Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Just blocks from President Obama's Hyde Park home south of the Loop in Chicago, more than 70 activists gathered on Saturday, March 27, 2010, to plan strategy for advancing an improved and expanded Medicare for all system as the law of the land. Activists across the nation are undaunted by the passage of the current health reform bill as they know that mandating the purchase of private insurance is not the same as providing access to healthcare.
Joining the activists from throughout Illinois was Illinois State Representative Mary Flowers, chief sponsor of Illinois' single-payer health reform bill HB311, seen in the photo.
By sharing their successes in advancing the Medicare for all, single-payer position, the activists spent eight hours together, broke into issue panels and came away with the formation of four task forces to explore the most effective and strategic ways to move the movement in Illinois both in terms of state legislative energy and as part of a larger national movement.
Among the engaged activists were nurses from various practice settings and locations throughout the state. Many have seen drastic cuts to programs and services in their communities, and as patient advocates remain firmly committed to restoring not only those programs and services cut but also improving and enhancing patient access and care until a single standard of high quality care is the law of the Land of Lincoln and the Land of Obama. HB311, The Health Illinois Act, would assure RNs in Illinois that no patient would be turned away because they lacked insurance, lacked adequate cash to self-pay or had been denied treatment by an insurance company.
Nurses will serve on each of the four task forces created: legislative, media, labor and direct action. The legislative task force will assess the work necessary on Illinois' elected officials -- both state and federal -- to help advise other single-payer reform supporting groups how best to motivate those in office to support and defend HB311 and national improved and expanded Medicare for all and how to select and target campaigns of those wishing to be elected in Illinois to make sure those candidates are single-payer solid. The media task force plans to do outreach to local and regional media to develop better lines of communication and enhance chances for coverage of single-payer issues and also make good use of the members within the Illinois Single Payer Coalition who create media on the web and beyond. The labor task force will work with local labor bodies to enhance advancement of the AFL-CIO's Resolution 34 supporting single-payer reform and will research becoming a part of the national Labor Campaign for Single-Payer. And the direct action task force will continue seeking effective settings in which to challenge the power of the profit engine -- private insurance, big Pharma, corporate healthcare providers, etc -- with those actions which will advance the cause of single-payer reform.
Also on hand for the day was Dr. Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program. Dr. Young is a long time resident of Hyde Park, and PNHP has its national office in Chicago. Katie Robbins of Healthcare-Now was also in from Philadelphia and New York and facilitated the meeting. Several members of Progressive Democrats of America's Chicago chapter helped plan the meeting, as did members of the local and state Green Party along with members of CHI-SPAN, the Chicago Single Payer Action Network, a wonderful group of people from Access Living in Chicago, Health Care for All Illinois (HCAI) members, the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, and a strong contingent of activists from Springfield and from East St. Louis, IL. Every group worked cooperatively and with purpose to celebrate the path forward for all who believe that healthcare as a basic human right applies to every person -- not just those with money or influence or both.
The event was hosted by the Illinois Single Payer Coalition with tremendous support offered by Dr. Anne Sheetz, who always lends her intelligence and humanity to the effort to transform healthcare for all in her state.
My participation was complete joy in seeing a movement that has been insistently advancing for the past several months firmly plan next steps and remain undaunted by whatever the political turmoil and tumult in DC.
My home state -- and my beloved Chicago -- can do so much to entrench common Midwestern values about right and wrong and human decency into a healthcare discussion that all too often is focused on revenues and denials and everything but good health for all.
Onward, Illinois. Onward.
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