About Universal Health
Universal health care means everybody in, nobody out. The U2K Campaign believes that universal health care must adhere to four major principles.
- Universal, meaning accessible for everyone.
- Comprehensive: a full range of services can be accessed to treat illness and main tain health and function, and promote wellness
- Affordable: out-of-pocket expenditures do not create financial barriers to needed care.
- Publicly accountable: since public funding is already the source of the majority of health care dollars, appropriate oversight is needed to make sure it is used properly.
The U2K Campaign does not advocate for one particular policy solution to create universal health care. U2K seeks to do the politics first, the policy second. The campaign seeks to build a broad-based movement for universal health care, in order to make possible a national dialogue about the best way to achieve it.
There are multiple paths towards universal health care, which includes different ways of paying for it. What is clear is that the 1990s, market-based solution towards health care is failing, and the problem is getting worse.
Nearly 25 percent of health care dollars go to corporate managed care companies for such things PR budgets, claims-checking and corporate salaries. In contrast, federally guaranteed programs such as Medicare spend less on overhead - about two percent - and more on patients health. The increase in the number of health administrators is more than twice the increase in the number of physicians in recent years.
Whats more, because one in seven Americans do not have health insurance, many patients only go to the doctor when they get really sick, and it is more expensive to treat them then, than to provide preventative care.
America spends about 14 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on health care, 40 percent more than any other industrialized country in the world. And U.S. health outcomes lag far behind many of those countries.
But I have health care. How does this affect me?
Most uninsured people have jobs - jobs that dont provide health care for themselves and their families, or jobs where their required co-pay is unaffordable. Most of us could be in jobs like that if the economy takes a downturn.
Yet even Americans that do have health care are affected by the current health care crisis. Because of the restrictions of corporate managed care, many Americans are faced with a lack of access to needed specialists. Moreover, rising costs cause higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Finally, catastrophic care is provided even to people without insurance through taxpayer- funded programs. So everyone ends up paying for catastrophic care that would often be cheaper to treat through good preventative care.
Are you talking about government-run health care? What gives you the right to choose my health care provider?
No! Many governments pay for health care, but do not directly oversee the system. That way, trained medical experts make medical decisions regarding patient care. The appropriate role for government is to guarantee health care. In some countries, the government also plays a role in financing it.
While there are 1,500 different health care payers in the US, this choice has not resulted in better health care for most Americans. In contrast, universal health care does not undermine consumer freedom. Government guaranteed health care does not mean less consumer choice. The U2K Campaign does not advocate for a particular policy solution towards universal health care. However, it is clear that market-based solutions simply have not worked. Corporate managed care has provided incentives for insurance companies to deny patient care, and seek out profit.
The role that government plays in health care must be carefully evaluated, yet the market has proven less efficient than publicly accountable health care systems. Our present non-system is just not working. It is time to hold a national dialogue about ways we can guarantee health care for all.
But if you dont have the solution, who does?
The solutions to providing health care for all Americans are out there. Creating the political will to achieve universal health care is a trickier matter. While polls show that about 75 percent of Americans believe in universal health care, they are deeply divided about how to achieve it. By building a broad movement for universal health care, the U2K Campaign will bring together advocates of specific policy solutions, as well as those organizations and individuals who are unsure of how to get it.
Challenging public officials to work towards universal health care, and educating candidates that their position on universal health care will influence how U2K supporters vote in the 2000 elections, will help to create an energized bloc of Congress people. These Congress people will be charged to work towards legislative solutions in the year 2001 and beyond.
Through creating momentum for national dialogue on the question, How do we achieve universal health care? we can create a democratic movement capable of a national dialogue about this question.
About Joining the U2K Campaign
My organization already has a full agenda. Does joining the U2K Campaign mean adding more?
No. You can tie U2K into the work you are already doing, especially around health care issues. For instance, if youre holding an event around a local health care issue, such as a hospital closing, then you can tie your advocacy efforts around this local issue to the solution to the health care crisis - universal health care. For organizations working on incremental reform, U2K offers an opportunity to work on these issues, while building towards universal health care. Every organization that joins the U2K Campaign works towards universal health care in its own way. The health care crisis affects most Americans, and so the issue is one of broad appeal.
U2K is also a great way to build leaders in your organization, and to develop new linkages with groups and constituencies that you havent worked with before. U2K is not a new organization, but a new campaign, and a way to bring together health care justice advocates from a broad spectrum of constituencies and organizations. It can be a way to energize your membership, build your base and forge new coalitions.
Whos running the U2K Campaign?
The U2K Campaign is a new kind of health care justice campaign, founded on inclusiveness. Every organization that endorses the U2K Campaign can contribute to the direction of U2K and the way that it is run.
One way that groups can shape the strategy of the campaign is through the campaign Steering Committee, which consists of individuals from organizations that sign on at the Coordinator level. The Steering Committee meets once a month via conference call to share organizing strategies, plan targeted outreach and coordinate national events. They also communicate regularly via email and fax. The state Coordinators are responsible for coordinating activities in their state, and they work with endorsers in their state on U2K events and candidate engagement. Not every Coordinator participates on the Steering Committee.
The day-to-day oversight, strategy and financial management of the U2K Campaign is the role of the Administrative Committee, which consists of individuals from leading organizations, including the three founding organizations, the Gray Panthers, the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!) and the National Council of Churches (NCC).
No one organization is calling the shots in the U2K Campaign. The campaign is designed to allow local, state and national organizations to shape the direction of the campaign through engagement in it.
How is this different from the national health care debate in 1994?
The last serious movement for universal health care was in the early 1990s. The Clinton plan went nowhere because it was a policy solution without broad public support, a top-down solution to a problem that affects Americans from the bottom up. The health care industry lobbyists easily defeated it by pouring tens of millions into a sophisticated misinformation campaign. Sadly, even health care justice advocates were not united in their advocacy efforts, as they fragmented on how to achieve universal health care.
Since then, the health care crisis has gotten worse. About 1 out of 7 Americans lacks health insurance, or 44 million, and the number is rising about a million each year. Health care is the number one issue in many polls, and Americans are beginning to realize that the current health care crisis affects not only the uninsured, but the underinsured as well. Corporate health care is increasing costs while undermining patient care.
We live in an era of unprecedented prosperity, yet the number of uninsured Americans continues to rise about a million a year. It is time for a renewed movement for universal health care. The U2K Campaign seeks to build a broad and deep new movement for universal health care - one founded on basic principles, and one that unites the spectrum of advocates that are working towards health care justice, who commit themselves to working together towards universal health care in 2001 and beyond.
Many political candidates say that they favor expanding health care coverage. How is universal health care different?
Health care reform proposals are a dime a dozen in the 2000 elections. Politicians know that health care is a hot voter issue again, and some are cautiously taking up piecemeal solutions, such as a Patients Bill of Rights or expanded coverage for working families, while touting these solutions as addressing the fundamental health care crisis. They dont. Although universal health care may not be achieved all at once, the goal of the U2K Campaign is to hold candidates accountable for working on meaningful reforms that move America towards universal health care.
When we talk to candidates about universal health care, we must ask for their support of health care that is universal, comprehensive, quality, affordable, and publicly accountable. We must ask if they support universal health care, and how they will work towards it if elected.