By Elaine Branjord
Activists for single-payer health care, once considered “fringe,” find themselves in the midst of a movement for universal health care that’s growing exponentially.
That was one of many inspiring takeaways from the Single-Payer Leadership meting held Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, NV. Healthcare-NOW hosted the event, which included attendee activists from 25 states.
Around the country, activists are educating at movie showings and discussions, presenting forums, writing letters to the editor, collecting and sharing stories, and reaching out to others as we rally for other wings of the broader justice movement.
“It was really Sen. Sanders’ presidential campaign that elevated the whole concept of Medicare for All to public consciousness, and it’s here to stay,” said Paul Song, MD, an oncologist from California who gave one of two keynote addresses. “And very much like marriage equality, it’s starting to be more popular in a very exponential kind of way.”
Song’s presentation was accompanied by effective slides which are available for campaign use. You can download them and watch his keynote along with Amy Viela’s at bit.ly/LasVegasSinglePayerMeeting.
Viela is the mother of Shalynne, a young nurse who died from an obvious blood clot. She was turned away from emergency room care due to her lack of insurance. Viela has shared her daughter’s story and encouraged people to become active in working for health care for everyone. Her mission has led her to run for state office in Nevada.
Michael Lighty, a lobbyist for the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, quoted Frederick Douglass in his presentation:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Lighty talked of the intersectionality of groups working on various social movements. He said that anyone who thinks that there will be Medicare for All while minimum wage is $7.75, immigrants are denied rights, and people of color are mistreated by the judicial system are kidding themselves.
“We are the health care wing of the broader justice movement,” Lighty said. “This is the righteous and winning movement and we are going to win it.”
Because panels were followed by round table discussions, the meeting offered the opportunity for folks to share health care activism experiences from their states.
Song also told the audience that Rep. Shirley Chisolm, who ran for president in 1972, said 45 years ago, “We have never seen health care as a right. It has been conceived as a privilege only available to those who can afford it. This is the real reason the American health care system is in such a scandalous state.”
Dr. Song said this could have been said yesterday and that now is the time to work together to see health care as a right.
The work being done around the country is intersectional and productive. Thanks for so much dedication.