HEALTH CARE JUSTICE NOW: U2K UPDATE

Newsletter of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K)

August 1, 2000 (Issue no. 13)

IN THIS ISSUE:
Introduction
1. New U2K Endorsers
2. U2K Launches Health Care Justice Week, Oct. 13-22
3. Working with Labor Groups In Your Community
4. Senator Paul Wellstone Introduces "Health Security for All Americans Act," Endorsed by Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
5. U2K Coordinators In Your State
6. Contact Us

INTRODUCTION

The U2K Campaign was founded in October 1999 by the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!), the Gray Panthers and the National Council of Churches (NCC).  Since then, the U2K Campaign has grown to include over 350 endorsing organizations, and thousands of individuals.  The goal of the U2K Campaign is to achieve, through a democratic process, a nat onal guarantee of comprehensive, affordable, accessible, quality and publicly accountable health care for all.  In its first year, the U2K Campaign seeks to build a strong, broad base of support for the issue of universal health care, and to raise this as a major issue in the upcoming 2000 elections.  If you are receiving this newsletter for the first time and your organization has not yet endorsed the campaign, we hope you will join us in building a nationwide, grassroots movement for universal health care.

Health Care Justice NOW is the official campaign newsletter.  It aims to keep endorser  and supporters of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign informed and engaged.  Health Care Justice NOW is also an outreach tool, so please distribute it widely, and encourage other groups to subscribe through contacting us.  There are over 1200 individuals and organizations that subscribe to Health Care Justice NOW.  (To unsubscribe, email us at uhcan@uhcan.org.)  Past issues of the newsletter (as well as U2K Campaign materials) are available at www.u2kcampaign.org/news.

1. NEW U2K ENDORSERS

We've been so busy organizing U2K, we haven't had a chance to list the latest endorsers in every issue of the newsletter!  Recent national organizations that have endorsed the campaign include the American Nurses Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Islamic Society of North America.  To date, over 400 national, state and local groups have endorsed the campaign.  To view the complete list of endorsers (updated on a weekly basis), visit the web site.

2. U2K LAUNCHES HEALTH CARE JUSTICE WEEK, OCT. 13-22

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter is being sent out in the postal mail with materials describing Health Care Justice Week, an initiative launched by the U2K Campaign to engage candidates and the public during the 2000 election season.  We thought we'd also send it out via email, so that it would reach you quicker.  Following this newsletter, you will find a form for you to fill out describing events you are planning during this week. Please take a moment to fill it out, and make your commitment to health care justice!

Dear Health Care Justice Supporter,

We write this letter to invite you to join with hundreds of other individuals and organizations across the nation in Health Care Justice Week, October 13-22.  Together, we can raise a chorus of voices to capture the American public's concern for health care justice, and to show candidates for public office at all levels - especially Congress - that Americans support a national guarantee of health care for all.   The Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K) - consisting of over 400 national, state and local organizations, active in 39 states - is launching Health Care Justice Week with two primary goals.  

* To encourage groups and individuals across the nation to engage candidates for public office around the question: "If elected, will you make it a top priority to work for a guarantee of comprehensive, affordable, quality, publicly accountable health care for all?" 

* To engage the public about the urgency of ameliorating health care injustice, and to urge them to show their commitment through participating in Health Care Justice Week activities.

Through planning hundreds of activities across the nation involving thousands of Americans during Health Care Justice Week, we can achieve our goals for 2000.  Together, we can build a nationwide movement for health care for all and create an energized bloc of Congress people committed to working towards universal health care.

There are many obstacles on the road towards health care justice.  While polls show that the majority of Americans believe that health care is a basic human right, our nation's political leaders have sidestepped this issue.  Elements of the health care industry have stymied meaningful public discussion of these issues with expensive misinformation campaigns.   

Yet some roads are only made by walking.  Together we can take the first steps towards building a strong, multi-year movement for health care for all.  Through sounding a powerful voice for health care justice, we can create a human health care system that uses its resources to meet people's
health needs.

 Enclosed you will find a flier describing Health Care Justice Week.  We encourage you to reproduce the flier and to include your group's contact information, to spread the word, and involve other health care activists in your state in your activities.  (For contacts, visit the web site, <www.u2kcampaign.org>, or contact the office, 216/902-5577.)  Please use the enclosed form to let us know what activities you are planning, prior to August 21 if possible.

Early notice will help build our momentum.  You will be able to add events to our compiled list throughout August and September.  We will post activities on our web site, and share ideas and strategies in our newsletter, Health Care Justice NOW.  The U2K Elections Handbook, which will contain materials for public and candidate engagement, will be available by Labor Day. 

Let your voice be heard: it's time for health care justice for all.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Tim Fuller    Ken Frisof
U2K Campaign Co-Chair  U2K Campaign Co-Chair

3. HOW TO WORK WITH LABOR GROUPS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor, community, religious and student groups working to defend workers' rights and organize for economic justice with over 30 chapters across the country, hel  their annual conference in Dartmouth, MA from July 19-22S and the U2K Campaign was there!

"For the health care justice movement, there is no chance of success without labor," Nick Unger (UNITE, U2K Administrative Committee) told a packed room of forty participants who attended the health care pre-conference meeting (over 700 participants attended the conference altogether).  "And there is no chance of labor playing the role it has to without Jobs with Justice being involved.  We, the health care justice movement, need you, Jobs with Justice, to play a leading role in the fight for health care justice."

"We know that much of labor will not make health care a big issue in this election," Nick continued.  "Some will, most won't.  But it is time to start pushing for labor involvement for the long haul.  And it is very important for labor to be part of the planning and bill drafting process, not just be called on to help sell the plan after somebody else creates it."

In recent months, labor groups have been stepping up to the plate to join the U2K Campaign in the struggle for health care justice.  Recent endorsers include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees  (AFSCME).  Jobs with Justice invited the U2K Campaign and other groups to hold a workshop about renewing the movement for health care for all at their recent conference.

"Health care is a real coalition-building issue," said one participant from Jobs with Justice in Massachusetts.  "Health care is a common class issue, which speaks to basic human needs.  The issue can help Jobs with Justice to form relationships with community, religious and student organizations."

Like the rest of us, labor groups are severely affected by the health care crisis.  In a May 1999 study, the "Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured" found that rising health care cost  are being shifted onto the backs of working Americans.  That is, as health care costs rise for the employers, benefits are eliminated or subtracted, and costs are added on to the employee.  In 1997, 73 percent of uninsured adults and children lived in families with at least one full-time worker.  America's working families are increasingly priced out of being able to afford health care.  Moreover, labor unions are finding employers use benefit packages as a chip at the bargaining table.  So unions spend more organizing resources fighting for their members' benefits, leaving fewer resources to devote to other struggles.

So how can we work together with labor groups in the struggle for health care justice?  First, we must educate ourselves about the health care issues that labor groups face, and "be there" for their struggles.  Second, we have to bring their voices into the movement for health care jus ice, emphasizing the struggles of America's working families to gain access to health care. Finally, we can work with labor groups organizing health care workers - including nurses and other professionals - in the struggle for health care for all.

"You can bargain all you want," said Mary Ellen, a nurse from Buffalo who helped to organize a protest of unsafe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios at hospitals, and also highlighted the larger problems in our system.  Mary Ellen was addressing the labor groups who attended the JwJ pre-conference. "If there's no nurse at your bed side, you won't have quality health care."

"Across the country, they're closing nursing programs," said Mary Ellen. "They're merging hospitals together, and they claim there's no money to hire more nurses.  Some nights when I am on the floor at the hospital, I am so busy I can go three-and-a-half hours without assessing my patients.  I was a nurse manager, but I went back to bedside nursing.  We have to go back to the bed side, back to patients - and away from the profit in health care."

So Mary Ellen and other activists organized an informational rally outside of the hospital, and gained media coverage of TV stations in Buffalo.  "It's not the flu," they told passers-by, passing out fliers at the height of flu season this past winter.  "The problem is that our health care system is sick."  Mary Ellen's struggle to organize health care workers around unsafe staffing levels - as well as to highlight the larger problems in our health care system - offer one example of how health car  activists can join with workers and the unions that represent them in the struggle for health care
justice.

A recent struggle to prevent a community hospital from closing in Cleveland offers another case study of how health care activists can work with labor. "Many poo families in Cleveland lack access to health care despite having many hospitals nearby," says Steve Cagan, Director of Jobs with Justice in Cleveland.  "Recently, when a safety net hospital closed in a community that was organized, we were able to do something about it."  The involvement of Jobs with Justice and its strong coalition of labor, student and community groups in Cleveland was crucial to this struggle.  The groundwork was laid by the Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio (UHCAN Ohio), whose involvement in a recently passed Living Wage Ordinance in Cleveland (which includes strong incentives for employers to provide health care) was crucial to gaining labor's involvement in their health care struggles.  More recently, UHCAN Ohio has planned a Day of Action for universa  health care on Oct. 15 (as a part of Health Care Justice Week) and are working with Jobs with Justice in Cleveland to plan and to organize the event.  For info, contact Athena Godet-Calageras, 216/241-8422, <uhcanoh@apk.net>.

Health care workers are also affected by our health care crisis.  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest health care workers union (with 1.4 million members, 675,000 of which are health care workers) have been organizing health care workers across the nation.  Their members include home care workers paid low wages and, ironically, themselves are not offered health benefits.  "Health care workers have a story to tell," says Carol Regan, Health Policy Director with SEIU, "and they should be included in the health care justice movement." 

SEIU will make the Health Security for All Americans Act (a bill recently introduced by Sen. Paul Wellstone and endorsed by SEIU - see article in this newsletter for info) the centerpiece of their work.  SEIU ran television commercials at their recent convention in Pittsburgh listing the SEIU phone number for info about the Health Security for All Americans Act.  "We received over 600 calls to our office the next week," said Carol, "and two out of three did not have health care, and thought we were offering it." This story shows the depth of the health care crisis, and why it's important that we build broad coalitions to deepen the struggle for health care for all.

The Jobs with Justice national conference helped to renew the role of JwJ - as well as other labor organizations that are a part of Jobs with Justice - in the movement for health care for all.  It was clear from the conference that, in the struggle for health care for all, labor organizations must be at the table.  Building a successful movement for health care for all depends on it.

The U2K Campaign invites you to work with labor groups in health care justice struggles in YOUR community, and to "be there" for theirs.

CONTACTS:

* Jobs with Justice - Contact JwJ to link up with a chapter in your state. Fred Azcarate, Director, 202/434-1106.  Or contact the U2K office, 216/902-5577, <uhcan@uhcan.org>.

* Service Employees International Union - Contact SEIU to link up with a state or local council, or to find out more about the Health Security for All Americans Act.  Carol Regan, Health Policy Director, 202/898-3200, <reganc@seiu.org>.  Or visit the web site, <www.seiu.org>.

4. SEN. PAUL WELLSTONE (D, MN) INTRODUCES STATE-BY-STATE APPROACH TOWARDS UNIVERSAL COVERAGE, ENDORSED BY SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION (SEIU)
- By Anne Hill, Executive Director, SEIU District 925, Cleveland

No problem concerns working Americans more than health coverage for our families and selves.  With the nation's economy booming and corporate profits at an all-time high, SEIU decided it's time to unite behind a practical plan for secure, affordable, quality health coverage for all.  As the nation's largest health care union (with 1.4 million members, 675,000 health care workers), SEIU, along with Senator Paul Wellstone (D, MN), unveiled the Health Security for All Americans Act on July 19, 2000.

The SEIU plan would among other things
* Provide affordable, quality coverage to those who don't have it now
* Guarantee coverage even when employees' life circumstances change and when they have special health care needs
* Establish a fair system of financing
* Provide freedom of choice of doctors and hospitals
* Give health care employees the staffing levels they need to provide quality care

Step One - Expanding Coverage

During the first four years of this program, the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) established by Congress in 1997 would be expanded to provide access to affordable coverage to uninsured adults and children in families with income under $50,000 per year.  Benefits would be based on the standard Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan and equal to those received by members of Congress.  Premiums and out-of-pocket costs would be based on income, with no premium for families earning below $25,000 a year.

The federal government would provide states with extra funding from a variety of sources, and states would have broad options for funding their share.  States could expand Medicaid, set up one or more separate insurance funds with a choice of plans, or expand their public employee health  benefit plan.

Step Two - Coverage for All

After four years, states would have to make sure that everyone is covered. Families would get coverage either through their employer, or from a plan offered through a state insurance pool designed to help workers and employers pool their money to provide more efficient and secure coverage. Employers would have to provide at least 80 percent of the premium cost, and union members could negotiate with their employers to cover the employee share of the premium and co-payments.

The current crisis in health care in this country demands that elected leaders, the providers, the health care advocacy community and unions act responsibly now to create a new health care system that can meet the needs of all Americans.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Senator Paul Wellstone's bill represents an approach towards providing universal coverage that some health care advocates refer to as "aggressively incremental," in that it enacts health care for all through a single piece of legislation, and does so along a deliberate, five-year timeline, through a state-by-state approach.  Wellstone's approach has received praise from health care advocates because it is both practical and principled, building upon our existing  health care system, yet also guaranteeing health care for all.  This "federal-state" approach also corresponds with the familiar interplay in American government between federal and state governments.  Because health care needs and resources vary widely from state to state, this approach allows states to design universal coverage plans that would match the needs of their residents.  For health care advocates, this federal-state approach offers perhaps a new response to the familiar criticism that universal health care systems are merely another form of "big government," in that states actually have the opportunity to design their own plans for universal coverage.  Finally, Wellstone's bill offers solace and inspiration to health care justice activists torn between efforts to work at the state and federal level.  Since 1993-1994, the front lines of the struggles for expanded health care coverage have been largely at the state level, with only piecemeal federal legislative activity.  If the Wellstone bill were enacted, health care activists would need strong support from legislators at the state and the federal level.

5. U2K CONTACTS IN YOUR STATE

AL * Jessie Tehranchi, AL ARISE, 205/822-5615, jtehranchi@mindspring.com

CA * Don Bechler, Health Care for All CA, 415/695-7891, dbechler@value.net

CO * Bob Danknich, Gray Panthers of CO, 303/343-7701, rdanknich@aol.com

CT * Naomi Shaiken, CT Call to Action, 203/248-0053, nshaiken@snet.net

FL * Eileen Jacobs, FL Health Care for All, 727/446-2897, eileenoneal@webtv.net

IL * Michelle Mascaro, IL Campaign for Better Health Care, 312/913-9449, cbhc@enteract.com

IN * Julia Vaughn, Citizens Action Coalition of IN, 317/205-3535, jvaughn@citact.org

MA * Linda Stamm, MA Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care, 617/357-7003, masscare@aol.com

MD * Vinnie DeMarco, MD Citizens Health Initiative, 410/235-9000, demarco@mdinitiative.org

MI * Marjorie Mitchell, MI Universal Health Care Action Network, 248/477-7911, mjmitchell@ameritech.net

MN * Paula Fynboh, MN COACT, 612/645-3733, paulacoact@mtn.org

MO * Anne Steele, Missourians for Single-Payer, 314/427-7627, abs4k@aol.com

MS * Rims & Judy Barber, MS Human Services Coalition, 601/355-7495, hn0137@handsnet.org

NJ * O┬╣Brien Boldt, Health Care for All NJ, 201/569-5721, obboldt@carroll.com

NV * Ruth Mills, NV Health Care Reform Project, 702/648-8124, MillsR007@aol.com

NY * Mark Hannay, Metro NY Health Care for All, 212/964-3534, metrohealth@igc.org

OH * Larry Bresler, Universal Health Care Action Network of OH, 216/241-8422, lbresler@uhcan.org

OR * Ellen Pinney, OR Health Action Campaign, 503/695-2806, ellen@ohac.org 

PA * Kate Sorensen, Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care, 267/253-5074,
ksorensen@critpath.org

RI * Arline Bolvin, Coalition for Consumer Justice, 401/521-1534, consumerj@surfree.com

TX * Charlotte Flynn, Gray Panthers of Austin, 512/345-1869, wbillflynn@aol.com

VT * Richard Davis, VT Consumers Campaign for Health, 802/251-0915, rbd@sover.net

WA * Hans Bodleander, Gray Panthers of Seattle, 206/328-9695, hansbod@aol.com

WI * Marjorie Colson, Coalition for WI Health, 608/251-0139, marjie@merr.com

WV * Gary Zuckett, So. Appalachian Labor School, 304/659-3193, gzuckett@wvwise.org

WY * Diane Arnold, Community Action of Cheyenne, 307/477-3446

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CONTACT US (Let us know what you are doing in your state or region.)

Rachel Rosen DeGolia, Campaign Coordinator
Lee Chilcote, Field Organizer
U2K Campaign
2800 Euclid Ave., Suite 520, Cleveland OH 44115
Phone: 216/902-5577 * Fax: 216/241-8423
Email: <uhcan@uhcan.org>
Web Site: http://www.u2kcampaign.org

Linda Walling, Faith Communities Coordinator
U2K Campaign
15905 Fernway Rd.
Shaker Hts. OH 44120
Phone: 216/751-2440
U2kwalling@aol.com

REQUEST TO INCLUDE NEWS about your organization's activities on behalf of U2K and health care justice to this newsletter: Send your message to <uhcan@uhcan.org>

"U2K Update" ARCHIVES: Direct your Web browser to:<http://www.u2kcampaign.org/News> to see past issues of this newsletter.

LIST PROBLEMS: Report all list concerns to uhcan@uhcan.org

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Health Care Justice Week, Oct. 13-22

YES! We want to join hundreds of groups nationwide to raise public awareness about health care injustice and to let our nation's candidates for public office know it's time for HEALTH CARE FOR ALL!

Let our voices be heard!

Here's what we are planning:

__ Candidate Forum
__ Town Hall Meeting
__ Public Hearing
__ Worship Service
__ Volunteer Project
__ Questions for Candidates at Public Events
__ Workshop
__ Street Theater
__ Rally
__ Delegation to Candidates
__ Fliers/Banners at Public Events
__ Display at Health Fair
__ Postcard/Letter Campaign
__ Phone Call Campaign
__ Other _________________________

Description of Activity as we would like it to be listed on the U2K web site
and in print materials:
_____________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________

Date:
Time:
Expected Attendance:
Place:
Address:
City:
Expected Outcomes:

WE NEED:
__ Contact from our area
__ U2K Elections Handbook (available at cost 9/1)

Organization:
Contact Person:
Address:
City/State/Zip:
Phone:
Fax:
Email: