United States citizens campaign for single-payer health care bill, 2009-2010

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The campaign did not end but diminished slowly. The passing of Barack Obama's health care plan is being considered the end of the campaign for a single-payer health care bill.
29 September
2009
to
21 March
2010
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location Description: 
The campaign was held across the entire nation.
Goals: 
“The Mobilization for Health Care for All is a nonviolent campaign to end private health insurance abuse and win health care for all. We want the “real public option”: Medicare for All, a national single payer plan that cuts out the profit, covers everyone, and puts patients first. WE welcome any organization or person who shares our goals, agrees to our guidelines for action, and wants to join this fight.”
 

After U.S. President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the battle for health care reform truly began to build in the United States of America. In fall of 2009, Mobilization for Health Care for All began a campaign for a single-payer health care system, soon known as “Patients Not Profits.”

According to the organizers, the purpose of “Patients Not Profits” was “to end private health insurance abuse and win health care for all. We want the real public option: Medicare for All, a national single payer plan that cuts out the profit, covers everyone, and puts patients first. We welcome any organization or person who shares our goals, agrees to our guidelines for action, and wants to join this fight.”

On 29 September 2009 the organization began its campaign with a sit-in at health insurer Aetna’s New York City offices. They were eventually asked to leave the premises, but this was just the beginning of a campaign that would last for many months. Within three weeks the sit-in had earned extensive media coverage and a large following.

Organizers saw some results they had not previously expected. One sit-in in particular was able to help one man suffering from both cancer and AIDS receive coverage from his company. By 13 October, seven hundred people had pledged to join the national campaign, and by 15 October, seventy-eight people had been arrested in conjunction with sit-ins or protests. All actions remained entirely nonviolent.

Mobilization for Health Care for All announced a National Day of Protest for 28 October. In eleven different cities and states, protestors believing in the single-payer system held sit-ins at insurance companies. Some made chains in front of the doors of buildings, while others simply sat outside or in lobbies.

Thirty-seven campaigners were arrested in a single day across the country. At this time they also began calling insurance companies, “the true death panels." They believed that insurance companies were being given far too great of an amount of money and power in deciding who received insurance.

Throughout late October protestors picketed the homes of insurance company CEO’s and attended the annual conference for America’s Health Insurance Plans in Washington, D.C. On 29 October dozens marched outside of the CareFirst office in Baltimore proudly wearing bright yellow shirts proclaiming “People Not Profits.” Protestors began to “charge” health insurance companies with crimes such as murder, breach of contract, theft, and waste of U.S. health finances.

On 30 October campaigners staged a number of demonstrations. In Louisville, Kentucky, protestors occupied the lobby of Humana Insurance for more than twenty-four hours. In Rhode Island a cancer patient was arrested as he protested because he had received a denial for a claim for what could potentially be a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

In Philadelphia, seventeen people risked arrest in an office sit-in. These were mostly Swarthmore College undergraduate students who would soon not be under their parents plans and were in one of the age brackets least likely to have health insurance. There they screamed “Let the corporate giants fall! Medicare for all!”

Throughout the month of October police made 119 arrests, but protests continued. Campaigners were discouraged by the slow movement of bills through Congress as well as by the lack of a single-payer bill on the floor.

On 4 November 2009 the organization began yet another wave of sit-ins. On 10 November, the most successful day in this wave, there were sit-ins in Albuquerque, NM, Atlanta, GA, Denver, CO, Detroit, MI, Houston, TX, and Syracuse, NY.

The campaigners began to see some level of results as debates in Congress moved toward a public option. Many still felt that President Barack Obama was somewhat “missing in action.”

Finally, the campaigners saw their first results. On 2 December 2009 Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, brought a single-payer amendment to the Senate leadership’s health bill that would allow for an improved Medicare-for-All plan within the bill. Sanders said, "I will be offering on the floor of the Senate, I believe for the first time in history, a national single-payer program.... At the end of the day -- not this year, not next year -- but sometime in the future, this country will understand that if we're going to provide comprehensive quality care to all of our people, the only way we will do that is through a medical single-payer system." Mobilization for Health Care for All posted numerous online petitions, encouraging fans to sign in support of Sanders amendment.

Despite this small step forward, the campaigners never saw any actual success in achieving a single-payer system. Sanders soon withdrew his amendment. Senator Max Baucus convinced Sanders that his amendment was only feeding into the Republicans’ attempts to delay the passage of the bill. On 17 December, campaigners had a marathon reading of the withdrawn amendment.

The next day protestors in Pittsburgh, PA, dressed up as zombies and pushed hospital IV stands through the streets in order to “portray what they said will be the results of corporate greed that caused University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to suck the life out of [Pittsburgh suburb] Braddock by closing the hospital there."

On 20 December there was a protest on Lake Minnetonka, but after that and a few more scattered sit-ins, the campaign began slowly to die. As of late January Mobilization for Health Care for All was still posting sit-ins and petitions on their website and Facebook page, but interest lessened as the passage of President Obama’s health care bill began to seem more likely.

On 21 March 2010 President Obama’s health care bill was passed, and two days later he signed it into law, ending the campaign of Mobilization for Health Care for All.

Research Notes
Sources: 
"Groundswell of Sit-ins and Civil Disobedience at Insurance Company Offices to Demand Real Health Care Reform." Physicians for a National Health Program. Physicians for a National Health Program, 30 Oct. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/october/update_groundswell_.php>.

"Democratic Underground Forums - Request Error." Democratic Underground. Democratic Underground, LLC, 1 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all>.

McKee, Tim. "Health Care Activist Vow Arrests At Dodd-Biden Event." Green Party. Green Party of the United States, 9 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.gp.org/press/pr-state.php?ID=272>.

"Mobilization for Health Care for All Sit-ins Tomorrow." The Modern Left. The Modern Left, 3 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.themodernleft.com/2009/11/mobilization-for-health-care-for-all.html>.

"Mobilization for Health Care for All Goes National on Thursday." Healthcare-NOW! Healthcare-NOW!, 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.healthcare-now.org/mobilization-for-health-care-for-all-goes-national-on-thursday>.

"Next Wave of Health-Care Sit-Ins." Dollars Sense Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://dollarsandsense.org/blog/2009/10/next-wave-of-health-care-sit-ins.html>.

Novak, Diana. "Sitting in for Healthcare." In These Times. In These Times and the Institute for Public Affairs, 16 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://inthesetimes.com/article/5179/>.

Piette, Betsy. "Sit-ins Call for Medicare for All." Workers World. Workers World, 4 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.workers.org/2009/us/sit-ins_1112/>.

Robbins, Katie. “Medicare for All: Sit-Ins and Protests at Senators’ Offices in 19 Cities.” Common Dreams. Common Dreams, 8 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/12/08-8

Smith, Donna. "Sanders Says Single-Payer Day Will Come as He Withdraws Amendment.” Common Dreams. Common Dreams, 16 Dec. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/12/16-9>.

Stoner, Eric. "The next Wave of Health Care Sit-ins Begins Today." Waging Nonviolence. Waging Nonviolence, 28 Oct. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2013. <http://wagingnonviolence.org/2009/10/the-next-wave-of-health-care-sit-ins-begins-today/>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jessica Seigel, 07/04/2013