring Mayor Gavin Newsom.  The names shouldn’t surprise you – they’re both two of the most high-profile advocates for universal health care in the state, and they’ll both use the issue as a springboard for their 2010 gubernatorial campaigns.

What I’m more interested in is HCAN’s strategy to work inside Bush Dog districts to hold them accountable should they prostrate themselves for the insurance industry.

The work of Health Care For America Now was first made public late last week. But the group, with Elizabeth Edwards as a figurehead, offered expanded insight into the details of its campaign during a meeting on Monday. In addition to spending $40 million — $1.5 million of which will be put behind an initial ad buy (national TV, print, and online) — the group will be sending organizers to 52 cities, blasting out emails to 5 million households, airing spots on MSNBC and CNN and submitting op-eds to major papers (officials hinted at the New York Times piece to come).

In addition, the campaign is going to take advantage of Moveon.org’s massive data files to reach out to like-minded supporters and officials promised to work in Democratic and Republican districts alike.

“We’ll have an organizer in the district of every Blue Dog Democrat,” said HCAN campaign manager Richard Kirsch of the conservative Democrats.

“The focus of the campaign,” he added, “is on national legislation. “This year, however, it is also a referendum: do you support quality, affordable, health care for all, or an alliance with the private insurance industry?”

Right on.  These Bush Dogs need constant pressure and the threat of job loss in order to do right by their constituents.  I don’t know how successful HCAN will be, but they certainly have the right strategy.