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HEALTH CARE JUSTICE NOW: U2K UPDATE

Newsletter of the Universal Health Care 2000 Campaign (U2K)

September 15, 2000 (Issue no. 16)

IN THIS ISSUE:
Introduction
1. FAITH LEADER SIGN-ON LETTER - Send it to a faith leader in your community or organization today!  (Sent as separate email.)
2. Update on HEALTH CARE JUSTICE WEEK (Oct. 13-22) and ELECTIONS ENGAGEMENT events across the nation: join the growing movement!  (MO - MT - NY - OH - TX plus national groups THE ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY and UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE)
3. QUESTIONS and ANSWERS about the new Congressional UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE
4. THE DANGERS OF COMPETITION IN HEALTH CARE by Donald Light (with a reflection on its relevance to Presidential candidate George Bush's prescription drug coverage proposal by U2K Co-Chair Ken Frisof)
CONTACT US

INTRODUCTION

The U2K Campaign was founded in October 1999 by the Gray Panthers, the Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN!) and the National Council of Churches (NCC). U2K has grown now includes over 400 endorsing organizations, and thousands of individuals.  The goal of U2K is to achieve, through a democratic process, a national guarantee of comprehensive, affordable, 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 a bi-monthly fax/email newsletter for endorsers and supporters. Health Care Justice NOW is also an outreach tool, so please distribute it widely, and encourage other groups to subscribe.  There are over 1200 individuals and organizations that subscribe.  (To unsubscribe, email us at uhcan@uhcan.org.)  Past issues of the newsletter (as well as basic U2K Campaign materials) are available at www.u2kcampaign.org

1. FAITH LEADER SIGN-ON LETTER - Send it to a faith leader in your community or your organization today!  (Sent as separate email.)

TO:  U2K Supporters
FROM:  Linda Walling, Faith Communities Coordinator

Because you understand the importance of faith community participation in health care justice efforts, you will surely want to be among those signing and/or circulating this letter for religious leaders:  "A Call for Health Care Justice." By Health Care Justice Week, we hope to have thousands of signatures to highlight in our media events. The first round of names has been posted on our web site, <www.u2kcampaign.org/faith/signees.htm>.

The "Letter of Invitation" and "A Call for Health Care Justice" will be sent as a separate email.  Participants may respond via the technology of their choice. (See how easy we are making things!?!)  Please mail, fax, email, or hand deliver this to as many faith leaders as you can contact -- pastors, priests, nuns, rabbis, imams, men and women's fellowship presidents, interfaith/ecumenical council leaders, seminary faculty, etc.

2. HEALTH CARE JUSTICE WEEK and ELECTIONS ENGAGEMENT events across the nation: join the growing movement!

[Please Note: These are the latest U2K Campaign events during the election season.  For a complete list, visit our web site, <www.u2kcampaign.org>].

>>MISSOURI

* Public Forum
* Media Engagement
* Candidate Delegation

10/10; Participation in public forum on health issues sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Missouri, focused on health care disparities in the minority community, lack of access to dental and mental health care

Health Care Justice Week - A 1/2 page advertisement in newspapers in Columbia, Missouri listing over 30 endorsers of U2K, and calling on  candidates to take a stand for universal health care

Contact: Mary Hussman, Mid-Missourians for Universal Single-Payer Health Care, 573/474-1983 or <mary.hussman@gateway.net>

>>MONTANA

* Letter-Writing Campaign
* Public Forum

9/29-9/30; Montana People's Summit, five workshops including a panel discussion of the health care crisis in Montana and nationwide  "We want to raise the political consciousness of issues that the people of Montana are facing," says Tom Huddleston, an organizer with the Montana Community-Labor Coalition.  "Montana is last in the nation in individual income, and we are being seriously affected by the health care crisis."

Contact: Tom Huddleston, Montana Community-Labor Alliance, 406/439-5910 or
<thud@in-tch.com>

>>NEW YORK

* Candidate Forum

10/15; Health Care Forum featuring candidates for Congress in the 26th Congressional District; State University of New York, New Paltz, NY

Contact: Art Richter, Citizens for Universal Health Care of the Mid-Hudson Valley, 914/338-9009 or <arricht@attglobal.net>

>>OHIO

* Town Hall Meeting

10/3 - 11 AM; "Making Prescription Drugs Affordable for All"; Sheet Metal Workers Hall, 3666 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland OH

"Discuss ideas for an Ohio campaign for a prescription drug fair pricing law similar to those recently passed in Maine and Vermont, and underway in 20 other states.  Hear retirees testify how the high cost of prescription drugs is affecting their lives.  Tell us your situation." 

Contact: John Gallo, Cleveland AFL-CIO Retiree Council, 216/881-7200

>>TEXAS

* Candidate Delegations
* Public Forum

9/10 - 2 PM; Public Forum, "Campaign Finance and the Health Care System: How Money Dominates the System"; St. Edwards University, Jones Auditorium, Ragsdale Center, Austin TX

"Politics, and political funding, have a lot to do with the health care crisis," writes Charlotte Flynn with the Gray Panthers of Austin, on the flyer for this event.  "Join us for an enlightening forum on campaign finance and how it affects health care choices.  It doesn't have to be this way!"

Contact: Charlotte Flynn, Gray Panthers of Austin, 512/345-1869 or <wbillflynn@aol.com>

>>ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY

* Rally and Demonstration

10/14 - 2 PM; Washington, DC;  "Speak-Out on Health Care and Democracy" in the Capitol Rotunda, on the need for a major overhaul of both the campaign finance system and the health care system, and the difficulty of achieving the latter without first achieving the former.  A nonviolence training and action preparation session will begin Friday evening, 10/13, and continue on Saturday morning, 10/14.

Organized by the Alliance for Democracy and endorsed by the U2K Campaign, this will be the sixth in a series of "Democracy Brigade" speak-outs in the Capitol Rotunda.  These actions protest campaign finance "Crimes Against Democracy" - legalized bribery, extortion, gross conflict of interest, negligence, and malfeasance - and demanding full public financing of federal elections.

Typically, members of Democracy Brigades enter the Rotunda, unfurl huge banners, leaflet the astonished (yet usually sympathetic) tourists, and read aloud their personal statements and other writings related to the particular theme of the speak-out.  This powerful yet dignified, non-confrontational exercise of 1st Amendment rights is also an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, in violation of a D.C. statute prohibiting demonstrating in the Capitol Building, and thus it results in arrest by the Capitol Police.

Contact: Jim Ace, Alliance for Democracy, 510/261-4537 or <jamesace@earthlink.net>; Randy Kehler. 413/624-3836 or <randyk@javanet.com>.

>>UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE

* Conference

9/16 - 9/18; "Surviving to Thriving," conference on activism and welfare rights, including a workshop on health care reform; sponsored by the Natl. Coalition for the Homeless, Natl. Association of Child Advocates, the "and Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

Contact: Ted Steege, Associate for Public Policy, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, 202/466-7400 or <tsteege@uuscdc.org>

3. QUESTIONS and ANSWERS about the new Congressional UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE

What is the Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force?

The task force was formed to build broad-based, diverse support among members of Congress to work for a national guarantee of health care for all. The ultimate goal of the task force is to develop and pass legislation to achieve comprehensive, affordable, publicly accountable health care for all. Rep. John Conyers (D, MI) began the task force as a project of the Congressional Black Caucus┬╣ Health Care Brain Trust with the participation of the Hispanic, Progressive, Asian-Pacific, Women, Children and Native American Caucuses.

Who is in the Congressional Universal Health Care Task Force?

The task force is nonpartisan.  Since its creation in April 2000, 49 Congressional offices have attended health care briefings sponsored by the task force.

To build the task force, outreach is being conducted to various caucuses representing diverse constituencies that would gain from universal health care.  The task force will also be a gathering place for veteran supporters of universal health care efforts.  Finally, the task force would like to work with grassroots health care justice organizations and leading health policy academics.

The final goal of the task force is a truly broad-based, bipartisan membership who will work to achieve a national guarantee of health care for all. 

How can I find out if the staff of my Congressperson┬╣s office have been attending meetings?

The U2K Campaign has a list of the current members of the House of Representatives whose aides have attended task force briefings.  We will post the roster of task force members on the U2K web site, <www.u2kcampaign.org>, as of Sept. 15.  You can also contact the U2K Campaign office, <uhcan@uhcan.org> or 216/902-5577.

How will the Task Force work to achieve its goal of universal health care?

The work of the task force will focus on:
* Building a network of universal heath care allies in Congress that will maximize the support of legislation to achieve health care for all.
* Working closely with health care justice organizations, networks and coalitions to achieve this goal, including the U2K Campaign.
* Making the issue of health care for all a vital issue in the 2000 elections.
* Promoting  discussion and debate among members of Congress and their staff about universal health care and alternative policy approaches towards this goal.
* Educating colleagues on racial and ethnic disparities in health care, and other health care injustices.

How do I find out more about the Universal Health Care Task Force?

* Shelley Moskowitz, Gray Panthers, 202/737-6637 ext. 25, or
<info@graypanthers.org>.
* Joel Segal, Legislative Aide, Office of Rep. John Conyers (D, MI),
202/225-5126 or <joel.segal@mail.house.gov>

4. THE DANGERS OF COMPETITION IN HEALTH CARE - By Donald Light, as abridged by Ken Frisof, U2K Co-Chair

[Editor's Note: Under pressure to come up with a specific policy proposal for prescription coverage under Medicare, Republican Presidential candidate George W. Bush resurrected the Breaux-Frist Medicare managed competition model. The annual exodus of managed care companies from Medicare raises doubts about the  practicality of this proposal. But, in addition, there are grave theoretical concerns about making competition a central part of a health care system. Health care justice advocates will be able to use the concepts in this article not only in reference to the 2000 Presidential race, but for many years to come.]

Economic competition has transformed the modern world and spurred unparalleled economic growth. While it rewards efficiency in the short run within a given sector or industry, its main effect is to reward richly the invention of new products, the discovery of new markets, and the creation of new demands. But Adam Smith and a number of distinguished economists since have been acutely aware that creating a society that rewards people for seeking their own best advantage, rather than looking out for one another, will only be beneficial if there are conditions that prevent people from taking advantage of one another.

Beneficial competition requires there to be many independent buyers and sellers who can enter and exit the market easily, good cheap or free information about the qualities and prices of what is being bought, and full use of this information. If these and related requirements are not met, then competition can be damaging to individuals or to the community because the easy ways to win are not by coming up with something new and better, but by colluding, fixing prices, skimping on services or quality, deceiving customers, and other tricks of sharp sellers.

Competition seems so foreign to health care. In commercial life, the law of the land is caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. In health care, the law of the land is confidat emptor, let the buyer trust. Patients go to doctors, precisely because they want to entrust themselves when they are hurting, scared or anxious to an expert they can trust to put their interests first. Markets here are a paradigm misfit. No other nation with an advanced system has embraced competition, and no other national has turned its services over to investors seeking profits.

Nevertheless, American business executives and politicians have aggressively promoted the transformation of health care into commercial competitive markets. Further, up to last year at least, they declared their decision as a complete success in halting years of escalating costs. In fact, about a third of that slowdown was due to the general slowdown in overall inflation rates. Another third was due to cutbacks in services offered by health insurance, hardly an achievement of competition. And a final third was due to shifting costs back to employees, again not an achievement of competitive health care.

Against these mythical or very modest gains, competition in health care poses grave dangers. Ten are listed below.

1. It can undermine professional trust, the foundation of health care. Distrust drives out trust.

2. It can fragment health care into "products," organizational complexity and sub-budgets. Opportunistic products and markets feed on themselves.

3. It can encourage cost shifting as different parts of the whole attempt to minimize their costs and maximize gains.

4. Can encourage gaming in the highly imperfect markets in a wide variety of ways.

5. Can increase transactional costs, to market, contract, monitor, coordinate.

6. Can emphasize short-term "show-and-tell" gains, to the detriment of mid-term and long term projects.

7. Can create "managerialism," the proliferation and elevation of managers to the detriment of clinical services.

8. Can privatize vital information on the performance and costs of different providers and facilities.

9. Can fragment and undermine public health programs and their funding. 

10. Can leave unfunded education and research, on which the system depends.

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>

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to:<http://www.u2kcampaign.org/News> to see past issues of this newsletter.

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