Telling the Truth About The Health Care Crisis and The Demand For The "Single Payer" Solution
. by Cat Williams
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On May 15, 2008, Sacramento's Homeless Leadership Project traveled to Oakland to testify at the Truth Commission and Public Hearing on Health Care sponsored by the Women's Economic Agenda Project, a social justice organization based in Oakland. The group joined leaders who came from Merced, in California's Central Valley, from San Jose and San Francisco and from neighborhoods in Oakland, testifying on behalf of unions and homeless settlements, on behalf of church groups and youth groups, on behalf of County agencies and community health clinics.
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All these witnesses told the story of harsh injustice in health care at the microphone and at the podium, and called for a public "single payer" universal health care system that would eliminate costly private insurance, and would cover all people living in the United States from birth to death. Such a system could be brought about by a broad social movement led by people struggling with the exorbitant cost and poor quality of health care, especially by poor people who are exposed to the worst abuses of the current system.
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Nancy Lewis, nurse practitioner on the front lines at Huckleberry's Cole Street Youth Clinic and Hawkins Village in Visitation Valley in San Francisco told the story of dedicated staff, defying cutbacks in service, refusing to turn desperately ill patients away who turn to the clinic because the it is the only resource for people without insurance.
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Shamako Noble of the Hip Hop Congress, which uses the culture of Hip Hop to inspire often disenfranchised youth to get involved in social action, civic service, and cultural creativity, rapped out rhymes to expose the systemic denial of health justice.
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John, from Sacramento's Homeless Organizing Committee's Leadership Project, took the microphone to speak not only on behalf of homeless people denied health care, but also to point out that lack of care for infectious diseases threatens the whole community.
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Ethel Long-Scott, from the Truth Commission sponsor, the Women's Economic Agenda Project, brought down the rafters with an impassioned call to action - as her message in the Truth Commission program emphasized:
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Our nation has an amazing opportunity right now. We have the resources to give good health care to everyone who lives here. We have the opportunity to end the agonizing worry and unnecessary suffering of so many people about their health care. What stands in the way is the idea that nothing can be done unless some company can make a profit from it. Our goal is to help all of America's people get quality health care while eliminating poverty.
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California faces a rising tide of people who are uninsured - roughly 2.2 million more in 2006 than the previous year. California's State Medicaid offers the lowest re-imbursement rate per capita in the nation. In Los Angeles, as reported in the New York Times, 15 acute care hospitals have closed since 2000. The latest is Martin Luther King Jr-Harbor, which was opened after the Watts uprisings. Once the "jewel" of that community, it was closed in August, sending poor residents scrambling for care at scattered, overburdened clinics and causing ambulances to travel the streets for miles to look for emergency rooms to accept the severely ill and injured. This is the situation across the country: Grady Hospital, the only source for care for poor people in Atlanta, especially for the undocumented, was recently "privatized" and is under continuing pressure to close because it has no funding.
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The message of the Truth Commission is that we can do it - the social movement for health care, powered by the millions of homeless and poor people can make a public ("single payer") health care system a reality.
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Here are the seven building blocks of unity for the "Single Payer" health care system:
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One Tier: one payer for all medical costs, one standard of care.
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Universal Care Now: Everyone in, Nobody Out!
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Public Accountability and Control: not corporate control.
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Comprehensive Coverage: all health needs, prescriptions, and long term care.
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Choice: Freedom to choose physicians and other providers.

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Protection of Health, Not Profits: eliminate insurance, advertising, administration, and the squandered costs of a profit based system.
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Just Transition: protect the income and benefits of displaced workers now employed in processing insurance claims and other functions by providing training and new placements.