Silence = Death: A Healthcare Call to Action
By John Iversen
Decisions in the coming weeks will affect the delivery of healthcare in America for decades to come. We are at a crossroads.
On Thursday, October 29, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pulled Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) state single payer (Medicare for All) initiative amendment from the House bill with no notice, no discussion and no vote. This is what Pelosi’s democracy looks like. Pelosi is probably well aware that Canadians obtained their national health system province by province. God forbid states like Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota and California should lead the way to a similar system in the U.S!
I was lucky enough to be born into the first American healthcare co-operative started by local unions in Two Harbors, Minnesota in 1944, and be covered by it for my first 21 years. The Two Harbors model was a precursor to HMOs such as Kaiser and Medica. Recently the Two Harbors Community Clinic/First Plan was bought out by Blue Cross, as they were too small to compete. Larger groups such as Group Health in Minneapolis also buckled under the competition. So the Max Baucus (D-MT)/Kent Conrad (D-ND) co-op idea is a failed one and either shows their lack of knowledge or disingenuousness to sabotage a strong public option that includes state single payer (Medicare for All) initiatives as supported by Kucinich, John Conyers (D-MI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
As a person disabled by AIDS and arthritis in 1991 I’ve had the good fortune of receiving Medicare. Every American should have access to the care I had growing up in the first medical co-op and for the last 18 years with Medicare.
So what groups are on the ball and supporting the Conyers-Kucinich-Sanders amendments? I’ve been taking attendance and here are a few: Progressive Democrats of America (pdamerica.org), Tikkun Magazine (tikkun.org), California Nurses Association (calnurses.org), Physicians for a National Health Program (pnph.org), alliancefordemocracy.org, Network of Spiritual Progressives (spiritualprogressives.org), centerforpolicyanalysis.org, healthcarenow.org, healthcareforall.org and the California State Employees Association. Progressive media such as Democracy Now!, MSNBC, and the Ed Schultz Show have also given the issue coverage. Local and state organizations can be found at: healthcare-now.org and http://www.uhcan.org
Noticeably absent from class are most labor unions, single issue groups, all national LGBT, people of color and women’s groups. They are resting on their laurels of passing Medicare for All resolutions and then doing nothing to back it up.
What distresses me most is the steely silence of supposedly progressive large internet groups. Here is their contact information: most notably Move On: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; activist@ democrats.com. Please ask these groups to put out alerts asking folks to call Pelosi’s San Francisco office: 415-556-4862. Calls to her DC office are rerouted like a hot potato once they ascertain you do not live in her district. As Speaker of the House, I think she owes an ear to all of us. She needs to support rather than sabotage the movement for Medicare for All at the state level. Also consider donating to the groups present, and boycotting those absent on this timely and important issue.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is accepting calls from everyone at his DC office: 202-2243542. Rep. Joe Stupak should also be called at his Michigan office: 906-228-3700 or FAX: 202-225-4744. Ask Pelosi and Reid to appoint John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders to the Joint Senate/House Conference Committee on Health Insurance Reform.
If we are to progress we must ACT UP and make a joyful and thunderous noise throughout the land NOW. Silence does indeed equal death for 45,000 Americans annually under the present broken system. As Bill Moyers says. “This is not the time to sit on the sidelines. Get busy.” So email the abstaining internet groups, call Pelosi, Reid and Stupak, call your union, church or any group you to which you belong. To quote another Minnesota boy, Bob Dylan: “Let us stop talking falsely now, the hour’s getting late.”
John Iversen is an internationally known, honored and proclaimed AIDS and health activist from Berkeley, CA, and has been HIV + for 29 years.