The closer we get to implementing key elements of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, the more information we receive about the federal reform’s inability to address the failures of market-based health care. From the profiteering of insurance corporations, private hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry, to the increasing privatization of the public Medicare and Medicaid programs, evidence is mounting that the upcoming “reforms” may be entrenching the health care crisis rather than solving it. Insurance companies are threatening cost hikes in the Exchange marketplaces, and reports are already coming in from some states about how the Exchange may reduce, rather than increase, access to care.
So it is of little surprise that the push to go beyond market-based reforms is gaining steam across the country. Grassroots campaigns for the human right to health care are spreading from Vermont to Maine, Maryland, and beyond. Inspired by Vermont’s human rights organizing model, groups are picking up the baton and paving the way for a domino effect of state-based universal health care wins. Over the past few months, NESRI participated in launch events for Healthcare Is a Human Right campaigns in Maine and Maryland. Both campaigns are learning key lessons from Vermont, while developing their own approaches and activities. In Maryland, a coalition consisting of the United Workers, PNHP-Maryland, and Healthcare Now of Maryland is at the helm of a statewide effort that has already built organizing committees in a dozen counties. In Maine, the AFL-CIO, the Maine People’s Alliance and the State Nurses Association kicked of their new campaign this February.
As a next step, the leaders of the state-based campaigns, supported by NESRI, are seeking ways to intensify information sharing amongst themselves. At the Left Forum in June, groups will come together to discuss ideas for building a network that could offer concrete support to existing efforts, help incubate campaigns in new states and, ultimately, catalyze a national movement for the human right to health care.