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Ricklm and I had the rare good experience of attending the 2009 National Strategy Conference of the Health Care Now Coalition that was held at the Sheraton in Westport this past weekend.  

Present and presenting were such notables as Dr Quentin Young and Dr Margaret Flowers from the PNHP, Donna Smith and Michael Lighty of the California Nurses Assn and the NNOC, Terry O’Neill president of NOW, Russell Mokhiber of Single Payer Action and Tim Carpenter, Executive Director of Progressive Dems of America.

Local notables included Jerry Tucker from Labor for Single Payer and Mimi Signor RN of the Missourians for Single Payer (MOSP).

It was the diligent campaigning by the MOSP that encouraged the Health Care Now Coalition to select St. Louis as the site for this important meeting.  There were approximately 200 other participants representing almost every state in the Union.

By unanimous vote, HB 3962 was rejected for many reasons, one of which was the atrocious Stupak/Pitt amendment which will effectively overturn Roe v Wade for millions of women. Another was that The Great Pelosi Hullabaloo over the reining in of insurance ability to gender rate premiums will be offset by allowing insurance to continue and augment the ability to age rate premiums with individuals in mid life paying up to 50% more than younger participants.

The CNA reply to the question of why there was so much cheerleading by so many progressives and liberal legislators, columnists and activists was  as follows:

1.Passage of the bill was a clear defeat for the Republican opposition and those on the right who have so mischaracterized what boils down to modest reform that looks more like a”robust” version of the Medicare Prescription drug benefit or the State Children’s Health Initiative.

2.Proponents of the bill, starting in the White House and running through the Democratic leadership in Congress, with the assistance and support of many in labor and liberal and progressive constituency groups, have so lowered expectations on health care reform that with eyes wide shut they can call this a sweeping victory.

The many providers present at this meeting testified to the fact that clinical judgment will be increasingly sacrificed to insurance profits with providers being forced to change the way they practice to ensure savings.  Thus their opposition to 3962 will include a solution that goes beyond profits for corporations and instead goes to the heart of every provider’s duty to their patient.

Terry O’Neill admitted that NOW had been caught off guard by the inclusion of Stupak/Pitt into 3962, but is now in the process of rolling out a full campaign to support HR 676.  

It was a full weekend of heavy-duty analysis of the issue with numerous strategy sessions that included all participants.  The most often heard words were “going forward”. The conference ended with  unanimous agreement that true health care reform should be considered the 21st century human and civil rights issue.