Health Care Justice for the Long Haul
"Millions of our citizens do not now have a full measure of opportunity to achieve and to enjoy good health. Millions do not now have protection or security against the economic effects of sickness. And the time has now arrived for action to help them attain that opportunity and to help them get that protection."Those were the words of President Harry Truman when he sent a message to Congress on the need for national health care. He delivered his message on November 19, 1945.
By 1949, the private corporate forces which opposed national health care were running a contest for which political cartoonists could compete for $3000 prizes to draw and print cartoons that depicted the evils of “socialized medicine”.
It was 20 years before former President Truman stood with then-President Lyndon Johnson at the bill signing for Medicare -- the first and largest publicly- administered health care program in the United States. Prior to Medicare, half of our nation’s seniors lived in poverty and could not get health insurance. After Medicare, poverty decreased by two-thirds among seniors and people with disabilities.
Efforts at health care were stymied and incremental until 45 years later, when President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA,) saying “The bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for, and marched for, and hungered to see.” Under the Affordable Care Act over 20 million people have gained healthcare coverage.
The road to healthcare reform has been long and winding, but Citizen Action/Illinois has been at the forefront of fighting these battles because every man, women and child has the undeniable RIGHT to high quality, affordable healthcare.
Citizen Action launched and led major statewide campaigns to pass and implement the ACA and Medicare Part D in Illinois.
Citizen Action led the Emergency Campaign to Save Cook County Healthcare to reform public healthcare in Cook County which won an independent health board of professionals instead of a politically-controlled system run by county commissioners. That system is now functioning better because of this board and the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA.
Citizen Action fought for and continues to fight for the rights of patients who have been harmed by faulty products, bad doctors, and environmental hazards.
Citizen Action led the fight for the first HMO reform bill in Illinois at time when patients were required to get prior approval from their HMOs to even use an emergency room. We launched a campaign called Healthy Illinois to begin to organize the voices of small businesses in the healthcare debate. That effort was the precursor for our work with the Illinois Mainstreet Alliance whose voices were critical and an effective counter-weight to corporate interests in the fight to pass the ACA.
Citizen Action led the fight for prescription drug coverage for seniors long before Medicare Part D was passed. The Illinois Cares RX program was a national model for state prescription programs to make prescription drugs affordable for seniors and people with disabilities.
We took on the big corporate and special interests, protesting in front of the headquarters of Blue Cross, American HMO, and Abbott Labs. We took on the corporate CEOs and Newt Gingrich when he said in 1995 that “Medicare would wither on the vine.”
In these times of politics of fear and division there are some who will try to undermine Citizen Action’s decades of work on healthcare issues, calling us “professional organizers” or “paid protesters.” The truth is that Citizen Action’s work on healthcare is and has been at very core of our work for almost a half of a century. We could not have done this work without the thousands of individual activists who joined our campaigns, who stood or marched in the rain and cold, who wrote or made hundreds of thousands of calls and letters, and who were willing to stand up and tell their own personal stories for the good of all.
If you have not yet volunteered to work for healthcare reform, do something and do it soon. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Be a part of history. Citizen Action is in the struggle for quality affordable healthcare for the long haul and we need you to join us!