Single Payer Now

Blog


Students Rally for Single Payer in CA

  • Posted: Jan 19th, 2014

The California Allied Health Professional Student Alliance (CaHPSA) is an organization of medical, nursing and allied health professional students who support & advocate for a universal, single-payer, “Medicare for All” healthcare system in California. On Monday January 13th, over fifty students participated in a march and rally at LA City Hall themed “Completely Covering California”, which commenced in lobby visits with members of the L.A. City Council and Board of Supervisors. The visits were organized in an effort to gain support for a resolution to be passed by local officials which would assist California in applying for a waiver in 2017 to move forward with “state innovation” as specified under section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act.

This was the ninth annual Lobby Day sponsored by CaHPSA. Traditionally the rally and lobby visits take place in Sacramento where the students have lobbied support from legislators for a state single payer bill, The California Universal Healthcare Act (SB810) which twice passed both houses of the California legislature but was promptly vetoed by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Without a bill this current legislative cycle, CaHPSA and allies in the  healthcare justice movement are advocating that we move forward with state single payer legislation which would cover every man, woman and child. Estimates are that across the county, Obamacare will still leave 20–30 million people without healthcare insurance. As the future of medicine and healthcare in this country, members of CaHPSA are calling for an end to the corporatization of our health and the billions of dollars in profits stolen by the health insurance industry and big Pharma each year.

On January 25th, members of Northern California CaHPSA will be lobbying elected officials in the bay area supporting resolutions to seek waivers for state innovation in 2017.

Photo by Mike Chickey.

Lisa


Medicare Turns 47: Can our nation be proud as the Brit’s with their N.H.S.? –YES!

  • Posted: Aug 1st, 2012

Over the years,  I have participated in several celebrations for Medicare’s birthday. Sometimes there’s cake, always a meeting or gathering of some sort, nonetheless usually something festive, educational and action oriented. Don’t know if it’s because it’s an election year, or the recent Supreme court ruling on the A.C.A., but I feel a bit differently about the anniversary this year.

Like millions of other people, I’ve been  looking forward to watching the 2012 Olympic Games. The perseverance of human spirit, triumph over adversity, the glory of teamwork, those are some reasons I enjoy watching (well, that and rhythmic gymnastics).  Every few years the whole world celebrates the best of the best. We cheer for the passionate athletes who have made tremendous personal  sacrifice, often dedicating a majority of their life to this competition. Their courage and commitment to excellence serve as inspiration to us all.  So while tuning into the opening ceremony last Friday night, awaiting the next pyrotechnic display or engineering marvel,  I was absolutely taken by surprise when hundreds of  white beds started rolling out of the shadows, and  nurses and doctors wearing period costumes  pushing  kids on metal framed hospital beds appeared on center stage spelling  “NHS” in big bright lights– only to learn that these volunteers were actual nurses and doctors in the National Health Service! This was unbelievable to me– that a country could be so proud of their healthcare system, the powers that be felt it spotlight worthy as they welcomed the world to London &  introduced the British people and their culture onto,  for that moment, the greatest stage in the world.

After the initial awe wore off, I became very emotional and started thinking about what it would be like here, if  we had a N.H.S. that served everybody? (I only say this because we do have a version of socialized medicine,  it’s called the V.A.).  Because when I think about the healthcare system that “serves” the majority of people here,  the dominating emotion I experience is shame. It’s shameful that 50 million of our people lack health insurance. It’s shameful that over half of all bankruptcies in this country are due to medical debt, but the biggest disgrace is that a minimum of 45,000 people a year lose their lives for the simple fact they did not have health insurance. Not exactly something I want to sing from the mountain top and declare to the world– but more like a dirty secret to be kept locked away in a deep, dark closet so no one could ever find out– except the secret’s already out. The world is watching, and mostly with disgust that the wealthiest  nation in the world regards the human right to health as a commodity, and we turn our backs on our people when they get sick and need help. We are leaving millions behind, excluding and punishing the most vulnerable in our society to fend for themselves and  allowing them to suffer in silence. Can someone please tell me when treating human beings like this became the “American way”?

While the Supremes did just confirm the legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which contains some positive aspects, including providing no-cost preventative care for women, (who already have insurance) we can do better. By removing the private insurance companies’ stranglehold on the American people and eliminating profit motives, we can focus on the provision of actual healthcare, and promote wellness. We can improve upon our nation’s  already existing single payer model– Medicare, and expand it to include everyone. Let’s go for the gold here, people! That’s why Medicare was enacted in 1965 in the first place, to set a standard and lift seniors up out of poverty, to create a more just and egalitarian society– one which looks after people, observes the human right to health, and regards life with respect and dignity. Now that’s something worth celebrating, that is something worthy of brilliant fireworks, a sassy new-wave dance number &  Sir Paul McCartney!

As I join fellow activists this Thursday to blow out candles for Medicare’s 47th, my wish will be that our country can establish Medicare for all–  that my friends will truly be a proud day for America.  Because in the end, we’re all just people trying to survive and do our best.  We all come into this world and leave it the same way.  Can’t we just be a little kinder to each other in the short time we’re here?

Lisa


Congressman Ryan Hides After Trying to Attack Medicare in San Francisco

  • Posted: Jun 6th, 2012

Congressman Ryan Hides After Trying to Attack Medicare in San Francisco

From Don Bechler of Single Payer Now

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) came to SF on May 24 to raise funds for his attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Gay Marriage. He is the point person for the 1% attacks on our social investments. He was scheduled to speak at the GAP headquarters, but the GAP told him to move his fundraiser after massive outrage by the gay and healthcare communities.

He then cancelled his fundraiser at the GAP.

Activists from the California Alliance for Retired Americans, Gray Panthers, and Single Payer Now held a press conference at the GAP headquarters to denounce his attacks. We got coverage in both the San Francisco Chronicle and on KPFA radio.

June 6, 2012 by

ryan

Lisa


Healthcare is a Human Right & Celebrating May Day in the City of Angels

  • Posted: May 5th, 2012

Back in December, Occupy LA put out the call for a general strike on May 1st 2012.  The points of unity were: immigrant rights, economic, social and environmental justice. For labor rights, peace, civil liberties and ending the police state. For housing, education and healthcare as human rights, and for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and gender equity.

As participants with Healthcare for the 99%, we knew we wanted to be involved and promote the right to health message. The initial idea was to hold a forum, a people’s movement assembly of sorts, and have people speak-out about the atrocities of our healthcare system & share personal stories. Months passed, weekly meetings convened, coalitions were formed, then disbanded, and May was approaching fast. Finally, plans from OLA were consensed upon to have a “Four Winds” people powered bike/ car caravan starting from various points throughout the city. The North, coming in from San Fernando Valley, the West, beginning in Santa Monica, the South, originating from Cal Sate Dominguez Hills then heading up Central Avenue, and from the East beginning at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Atlantic Blvd where an unarmed young man named Steven Rodriguez was gunned down by police a few months prior.  The idea was that all winds would converge upon downtown around 2 p.m. at Main & 6th Street, then join the Southern California Immigration Coalition march at 4 p.m. and end the day with a bi-lingual General Assembly in Pershing Square.

Various stops on the East wind caravan were identified as rally points to support the issues highlighted within the General Strike call, including police brutality/state repression, and education and healthcare as human rights.  Single payer activists were asked to participate with the event at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, the third stop on the east wind and the rally point focused on healthcare justice. We answered the call, and thus planning began furiously. With the work of dedicated volunteers and activists we pulled off arguably one of the most diverse, grass-roots, inclusive and collaborative healthcare events in recent time. Labor United for Universal Healthcare &  Healthcare for All –San Fernando Valley took the lead, and volunteers from Single Payer Now, CA-One Care, PNHP, CAHPSA and CNA joined.  Labor United was asked to bring our famous puppets for a show at the plaza, and with collaboration from CA One Care, HCA– SFV, Occupy Skid Row/ LA CAN, OLA East wind, and Single Payer NOW, the show went off with a bang! Featuring a lively new cast and a few veterans, they performed three shows in 2 hours, in between live mariachi sets, and speakers representing community organizations.  We also sponsored a health fair, which offered information and resources provided by Planned Parenthood LA, USC School of Dentistry, Jardin Abundancia, Alta Med and Clinica Romero, not to mention volunteer nurses and nursing students who were present to do blood pressure, and blood sugar testing.  Bienestar came out with their mobile unit to do on the spot HIV tests. A patient/activist with Healthy Way LA was there to provide information about the county program and how to enroll. We had tables with information about the need for single payer, and also about services & resources available in the community for people who need them. We made every effort possible for the event, speakers and materials to be in both English and in Spanish, which we very successful with.

There were speakers from National Brown Berets, California Health Professional Student Alliance, Bienestar (HIV testing & education), County and Community Health Empowerment (C+CHE), Physicians for a National Health Program, International Workers of the World, IATSE Local 44, and Single Payer Now. Our sound engineer, who donated his time and equipment to produce the event, spoke about his difficulty accessing care, and his family’s struggle with the high cost of medical care, even though they have insurance. We opened up the stage for anyone who wanted to come up and voice a grievance about the horrors of the US healthcare “system”. We consciously created an open, safe space for such dialogue, and it is my sincere hope that this type of event is the first of many in collaboration with our friends and community partners, volunteers, Occupy LA, and single payer activists in Los Angeles. We are very proud of our work, and of our commitment to the Occupy principles of solidarity, and to growing these important relationships.  We celebrate the contributions of individuals & workers and principals for social and economic justice not only on May Day, but everyday. I invite you to join us. We are the 99%.

-“The People united will never be defeated”.

Lisa


LA Solidarity Rally & Speakout

  • Posted: Jan 26th, 2012

On Monday, January 9, hundreds of single payer healthcare activists took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles staging a New Orleans style, jazz funeral procession through the financial district, complete with an eight-piece band. The “funeral” mourned the losses of the thousands of people who die each year either because they lacked health insurance, or were denied medical care by greedy insurance companies. The march began at Pershing Square, where the funeral mourners assembled. There were doctors, nurses, patients, students, members of the Occupy movement, and other social justice activists who marched.

Some carried symbolic coffins and held signs stating, “health care is a human right” and demanding “healthcare for the 99%.” After a brisk three-quarter mile march through the bustling city center, we arrived at the offices of insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross. We placed a placard on the building, declaring Anthem a public health hazard. The rally had several passionate speakers who addressed the crowd. The first was a woman named Lindsay Mofford who is currently going through a horrific ordeal with Anthem, trying to get continuous care for her husband who is ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lindsay’s family currently spends $10,000 a month out of pocket for his care. Geri Jenkins from CNA spoke of her experience as a nurse on the front lines, whose patients regularly delay seeking care because they are either underinsured or uninsured. Bob Peck from PNHP spoke of his healthcare activism since the Truman administration as a physician and activist for single payer. Jamie Garcia, a nurse for Occupy LA spoke about how serving patients at the Solidarity park encampment helped her understand how far and wide this crisis reaches. Her service solidified for her that everybody deserves care, not just those who can afford it. Those attending the rally were then invited to speak-out about their own health care stories. It was very empowering for people to have the opportunity to air their grievances against our for-profit medical system and also important to have the people’s voice heard. Because that is what this movement is all about — compassion. As a society, we need to acknowledge that every life is valuable, and worth our collective resources.

As the event wrapped up, and folks began to go their separate ways, the feeling in the air remained one of hope, accomplishment and inspiration. The march was such a success due in part to all those who came out to participate, but also because of the hard work and long overtime hours of our dedicated actions committee of the Campaign for a Healthy California. In early December, representatives from Physicians for a National Health Program, Single Payer Now, California Nurses Association, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Health Care for All-SFV, Labor United for Universal Healthcare and the Wellness Committee of Occupy LA got together to see if this was even a possibility. We expected about 50 people to show up, and were floored when we ended up with almost 300! The event was in solidarity with the hundreds of CaHPSA students marching and lobbying in Sacramento, advocating for SB 810, the California Universal Healthcare Act. This was a great effort, with great results, and serves as a fine example of the good that comes when hearts and minds unite with a common goal and persist in accomplishing that goal.

Lisa


Occupy Healthcare

  • Posted: Oct 18th, 2011

Two years ago, on October 15th, demonstrations took place across the country at 15 health insurance company offices. Protesters were demanding that insurance companies immediately grant approval of all medically necessary services to patients who were currently being denied treatment. These requests were met with a typical P.R. response that goes something like “we appreciate your concerns, and will look into this matter soon as possible”.  In an effort to highlight the greed and profit motives which result in denying patients healthcare, dozens of activists were arrested in front of these multi-billion dollar corporations. This was all part of the Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national civil disobedience campaign calling for Improved Medicare for all, a single payer system.

October 2009 was in the heat of the health reform debate, and long-time universal healthcare activists were encouraging a single payer solution, or at the very least, a public option. Neither of these ideas were taken seriously, due to the fact that the legislation was basically written by insurance company executives. Coincidentally, the President’s landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is now under threat of being ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court for including an individual mandate, which is the  primary mechanism for cost savings and the real “meat” of the bill.  Activists, including myself,  were very disappointed and frustrated that our message was not being heard, and as a result,  hundreds of thousands of people would end up dead due to lack of health insurance. Millions more would be forced to declare bankruptcy, and end up on the streets.

Fast forward two years later, mass protests on Wall Street and across the globe. Demonstrators calling for an end to corporate person-hood, egregious tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, and an end to the billions of dollars that get funneled into Washington and control politicians. This is what people have been waiting for, the world finally recognizing that our current fiscal and power structure is failing the majority of people, and there needs to be a significant reorganization of our national agenda.

I am proud to be standing in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the Occupy movement who are  speaking out against the injustices and criminal practices that have pervaded for far too long.  Enough is enough. We are here, we are educating & organizing ourselves, and not going away any time soon. This movement brings me hope and inspiration. There are so many brilliant, dedicated and passionate people in this world who are willing to speak out and fight for their futures, and the futures of all human beings. Because that is what this is all about, our future. The occupy movement is not about spectators saying “you know what they should do”, but rather one of people coming together, taking initiative saying “you know what we can do”.  Come join us. Organize a teach-in, participate in General Assembly. This is where the fate of the movement will be decided; of the people, by the people and for the people.

Lisa


“They told me it would never happen…”

  • Posted: Jul 1st, 2011

A week ago today, the New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality Act by a vote of 33–29. Thirty days after the bill is signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, it will grant same sex couples the same  legal rights as heterosexual couples. New York will become the sixth state in the union to offer these protections, and it is the largest to pass this type of legislation to date.

Where were you when you heard the news? I was sitting in the Embassy Suites hotel lounge in Tampa, FL, with other attendees of the NOW Annual Conference enjoying a beer. A woman came over to a large group assembled at some tables and announced to everyone  “they just passed marriage equality in New York!” The lounge erupted in applause and cheering.  But wait, it hasn’t been passed just yet. She asked the bartender to turn the channel to CNN so we could follow the story as it was unfolding. About 45 minutes later, another round of applause and celebration ensued amongst the patrons; New York had PASSED the Marriage Equality Act!

I was discussing this with my friends at the bar when I noticed the woman who had initially come over to inform the rest of us of what was happening. She was sitting at a table behind me, looking overwhelmed, speechless and teary eyed all at once. I went over and introduced myself,  told her how happy I was about the news and that I was sharing in her joy. She looked at me and said “you know, they told me it would never happen, but we just kept chipping away, working, never giving up”.  She asked me what I was working on, and I told her Medicare for All, single payer health care. I shared with her that people tell me on a regular basis, “that’s never going to happen”, and that I draw great strength and inspiration from her dedication and perseverance. She thanked me for my work, looked me in the eye and told me to tell people who say single payer will never happen “to go [gestured middle finger extended]”! We shared a smile and a unspoken moment of glory, then I went back to my seat.

I get chills when I tell this story to friends and colleagues. The bottom line is, we’re here, we’re becoming more and more organized, and we’re not going anywhere. I believe that single payer WILL happen in California and nationally, it’s just a matter of when. As with the struggle for marriage equality, civil rights and other social and environmental issues, justice will prevail. We are fighting the good fight, passionately and sincerely. We will continue chipping away, working and organizing.

I have this dream that one day I’ll be at a national gathering of some sort, and single payer, Medicare for all will pass in the legislature or on the ballot. Then I will get to share with a young, eager activist exactly what one brave woman shared with me on that hot & humid Florida night back in 2011, “they told me it would never happen”.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. –Mohandas Gandhi

Lisa


Out in Force

  • Posted: Apr 6th, 2011

On Monday, April 4, we collected 354 single payer postcards at the “Stop the Attacks on Working People” Rallies in Oakland and San Francisco.

Collecting postcards is a wonderful way to engage the public and gain support for SB 810 and single payer. This activity is an integral part of our existence.  It enables activists to become stronger advocates for single payer by  improving messaging and communication skills, and it is encouraging for the public to see such enthusiasm and passion from our volunteers –not to mention it is a lot of fun! If you have never been out with us before, please consider participating. It is a great way to spend an afternoon, and very rewarding.

Specials thanks to Judy Beck, Christine Caldwell, Julia Cato, Ann Chen, Norie Clarke, Barbara Commins, Margaret Copi, Lois Downing, Joan Intrator, Bob Marston, Stephanie Miyashiro, Dorothy Quock, Yvonne Steffen, Ellen Yoshitsugu, & Don Bechler for tabling this past Monday.

Lisa


Opening Day at the Races

  • Posted: Jan 13th, 2011

Two major events for the single payer community brought out supporters in force this last weekend.

Saturday, we hosted our annual potluck in San Francisco. We had an amazing turn out with around 170 people from all over the state in attendance. Mark Leno was the featured speaker, as well as Jodi Reed from CARA, Hank Abrons with PNHP-California, and Unite Here Local 2.

Monday, we joined the California Allied Health Professional Student Alliance for their annual Kickoff Rally and Lobby Day at the Capitol. Despite the cold weather, our hearts were warmed and spirits moved by the enthusiasm, tenacity and passion put forth by the more than 300 students, who were cheered on by the lively crowd of supporters.

In attending both events, there are three messages I walked away with:

  • Organize. If you think that Sacramento politicians are just going to sign this bill, you are dreaming. It is imperative for us to build this movement, not just in big cities, but in every corner of the state. We need scale in our movement so that our elected officials have no choice to put single payer on the table. With greater numbers behind us, it would be hard to vote against this legislation.
  • Spread the word. As doctors inoculate their patients against measles, mumps and hepatitis c, we as activists have the job of inoculating the public what single payer is and almost more importantly, what it is not. The insurance industry spent over a million dollars a day on lobbyists in D.C. during the health care reform debate. To combat this truth, using all of our creativity, tenacity, and passion, we need to be constantly looking for ways to educate folks about what we advocate for: true universal, accessible, affordable and equitable health care for all. This is single payer health care.
  • Collaborate. We need to work together. As a member of the state strategy group, I believe it is imperative that we proceed as a united front. There is so much talent and collective experience in this movement. We can be unstoppable. I am so excited for the year ahead. Senator Leno has vowed to  re-introduce the bill; it’s likely to be called SB 810 again. We are committed, confident and ready to go.

On the bus to Sacramento, we passed the horse track. It felt like the rally and potluck were “opening day at the races,” full of energy and excitement for winning. We have to be strong, determined and disciplined. But we also have to be smart and strategic. If we are divided, big insurance is closer to winning. If we are united, the more we grow and become unstoppable.

Lisa


Gratitude

  • Posted: Dec 1st, 2010

This is generally the time of year where we take stock of the things in our lives for which we are truly grateful: family, friends, jobs, the Giants winning the world series. All the things that bring us the feelings of joy, contentment, and security. When life seems to be running smoothly, without hiccups, these tend to be the moments we are more inclined to give thanks.

But what about when things don’t go as planned? Maybe you’ve lost your job, your dog ran away, and you think things can’t get any worse. Then what do you have to be grateful for? Gratitude is generally not the first feeling these circumstances are likely to evoke.

Just before Thanksgiving, I took a yoga class where the instructor themed the session “Gratitude.”  He emphasized how, in life, we should try to be grateful for what we have, even when things seem hard, frustrating or downright impossible. For example, when we hold a difficult pose, the instructor encouraged us to stick with it and be mindful of the discomfort while trying to stay focused, even in the face of pain and  frustration.  Then he said something that really struck me:  be grateful that you have arms and legs, and that you even have the capacity to know pain.

I feel the theme of gratitude is relative to our fight — and any fight for social justice. Things do not always run smoothly. There will always be setbacks, obstacles, and disappointments, but we can’t let that stop us.  I am grateful that we have strong single payer movements both in California and nationally, and that SB 810 and HR 676 even exist. They’re not perfect bills, but we have them.  I’m grateful for the men and women who came before me, who spent their lives fighting for national health insurance, knowing they might never see it in their lifetime. I’m grateful for the dedicated activists who believe that health care is a human right, and a system which profits off of the sick is corrupt at its core and needs to be dismantled.

We might not always agree with each other, or see eye-to-eye, but we’re all here because we believe it can be better. It has to get better and we are the ones who are going to lead the way. We have a lot more than most. And we’re all-in: for the good, and the bad. There’s a saying that one must feel pain to know joy, face disappointment to know excitement. Life’s a continuum, it’s about give and take. Nothing in life worth fighting for is easy; never has been, never will be.

So as you run the gamut of giving thanks this holiday season,  don’t forget about  your arms & legs, and the glory that is the single payer movement.

Viva Medicare for All!

Lisa