Friday, March 27, 2009

Single payer activists lobby in Springfield

The Health Care for All Illinois coalition helped organize a highly successful Legislative Advocacy Day for a state single payer health care system in Springfield on March 24. Here's their account of how the day went:

As the day began, activists arrived by car, bus and train on the East lawn of the Capitol complex. The bad weather kept away, and before long dozens of Health Care for All Illinois (HCAI) activists joined forces with lead organizers the National Nurses' Organizing Committee for a rally on the Capitol steps. A local news crew arrived to take video and do a story.

By the time the press conference was set to begin, so many single-payer supporters had descended on the Capitol that the press room had to be closed off at capacity. A fiery press conference followed, with organizers from NNOC, HCAI, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Champaign County Health Care Consumers calling on legislators to enact real health reform by passing HB 311.

As the afternoon's official legislative hearing on HB 311 in the House Health Access Committee approached, it became clear to Capitol staff that there were far too many single-payer activists to be accommodated in Room 118. The hearing was moved to the largest hearing room in the Capitol, and was still filled to the brim as more than 150 supporters poured in. Tensions ran high as the day's House session ran long, and activists took to the room's microphones and began giving citizens' testimony as they waited for the committee.

When Rep. Mary Flowers, the Chief Sponsor of HB 311, arrived and saw the massive crowd, she told the activists gathered there: "Today this is truly the People's House. I'm fired up and ready to go!" The committee heard testimony from leaders Geri Jenkins and Donna Smith of NNOC, Nicholas Skala of HCAI, Allison Jones of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, and from an array of patients, doctors, social workers and other health professionals.

No vote was taken on HB 311 at that session, but the hearing was a huge success is getting legislative attention to single-payer. Because of the hearing, HB 311 attracted 37 new co-sponsors, including House Speaker Michael Madigan and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie. The sponsors (in order of sponsorship) are:

Sponsor: Mary E. Flowers; Chief Co-Sponors: Barbara Flynn Currie, Linda Chapa LaVia,
Greg Harris, Michael J. Madigan, Co-Sponsors: Monique D. Davis, Arthur L. Turner,
Kenneth Dunkin, Robert F. Flider, Esther Golar, Eddie Lee Jackson Sr., Mike Boland, Harry Osterman, Al Riley, Kevin A. McCarthy, Jack McGuire, Joseph M. Lyons, John D'Amico, Elizabeth Hernandez, Cynthia Soto, William Davis, LaShawn K. Ford, Constance A. Howard, André M. Thapedi, Daniel J. Burke, Susana A Mendoza, Maria Antonia Berrios, Luis Arroyo, Robert Rita, Eddie Washington, Annazette Collins, Marlow H. Colvin, Jehan A. Gordon, Sara Feigenholtz, Careen M Gordon, Michael J. Zalewski, Keith Farnham

The day wrapped up with a reception and dinner at the Illinois Governor's Mansion. More than 100 attended the event, at which NNOC's Donna Smith and Rep. Mary Flowers were honored and presented awards. The climax of the evening was an appearance by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who paid tribute to the work of Rep. Flowers and the single-payer activists.

Next Steps

Our first Legislative Advocacy Day in Springfield was a huge success, but it was only a first step. Our huge turnout in front of the Health Access Committee put us on the legislative map, but now it is time to move the bill. Please take two actions right now to support HB 311 and the work of Health Care for All Illinois

1. Contact Your State and Federal Legislators: HCAI offers a tool with which you can write directly to your State Senators and Representatives. Visit

2. Make a Tax-Deductible Contribution to HCAI: HCAI accepts no corporate contributions and nearly all our staff work is volunteer. You contributions ensure that we can continue to be the voice of the single-payer movement in Illinois. Click here to donate via our parent organization, Physicians for a National Health Program.

No comments:

Post a Comment