Protests at GOP meet to hit health crisis

The National Council of Churches, along with 100 other organizations, has sent the clarion call to everyone protesting the anti-people policies of the Bush administration and its congressional allies. The familiar health themes will be featured at the protest rallies at the Republican National Convention: People Before Profits, Health Care is a Human Right, No Profits in Health Care, Health Care not Warfare, Stop Privatization in Health Care, Stop Drug Company Greed, Universal Health Care for All, Why is the U.S. the Only Country Without Health Care for All?

The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) has put forward a program that can encompass everyone who opposes the Bush administration’s payoffs of the drug and insurance companies. The NCHC is a nonpartisan group, but in this case its demands clearly point the finger at President Bush, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist (owner of the largest for-profit hospital chain in the world), and their corporate backers.

The NCHC recommendations are all the more important since the arm-twisting that Frist and Bush used to get their Medicare legislation passed has completely backfired. You rarely hear either of them extolling the virtues of their prescription drug plan, a plan that everyone now sees as a payoff to the drug manufacturers.

NCHC head Dr. Henry Simmons set the tone for the next stage of this health care campaign: “Small incremental changes are not sufficient. We need reforms that are systemic and we need them now.”

James Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board, put it straight: “America can make health care accessible to everyone and now is the time for us to make it happen.”

Some of the highlights of the NCHC program include simplifying and modernizing the administration of health care; making the financing of health care more equitable; launching a nationwide effort to dramatically improve the quality, safety and value of health care; and bringing the cost of health care in line with other parts of the economy. The group also calls for immediate coverage of everyone within three years of the passage of any national health bill.

These are hardly earthshaking proposals. In fact, had they been put forward a few years ago, they would have not caused a ripple. But, the Bush/Frist health care grab for profits has so distorted the delivery and financing of health care that they are now seen as major steps forward — and they would be.

So, when you arrive in New York City over the weekend of Aug. 27, bring your own slogans on homemade, union-made and community-made poster boards displaying your anger and demands for health care for all.

On Aug. 28 Roger Toussaint, president of the Transit Workers Union Local 100, will address the health care crisis at a media forum Aug. 28 at Elebash Hall, CUNY Graduate Center, Fifth Avenue and 34th Street at 11 a.m. The forum will be followed by an interactive exhibit titled “The Medicine Show.”

On Sunday, Aug. 29, the United For Peace and Justice will be hosting a gathering of hundreds of thousands of people to tell the Republican National Convention and Bush that four years is ENUF and you’re OUT. (Visit www.unitedforpeace.org.)

Health care activists will be gathering at the “Health Care Crisis and Election 2004” Conference and Rally of the Uninsured Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at the CUNY Graduate Center Auditorium, 365 5th Avenue, starting at 9:00 a.m. on both days. (No admission fee). The conference is sponsored by the Campaign for a National Health Program (cnhpnow.org), and speakers include Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard, and Congressman John Conyers, author of HR 676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Bill.

On Sept. 1, the New York City’s Central Labor Council will host a 4 p.m. rally at the corner of 8th Avenue and 30th Street, going down to 23rd Street.

All of these events deserve (and will get) the largest of turnouts. Be sure to bring your health care demands on posters and talk with everyone who is attending and mobilizing for the November elections to oust Bush, Frist and the other Republicans from leadership in Washington, D.C.

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