We believe that healthcare is a human right.
We’ve been told that establishing healthcare as a public good, accessible to all and paid for with public funds, is “politically impractical.” We believe that nothing short of that will stop the continuing meltdown of this country’s healthcare system. We believe that we can win this fight, if all who are victimized by the system are mobilized to challenge the few who profit from it.
OUR MEETINGS: 3rd Tuesdays 6-7:30 PM 6025 E. Burnside, Portland, Or 97215 (the big green AFSCME bldg.)
OUR CURRENT ACTIONS:
Healthcare surveys, house parties, education of ourselves and others, and state-wide mobilization.
We welcome your help in this campaign for universal healthcare. Come to the next meeting.
WHAT WE HAVE BEEN DOING:
Portland Jobs with Justice began working on healthcare transformation after its inception in 1991, and a formal health care committee was established in 2003.
The year 2011 started with 500 people turning out to a conference in January to hear U.S. Rep. John Conyers (who has introduced a bill, HB676, for national single-payer health care in four previous legislative sessions), and a host of speakers, and to join break out groups.
After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), (whole text of law at www.healthcare.gov) was signed into law in March of 2010, we decided to push for single payer legislation at the state level, in part to put more pressure on Congress. Working with activists from Health Care for All-Oregon, Physicians for a National Health Program, www.pnhp.org and the Mad as Hell Doctors, www.madashelldoctors.com, we drafted HB 3510 which was introduced in the 2011 state legislature by Rep. Michael Dembrow, a member of Jobs with Justice. Supporters packed two hearing rooms at a dramatic two-hour hearing, but the bill failed to make it out of committee.
In June 2011, the Vermont state legislature passed a bill laying the groundwork for single payer healthcare in the Green Mountain state. We invited 3 organizers from Vermont Workers Center to tour Oregon, sharing the lessons of their grass roots movement for “healthcare as a human right” which helped build the historic campaign in Vermont. On December 17, 2011, at the Portland presentation, 350 people were energized, as were hundreds of people along the route of their statewide tour. Visit www.workerscenter.org to get updates on their campaign.
The influence of their ideas was much in evidence as representatives from twenty-eight organizations, including unions, community organizations, immigrant rights groups, faith groups, and health care advocates, met on January 27, 2012 to form a new statewide coalition for single payer. Portland Jobs with Justice hosted the meeting and continues to play a leadership role in the coalition.
Portland JwJ health care committee current actions, outlined above, are modeled on the strategies that worked in Vermont. We need your help to prove that it is not “politically impractical” to have a universal healthcare system in the U.S. Attend a meeting, and get active.
Reprinted with the Permission of Jen Sorensen, www.slowpokecomics.com
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CAMPAIGN FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE IN THE U.S AND MORE ABOUT WHAT WE HAVE DONE TO TRANSFORM THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM:
The idea of a single, universal health care system paid for with our tax dollars (what is sometimes called “single payer”) has been around a while. Teddy Roosevelt made it part of his campaign platform when he ran for a third term on the Bull Moose ticket in 1912. (He lost.) Twenty-five years later Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor, tried and failed to make it part of the Social Security law. Organized labor took up the cause after World War II with President Truman’s support, but ran into a brick wall of opposition when Republicans got control of Congress.
Having failed to win universal health care in the political arena, unions decided to negotiate health benefits for their members at the bargaining table. Without a national, publicly funded program like other countries had, the idea made sense: union membership was at an all-time high, and even non-union employers found they had to offer coverage to attract workers. By negotiating for large numbers of people, unions could get insurance companies to offer health plans at cheaper group rates, and employers got tax breaks for providing them.
But there were unintended consequences. The health insurance industry has developed into a $12 billion Frankenstein monster which has corrupted every aspect of our health care system, making it the most expensive and perhaps the least effective in the world. (Our health care outcomes lag far behind other industrialized countries.) Health insurance premiums are rising over three times as fast as workers’ wages. Medicals bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, even for people with insurance, and 43,000 people die needlessly every year because they couldn’t get access to care when they needed it.
For unions, rising health insurance costs have become a huge burden. More and more, Portland Jobs with Justice has been asked to help out in contract struggles where management used them to justify aggressive attacks on their workers. In 2007 we concluded that it was time for unions to renew their commitment to winning publicly-paid health care for everybody, so they wouldn’t have to fight for it at the bargaining table. We committed our energy and resources to working for passage of HR 676, the national single payer plan authored by Rep. John Conyers.
We spoke at union meetings, testified at hearings, collected hundreds of signed postcards at farmers markets and other public events, picketed Blue Cross headquarters, and demonstrated at Congressional town halls. We found broad public support for single payer that was not reflected in Congress, where insurance industry lobbyists hold sway. Single payer supporters who wanted to testify before the Senate Banking Committee were handcuffed and taken from the hearing room by Capitol police. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, what is sometimes called “Obamacare” was actually drafted by a former insurance industry executive on the committee’s staff. That Act did not solve the healthcare problem.
Portland JwJ, through its healthcare committee, continues its efforts to make the nearly 100 year old idea of a single payer, publically funded healthcare system, a reality.