Occupy actions, PNHP Annual Meeting report, Healthcare Reform 2.0

Nov. 10, 2011

Dear PNHP colleague,

Today’s message contains six points:

1. Update on the Occupy movement and single payer
2. ‘Healthcare Reform 2.0’ by Woolhandler and Himmelstein
3. PNHP’s Annual Meeting draws large crowd
4. Update on protest of IOM’s skimpy benefits model
5. More rumblings from Super Committee on cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
6. Keep PNHP in mind for end-of-year giving

1. Update on the Occupy movement and single payer

Photo by Thomas Good / NLN

If you’ve watched or participated in the Occupy Wall Street movement that’s been sweeping the nation, giving voice to the demand of “the 99 percent” to put human needs before corporate greed, you’ve probably noted the appearance of signs and chants such as “Health care is a human right,” “Get Wall Street out of our health care,” and “Medicare for All.”

PNHP members and other single-payer advocates have definitely been part of the mix.

You may have seen, for example, Drs. Kenneth Weinberg and Steven Auerbach of PNHP’s N.Y. Metro chapter talking about why physicians support OWS on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” recently. (You’ll spot many other PNHP members in the 6-minute video footage too.)

The N.Y. Metro chapter played a central role in the formation of a “Health care for the 99 percent working group” within the OWS movement and helped spark an Oct. 26 “March against the insurance industry” that drew more than 1,000 people who protested outside the corporate offices of WellPoint and the for-profit WellCare Health Plans, and protested the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village.

Photo by Thomas Good / NLN

The march drew national media attention. This gallery of photos shows the spectrum of the marchers’ demands, including a call for “Single payer now.” You’ll find more on the march and the chapter’s statement of why PNHP supports the OWS (among them: “We support OWS because economic and social inequalities make our patients sick”) at the N.Y. Metro chapter’s blog.

Many doctors, nurses and other health professionals have provided medical help to the occupiers in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, too.

And this is only New York City! Ongoing actions are taking place in more than 100 U.S. cities, according to, not to mention actions under way around the world.

Photo by Thomas Good / NLN

As the OWS workshop at PNHP’s Annual Meeting revealed, our members are involved all across the country, in cities large and small. (By the way, there was a march and protest led by Dr. Margaret Flowers and the Freedom Plaza occupiers outside the offices of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group, in Washington, around the time of our Annual Meeting. Quite a few PNHP members marched and spoke there, calling for a single-payer health system. Many Annual Meeting attendees visited the Occupy DC site too.)

Some PNHP activists are giving teach-ins on single payer to the general assemblies. Others are providing other forms of support. If you’d like to become more involved but don’t know how to do so, drop us a note at and we’ll be happy to help.

2. ‘Healthcare Reform 2.0’ by Woolhandler and Himmelstein

This week a new article titled “Healthcare Reform 2.0” by Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein was published by Social Research, an international quarterly. Dr. Don McCanne, senior health policy fellow at PNHP, observes: “This brief primer (9 short pages plus references) on Healthcare Reform 2.0 will provide little new information for those who have followed the research and educational efforts of the leadership of PNHP. Nevertheless, it should be downloaded to be used as an advocacy piece to explain to others why Healthcare Reform 1.0 (Affordable Care Act) will remain a failure, and why we have to move on to Healthcare Reform 2.0 (expanded and improved Medicare for All). By distributing this, electronically or in hard copy, you can become a part of the popular movement to counter corporate power [echoing a theme in the article].” Download the article here.

3. PNHP’s Annual Meeting draws large crowd

Photos by Mark Almberg / PNHP

Nearly 300 people from 28 states and the District of Columbia packed the ballroom of the Kellogg Conference Hotel at Gallaudet University in Washington on Oct. 29 for PNHP’s Annual Meeting. It was one of our largest meetings ever, and the mood was decidedly upbeat and forward-looking.

The participants listened to PNHP leaders such as Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler along with Canada’s Robert Evans, the U.K.’s Dr. Jacqueline Davis, authors Phillip Longman and Dr. David Ansell, and activists like Drs. Mardge Cohen, Claudia Fegan, Garrett Adams and Quentin Young. Several of the plenary presentations and workshop slideshows can be found here, and more will be forthcoming.

The workshops covered everything from state single-payer efforts to the Occupy movement to how to build a PNHP chapter, to mention just a few. Participants joined in roundtable discussions and informal exchanges in the hallways and, in the case of the 40 or so medical students who were in attendance, also danced to the music of “the Cornel West theory” late into the night.

You’ll find some photos of the Annual Meeting here.

4. Update on PNHP’s protest of IOM’s skimpy benefits model

More than 2,000 physicians, including some of the most distinguished figures in U.S. medicine, have signed a letter to the Institute of Medicine protesting the IOM’s recommendation that cost rather than medical need be the basis for defining the “essential benefits” that insurance policies must cover when the federal health reform law takes effect in 2014.

The protest letter and the names of its signers have been submitted to a journal for publication, and in due time the letter will be submitted to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the formal comment process on the IOM committee’s recommendations. If you’d like to sign the letter, it’s not too late to do so.

5. More rumblings from the Super Committee on cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

Since our last message about the secret discussions of the congressional Super Committee, the 12-member bipartisan panel appointed by President Obama charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in cuts to federal spending, word has leaked out that Democrats on the committee (and the Democratic leadership) may approve a “deficit deal” with Republicans that involves cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits in exchange for small revenue increases.

This has resulted in a storm of opposition from a wide spectrum of groups, including the AFL-CIO and the National Organization for Women.

For several years now, PNHP, Healthcare-Now and other single-payer advocates have consistently opposed any proposals to weaken to our nation’s social insurance programs and have instead argued that to save lives and money we should adopt a single-payer health system.

Please continue to send that message to your elected representatives. The Super Committee is scheduled to make its recommendations by Nov. 23. The Congressional Switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.

6. Keep PNHP in mind for end-of-year giving

It’s not too early to begin thinking about making a tax-deductible donation to PNHP before the end of the calendar year. As you know, we receive no financial support from large foundations -- not to mention the insurance industry and Big Pharma! We instead rely on our membership base to fund all of our organizing and educational activities.

Please give generously to PNHP’s work to advance the cause of single payer in the year ahead.


Garrett Adams, M.D., M.P.H.