At a joint panel on the U.S. health care movement, leaders from the human rights campaigns in Vermont, Maine and Maryland presented their organizing model for universal, publicly financed health care and discussed their collaboration and lessons learned. The panel, held at the Left Forum in New York City, was moderated by NESRI (view an abridged video recording here: The Domino Effect: Growing the Healthcare Is a Human Right Movement, One State after Another). All panelists invited groups in other states – some present in the audience – to join the growing Healthcare Is a Human Right movement.
The Vermont Workers’ Center, Maine People’s Alliance and the United Workers reported on their progress in building a grassroots movement with leadership from impacted communities, their use of human rights to put people at the center of advocacy, and the role of principles such as universality and equity in shaping policy analysis and political demands.
All panelists argued that a key strength of their model is the broad, holistic approach, extending beyond the issue of health care. Their goal is to build people power to achieve systemic change not just in the health care system but in all areas of economic and social rights.
In fact, none of the Healthcare Is a Human Right campaigns in these three states is led by a health care group. Yet each anchor organization considers health care a powerful lever for effecting broader structural change. After all, the market-based health care system is a textbook example of the failures of an economic system based on commodifying human needs and limiting access to our human rights, which include not only health and health care but also education, housing, food, and dignified work. Understanding how health care is linked to people’s other fundamental needs helps with envisioning solutions to the broader human rights crisis marked by increasing inequality and poverty.
As more and more people unite in the struggle for universal health care as a public good, shared equitably to ensure everyone gets what they need and gives what they can, a re-thinking of other fundamental needs and rights can take hold along the same lines. A debate about how to achieve equity in access to and financing of human needs and rights enables a broader understanding of how power and resources are distributed in our society, and of the structural changes required to secure universal rights.
Watch a video of the panel discussion here.