Conyers spearheads health care campaign

Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) will host a National Health Insurance Conference, April 16-17, to kick off a 50-state campaign for passage of national health insurance legislation, HR 676 – the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.”

The bill would include everyone in the country in medical, hospital, dental, mental health, prescription, home care, physical therapy, nursing home care, rehabilitation, and vision coverage. HR 676 provides for patients to choose their own physicians and removes all co-pays and deductibles. This single-payer program saves money and lives by eliminating for-profit HMOs and insurance companies so that the $1.6 trillion the U.S. spends annually on health can all be spent for care of patients. Conyers introduced HR 676 in the House in 2003.

Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program, will keynote the conference, speaking on “The State of Health Care – The Case for National Health Insurance.” Conyers will speak on “Launching a National Movement for HR 676,” followed by a session on “Getting the Message Out – Working the Media.”

Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and Joel Segal, senior assistant to Conyers, will present the details of HR 676 in a session titled, “What Is It and How Do We Pay For It?” They will seek to arm the participants to take the message back to the neighborhoods. There will also be a session on strategies to promote single-payer legislation on the state level. Activists are working on state single-payer bills in a number of states, including Massachusetts, California, and Pennsylvania. The agenda includes nuts-and-bolts workshops on working with unions, faith communities, educators, and health workers.

Ron Gettelfinger, United Auto Workers president, and Leo Gerard, Steelworkers president, both advocates of single-payer health care, have been invited to address the conference. The conference has also extended invitations to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, two of the co-sponsors of HR 676.

Conference organizers intend to establish a national health insurance citizens’ network to begin implementing a campaign to pass HR 676 or its equivalent. They also hope to open a national health insurance coordination office in Washington.

Dozens of health care and social justice organizations have endorsed the conference including Physicians for a National Health Program, the Gray Panthers, Jobs with Justice of Washington, D.C., the National Coalition for the Homeless, the American Medical Students Association, Universal Health Care Action Network, and the National Welfare Rights Union.

“We believe that the leadership should come from the people that do the work, and now is the time to build a serious movement for national health insurance for all in America,” assert conference organizers Michelle and Rick Tingling-Clemmons, who expect 200-300 participants. The conference will be held at Howard University Hospital and Towers Auditorium, 2041 Georgia Ave. NW, Washington, D. C.

For further information, contact National Health Insurance for All Conference, c/o Metropolitan DC Health Consortium, 7603 Georgia Av., NW, Suite #203, Washington, DC 20012; (202) 397-2277, (202) 829-9108; e-mail Mirico5@aol.com.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.