Health Care Advocates Launch Campaign for a National System

Volume CII, No. 5May, 2002

Health care advocates kicked off a new congressional campaign for national health care on April 5. They gathered at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church to hear Rep. John Conyers describe his Health Care Access Resolution, the vehicle for a campaign aimed at reinvigorating serious consideration of fundamental health care reform.

The bill, known as HCR-99, would guarantee access to health care for all Americans by 2004, and lays out 14 principles to guide its development.

A highlight of the evening was the music of the Junior Mance Trio, with Earl May (bass) and Jackie Williams (drums). Conyers (D-Mich.), a leader in countless campaigns for social justice, has a deep commitment to jazz. He introduced the resolution declaring jazz a “national treasure” that Congress adopted in 1987.

The program was sponsored by the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign. Local 802 is a member of the campaign and helped to organize the event. In his remarks, President Bill Moriarity noted that “few issues have affected musicians more than the lack of health care. Musicians have the dubious distinction of being well represented among those 40 to 45 million people who are without health insurance. And for those who work in the jazz field, the situation is often even worse. Many spend their entire working lives without health insurance.

“We are here for those jazz artists,” Moriarity said. “We are here for the millions of people without health insurance and for those who have found their insurance to be inadequate. There will continue to be a health crisis, and it cries out for a solution.” He pointed out that congressional supporters of national health care “need the help of our organizations to be able to rightly say that there is a groundswell of support for this issue.”

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) paid tribute to Conyers’ progressive role on a multitude of issues. He placed particular importance on their work together on the House Judiciary Committee, battling the reactionary legislation emanating from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. “I’m glad to work with John trying to achieve a solid, single-payer universal health care system, so that health care is a right, not a privilege,” Nadler said.

Rep. Conyers pointed out that “the system is broken beyond repair. It can’t be fixed. But you can’t do nothing, and we know where we’ve got to go. So we keep introducing legislation. HR-99 is a bill that says in the year 2004 (which is coming much sooner than anybody thinks) we will have national health care. We want to end up with hundreds of legislators supporting this.”

“Everybody is dissatisfied with the system that we have now,” Conyers declared. “Health care delivery is a dollars-and-cents, bottom-line business, and doctors are getting ripped off just like everybody else. They realize it now, and they’re coming around. If you don’t believe it, ask your doctor or dentist. Public hospitals are closing all over this country – a national scandal. Everybody admits that the time for national health insurance has come.

“We want to say that on this night, in this church, we put together the beginning of what became the network of national organizations determined to get national health insurance legislation passed as soon as we can. We can do this!”