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Newsletter of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K)

October 26, 2000 (Issue no. 18)



Events raise public awareness, call on candidates to commit to working for universal health care


On October 11, Jessie Tehranchi of AL Arise organized a meeting of health care justice activists.  The 20 who attended wrote letters to Congress people calling on them to commit to making universal health care a top priority in the 107th Congress, and to join the Universal Health Care Task Force.  They plan to follow up by organizing personal delegations to their Congress people's offices.  Contact Jessie Tehranchi, <jtehranchi@mindspring.com>.

On October 19, the University of California-Berkeley chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) organized a candlelight vigil for the uninsured.  Over 200 people, including representatives from community and faith groups, rallied on the steps of Sproul Hall.  Organizers felt the event helped to build leaders in the AMSA chapter at Berkeley, and helped to build relationships between community groups and medical students.

On October 7, Health Care for All California organized a public forum on universal health care in San Francisco.  Over 50 people attended, and signed a petition and "open letter to candidates" calling on state and Congressional candidates from the Bay Area to commit to working foruniversal health care.  Contact Don Bechler, Health Care for All CA, <dbechler@value.net>.

Throughout Health Care Justice Week, Connecticut Call to Action made presentations to community and faith groups, tabled at the CT Folk Festival and pitched their message for universal health care on a community TVbroadcast.  Their activities resulted in coverage by a local weekly  newspaper, and helped to build relationships with several new organizations, including a chapter of the American Medical Student Association.  Contact Naomi Shaiken, <nshaiken@snet.net>. 

Due in part to the efforts of the Sussex County Health Coalition, the Mayor of Lewes, DE declared October "Children's Health Care Month."  During the month, the group performed outreach to clergy and the small business community to increase enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program in the state.  Ministers at area churches gave sermons on the issue of health care justice.  Contact Hal Wallach, <backspin@starpower.net>.  

The Gray Panthers of Metro DC and Montgomery County helped to organize apublic forum on HMO accountability in Medicare, highlighting seniors left without health care when HMOs leave Medicare.  Bringing together 30 activists from metropolitan DC, the event served to educate participants in the need to protect and safeguard Medicare from privatization.  The participants agreed to contact their Congressperson to ask them to address this issue, and the event received coverage in the Washington Post.  Contact Rose Marie Flynn, Gray Panthers of Metro DC, <gpanther@capaccess.org>.  

On October 14, the Nevada Health Care Reform Project organized a public forum on universal health care, as well as health care issues in NV, co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of NV.  Over 80 people showed upto hear several  speakers address the current realities of the Canadian health care system, current health care programs and needs in NV and the nationwide struggle for universal health care.  The group collected 40 postcards calling on candidates for Congress to work for universal health care.  The event received coverage in the local newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun.  Contact Ruth Mills, NV Health Reform Project, <MillsR007@aol.com>.  

On October 5, the Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque visited Rep. Heather Wilson's office (R, NM) and presented over 1,600 signatures in support of the "Allen Bill" for prescription drug coverage, and urged Wilson to co-sponsor the legislation.  Fifteen members of the Gray Panthers presented Wilson's aide with a bouquet of balloons reading, "Rx Prices Are Going Sky High" and "Just Say Yes to Prescription Drugs for Seniors."  Contact Rose Shaw, Co-Chair of the Gray Panthers of Greater Albuquerque, <emilshaw@rt66.com>.  

On October 18, over 75 New Yorkers attended a candlelight vigil for the uninsured at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  Organized by the New York University chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) and co-sponsored by Metro NY Health Care for All and Physicians for a National Health Program, New York City, the event educated the public about the health care crisis and the need for universal health care.  For information contact Mark Hannay, <metrohealth@igc.org>.  

On October 21, the Coalition for Consumer Justice and over 70 U2K endorsers from Rhode Island held a candlelight vigil for the uninsured.  Over 125 people attended, and the event garnered media coverage from several television stations, the local print media and radio talk shows.  Contact Arline Bolvin, Director of CCJ, <consumerj@surfree.com>. 

At Pleasant Hill Community Church, a United Church of Christ congregation in Pleasant Hill TN, on Sundays during Health Care Justice Week parishioners and faith leaders were called on to sign the "Call for Health Care Justice," a faith letter calling on candidates to work for health care for all. (Overall the letter has garnered 500+ signatures from 50 states.)  Contact Dick Braun, TN Health Care Campaign, <dtbraun@usit.net>.  

On October 3, the Just Health Care Coalition of Washington organized a "Speak Out" on health care.  Over 75 individuals and representatives from community, labor and faith organizations attended.  The Just Health Care Coalition of Washington presented an educational chart book that educates readers about the health care crisis and the need for universal health care. The Just Health Care Coalition has been steadily gaining more organizational members, especially among labor unions, as a result of their efforts.  For a copy of the chart book, contact Craig Salins, <craigsalins@cs.com>. 

On September 28 and October 3, the Coalition for Wisconsin Health, in cooperation with the League of Women Voters of WI, held two public forums in Madison and in Ashland on health care issues during the elections.  Fifty people attended each forum to hear how topical health care issues such as prescription drug coverage and patients' rights fit into the larger picture of the need for universal health care.  For more info contact Marjorie Colson, Coalition for WI Health, <marjie@merr.com>.  

The following is excerpted from a press release by the Alliance for Democracy, whose "Health Care & Democracy Speak Out" was held on October 15 as part of Health Care Justice Week, and endorsed by the U2K Campaign.  

Campaign Finance Corruption Targeted By Health Care Advocates During Act of Civil Disobedience; Sixteen Arrests in Capitol Rotunda Mark Beginning of Health Care Justice Week

On October 14, Health Care Justice Week 2000 began unconventionally when a group of health care professionals and reform advocates calling themselves the "Healthy Democracy Brigade," engaged in a dramatic act of civil disobedience in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

The action illustrated how $250 million in political contributions have been used during the last decade by the health care industry to stymie a range of health care reforms < from a patients¹ bill of rights to a prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients to universal health care coverage.

Sixteen citizens were arrested in the action, which was the first to expressly link the two issues. In addition to doctors, medical students, and other health care professionals, participants included small business owners, students, a former congressional staffer, senior citizens, and community organizers. The event, which was organized by the Alliance for Democracy, was cosponsored by the Universal Health Care 2000 (U2K) Campaign, a coalition of over 550 state, regional, and national organizations.

As more than 100 tourists watched, the group conducted a "Speak-out on Health Care and Democracy" during which participants called for universal health care and full public financing of elections (a.k.a. "Clean Money/Clean Elections" reform) while unfurling 15-foot banners.  One read "Big Money, Bad Health Care: Campaign Finance Reform Now", and another "Threat to Public Health: Privately Financed Campaigns." 

"The fact that 1/7 of our population lacks health insurance is a moral outrage and a national disgrace," said Ken Frisof, MD, co-chair of the U2K Campaign. "The fact that this is not a campaign issue in the 2000 elections is an indictment of our political system. We know that to remedy the illnesses of our health care system we must also remedy those of our body politic," he added.

Brigade members spoke aloud about "crimes against democracy" < including legalized bribery, extortion, gross conflict of interest, and criminal malfeasance and negligence < committed by Members of Congress and their big individual and corporate contributors within the health care industry.   The pointed to the fact that over 42 million Americans are uninsured and millions more are at risk, even though 75 percent of the public favors a system of universal coverage.  They also called attention to the fact that in the 2000 election cycle alone (as of August 3), the health care industry has contributed over $49 million to congressional and presidential candidates and their political parties, including $3.6 million to George W. Bush and $1 million to Al Gore.

The Speak-Out, while an exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly and the right to petition one¹s government for a redress of grievances, was considered illegal under a Washington, D.C. statute which prohibits "demonstrating in the Capitol," and thus all sixteen members of the Brigade were arrested by the Capitol Police.  After several hours of booking, they were released on their own recognizance and ordered to appear for arraignment in D.C. Superior Court on November 9th.

"These are people from all walks of life engaging in a dramatic action because they know that Congress is guided more by corporate greed than by human need," said Jim Ace, Program Director of the Alliance for Democracy. "People are angry and they¹re willing to put their bodies on the line. They¹re taking democracy back, and they¹ll keep coming back until real reform becomes law."

Said Ace, "U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois had it right when he said: Why do we have 41 million Americans without health care coverage?  Because they are not big campaign contributors, and those who profit from the system are.¹"  The Alliance for Democracy is a grassroots organization consisting of 60 chapters in 21 states. The protest action on October 14th was the sixth in a series of "Democracy Brigade" speak-outs in the Capitol Rotunda that began one year ago, with each action protesting campaign finance corruption and calling for full public funding of all federal elections.

For more information about the Alliance and the Democracy Brigades, please go to  www.thealliancefordemocracy.org.

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