National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine March 2014

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the PPACA (such as preventing "balance billing," expanding provider networks, and ensuring safety in outpatient settings), to supporting California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones' effort on the November 2014 ballot to pass an initiative that would grant the commissioner authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes for individual and small group plans. "We need to continue to seize upon the narrative and educate people in California about what a single-payer healthcare system is and to continue to point out that the insurance industry is not our friend and really serves no function in our state," said Song. New York new york is making remarkable progress on single-payer with one house of its Legislature already on board and a strong array of organizations and individuals working to win over the state Senate and governor. Though few people know it, New York has had a single-payer bill before its legislators longer than any other state in the nation. The bill pending now has 91 cosponsors in the state Legislature, and supporting organizations are holding a statewide lobby day on May 6 to urge passage of the bill. Single-payer in the Empire State has been reinvigorated by recent endorsements from the Working Families Party and 1199/SEIU Health Care Workers East, reported Katie Robbins, a single-payer activist for many years based in New York City. Robbins was among those arrested, including several CNA/NNU nurses, in 2009 during a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., when they protested how single-payer solutions were excluded from dis- cussions leading to the Affordable Care Act. At the time, she was the national organizer of Healthcare-NOW, the national grassroots advo- cacy group supporting single-payer reform. Those groups join existing labor supporters of the New York Health Bill, including the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), NYS AFL-CIO, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, among many others. Other States at least 20 other states are deeply engaged in some level of state-based, single-payer healthcare reform effort. While Vermont, California, and New York represent the states making the most direct and measureable progress, other states are organizing their grassroots, electing single-payer political candidates, and even tak- ing their case for healthcare justice directly to the ballot. In Minnesota, State Sen. John Marty invited playwright and actor Michael Milligan of New York to perform his one-man show, Mercy Killers, last year for state legislators as a unique way to edu- cate them about the trauma of the U.S. healthcare system (See accompanying article for more on Mercy Killers). Milligan has also toured California and other states (as well as Scotland) with the show and earned rave reviews for his depiction of a working class, conservative auto shop owner and mechanic who faces a family health crisis and must confront the realities of the for-profit health insurance-based system. "One of our problems is we know how to talk to each other about single-payer, but we need to explain this complicated issue to the public in very easy terms," said Erin Anderson, executive director of Health Care for All Minnesota, which is doing research into fresh approaches to educating Minnesotans. But with a persuadable Legislature and supportive governor, Anderson said that Minnesota's political stars may be aligned to pass single-payer legislation. In Colorado in 2013, the state's lead- ing single-payer advocacy group, Health Care for All Colorado, led a fully volun- teer funded and initiated campaign to put a measure on the ballot that would have asked voters to amend the state's Constitution by adding healthcare as a human right and a public good. Though volunteers did not collect the required 89,000 signatures, they are undaunted. In several other states, like Illinois and Pennsylvania, single-payer legisla- tion has been introduced and hearings have been held to educate legislators about the economic and societal bene- fits of improved and expanded Medicare-for-all systems. Illinois state Rep. Mary Flowers has held hearings in previous legislative sessions surrounding her single-payer bill, and is considering holding forums all over the state to educate Illinois residents about the work remaining to achieve healthcare equality in the Affordable Care Act era, according to Sonja Rotenberg, board president for the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition. Other states are electing single-payer-friendly political leaders who are bring- ing the issue more political attention and acceptance, such as Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was a strong supporter of national single-payer legislation during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives. In Maine, RNs with the Maine State Nurses Association have been leading the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, styled after Vermont. Nurses have been holding town hall-style meetings as well as health fairs and clinics with the public to reframe health- care as a public good, not a commodity. They are supporting Medicaid expansion in their state (which the governor will unfortu- nately veto) and a single-payer bill which is pending in committee. "I'm not saying everybody has to have a cell phone, car, or fancy TV," said Terrylyn Bradbury, an emergency room RN at Millinocket Regional Hospital who had been active with the campaign. "Those aren't rights. But every human being—man, woman, child—has the right to be taken care of when they're sick." Bradbury is very invested in winning single-payer not just for her patients, but for herself and her own family members who have been in danger of being uninsured, and because she grew up in Ontario, Canada, and has experienced the benefits and security of a Medicare-for-all system. Several states mentioned here continue to participate in a state single-payer advocacy organization known as One Payer States that holds informational calls for advocates and allows state-based single-payer advocates a way to discuss ideas and strategies for moving forward. One Payer States has had as many as 22 states participating in its calls and its work. In August 2014, California will host the third One Payer States conference. Whether the United States achieves single-payer, improved and expanded Medicare for all, for life, may well rely on the successful efforts of individual states to make sure no one is left out when health- care is needed. And in every state where significant single-payer work is progressing, registered nurses are helping lead the charge. Donna Smith is executive director of Healthcare for All Colorado. M A R C H 2 0 1 4 W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G N A T I O N A L N U R S E 15 "I'm not saying everybody has to have a cell phone, car, or fancy TV. Those aren't rights. But every human being— man, woman, child—has the right to be taken care of when they're sick."

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