New Health Care Campaign To Pour $40 Million into Push for Universal Coverage
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On Tuesday, July 8, a new campaign will be launched -- for Health Care for America Now! -- at press conferences in Washington and 55 other cities and towns. We at the Campaign for America's Future are proud to play a leadership role in launching this much-needed campaign, led by 100 national and local organizations.
The steering committee includes ACORN, AFSCME, Americans United for Change, Campaign for America's Future, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Center for Community Change, MoveOn, NEA, National Women's Law Center, Planned Parenthood, SEIU, UFCW, and USAction -- not a bad core group to make history with. And now is the time!
Profound economic changes are convincing the public that we need to take action together to build a healthy, sustainable economy and ensure real security for all families. And that includes, first and foremost, making sure everyone has quality, affordable health care.
The mission of the Campaign for America's Future is to develop and promote bold policy ideas that can build a majority for change. We brought together environmentalists and union activists to promote an "Apollo project" investment agenda to make America energy independent -- and to create the next generation of good American jobs. We sounded the alarm about conservative plans to privatize Social Security, and -- working with a coalition similar to HCAN -- we helped to defeat those dangerous plans to undermine retirement security.
So it was only natural that over the last two years, we have been encouraging health care experts to think big, to come forward with plans to cover everyone who doesn't have good health care coverage, while reining in spiraling costs by reorganizing the most inefficient aspects of what is today a very fragmented, wasteful and unstable health care system.
For two years, we have worked to promote discussion of the Health Care for America plan, written by Yale University health expert Jacob Hacker and published in January 2007 by the Economic Policy Institute. Praised by activists, policy experts and labor leaders, the Hacker-EPI plan helped inform the policy work and public opinion testing of many progressive organizations. And partly as a result of our discussions with the presidential candidates and their policy teams, and our pointed health care questions to them all over the blogosphere during the primary election debate, it became the template for the health care plans of candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. National Public Radio reported in January 31:
All three plans (Obama's, Clinton's and Edwards') came from the same source: a Yale University political science professor named Jacob Hacker. And all three were based on the concept of something called "shared responsibility," where government, individuals and employers all pay something. ... So, Clinton and Obama would let people keep their existing coverage if they want to, or buy into a government-sponsored plan like Medicare, and the government would subsidize small businesses and the poor.
Most Americans know that we can't depend on the health insurance industry -- or the drug companies -- to solve the big health care problems of spiraling costs and millions with inadequate insurance or no coverage at all. In fact, those companies and their lobbyists are a big part of the problem. Clearly, if insurance and drug companies want to be part of a national system to cover everyone, they cannot be allowed to exclude people from coverage, including people with pre-existing conditions. They will have to sell good, comprehensive insurance that we can afford, stop shifting costs to us through high deductibles and co-pays and stop employing devious tricks to deny people with coverage payment for their health care services. And, while we believe everyone should be free to keep or elect private health insurance, everyone should also have the choice to enroll in a public, Medicare-style insurance plan that guarantees affordable coverage, without a private insurer middleman.
So a big part of our contribution to HCAN will be to distribute research and analysis that makes the case not only for why we need change, but for the kind of change we need. Information is power, and we will distribute this information to the many parts of our grassroots coalition. And we will push forward health care policy experts and opinion leaders whose views on health care need to be heard, nationally and locally, in Congress, in the media, on the web and in the field.
Another project HCAN and CAF will engage the public in is a campaign that demonstrates all the many ways that insurance and drug companies put their profits before our health care and use their political influence to undermine health care change.
Most politicians now say they favor some kind of health care "reform," but HCAN is mobilizing a citizens' force that can make sure we do it right, based on the principles of choice, affordability, shared responsibility, and fairness. Without the kind of public mobilization HCAN is bringing to this debate, we could end up, once again, with a system that leaves us at the mercy of predatory private insurance and drug companies.
We're excited to continue our leadership on this critical kitchen-table issue, and confident that the new Health Care for America Now! coalition will empower the public to triumph over special interest influence and solve the growing health care crisis.
Roger Hickey is co-director of the Campaign for America's Future and leads its Social Security campaign. He is also co-author of "The Next Agenda Blueprint for a New Progressive Movement."