NOTE: Relevant links to the Single Payer Strategy Conference Wiki are included in this article.
On the weekend of October 30 – November 1 we hosted our most successful Single Payer Strategy Conference ever! More than 300 attendees converged on Chicago from Healthcare-NOW, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare, and One Payer States. We joined with Physicians for a National Health Program in rallying against Blue Cross Blue Shield, pooled our organizing experiences, learned new skills, and focused on the fights ahead in 2016. The conference was the first national convergence of every national group organizing for single-payer healthcare: labor, patient activists, and healthcare providers — all of the core constituencies that this movement needs to win.
Some key themes rose to the top at this year’s Single Payer Strategy Conference:
For state movements approaching victory, different tactics and new resource are needed to cross the finish line.
Some of the most important organizing stories in our movement recently have revolved around states knocking on the door of implementing public, universal healthcare – some through ballot initiatives, others through legislation. Workshops on “New York: Beyond the Breakthrough” and “Progress Report on State Single Payer Campaigns,” as well as a plenary on “Getting Past the Finish Line: The Single-Payer Movements in Vermont and New York” analyzed what our movement will have to do – at the state level and nationally – so withstand serious pushback from the health insurance industry and others invested in the status quo. We’ll need to prepare ourselves for divisions in our movement when real proposals are on the table, and have an escalation plan in place for mobilizing greater resources when we face a heavily-funded opposition campaign.
National single-payer reform is unlikely to pass in isolation from broader movements for social and economic justice, just as Medicare and Medicaid passed in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.
A range of workshops and a central plenary focused on outreach and coalition-building strategies at the intersection of health care justice and related social movements, including “The ACA at 5 Years: Medicaid Expansion and Immigrant Inclusion”, “Organizing Students and Youth for Healthcare Justice”, and “LGBT Access to Healthcare: An Issue for All Single Payer Activists,“ and the plenary “Single-Payer and the Movements for Racial Equity and Immigrant Justice.”
The release of a new documentary, FixIt: Healthcare at the Breaking Point, is lighting a fire under efforts to reach out to the business community.
The documentary project was launched by Richard Master, CEO of a frame company, who was running up against the difficulties of providing adequate healthcare to his workforce while remaining competitive in the frame industry, and decided to do something about it. The film debuted for the first time at our conference, and the documentary team hosted a workshop on using the film as a tool for reaching out to business people in your community. See the film website for more information: fixithealthcare.com
Finally, the election cycle will structure much of our movement-building work in 2016, and this upcoming election offers particularly important challenges and opportunities for our movement. The Bernie Sanders campaign is putting single-payer on the table within the Democratic base in a way rarely seen before, and even the early success of the Donald Trump campaign is elevating the issue of single-payer. But activists must find ways to translate mass involvement with the candidates’ campaigns into movement-building for single-payer, or enthusiasm for our issue will die as quickly as it started. 2016 offers us a tremendous opportunity, but only if we organize effectively!
You can read more notes from conference speakers, workshop facilitators, and attendees on the Single Payer Strategy Conference Wiki page.