Some 400 house parties are planned across California in a grassroots effort to gather personal health-care stories, encourage people to become politically active and have “get well cards” mailed to state lawmakers involved in health-care legislation. A goal is to dramatically broaden the base of the people involved in the discussions beyond the doctors, insurers, employers and other major interest groups.
A coalition of more than 60 groups called “It’s Our Health Care” is organizing the parties of eight to 10 people each at private homes. The hosts are people who have shown an interest in improving the state’s health-care system, organizers said. The meetings are taking place as the Legislature considers major health-care legislation, including a plan to set up a government-run health-care system. In the background, representatives of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration are meeting with various health-care interests to craft a compromise over the governor’s own health-care plan.
“The strategic goal is to engage the average citizens in California into coming together to share their stories of health care with each other–the
problems they’ve experienced with our health-care system,” said Richard Barrera of the Service Employees International Union, who is helping to organize the meetings in San Diego. The first party was scheduled Wednesday night, and others were planned through the weekend.
“What we’re trying to do is not advocate for or against any specific plan, but we’re trying to get folks at the meetings to become educated as to what the different plans are trying to do. What we are advocating is quality coverage, affordable coverage,” Barrera added.
Other groups in the coalition include Consumers Union, AARP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Health Access advocacy group, an array of labor groups, teachers and various faith-based organizations. The meetings are scheduled at homes in every major area of the state as the Legislature in Sacramento prepares to vote several health-care bills before the week is out.
“We think that there is a unique opportunity to get health-care reforms done this year, but that’s only if real Californians, that is, consumers, get engaged beyond the insurers, the employers, the doctors, the other usual stakeholders. So, this is our attempt to do that,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access.
About one in five people in California have no health-care insurance at all, and a similar number who have coverage through their jobs fear losing it as employers cut costs. Proposals to expand health-care coverage include the so-called single-payer system, in which the government provides the care, and the governor’s plan, which is financed through charges on employers, doctors and patients. Polls, including a recent survey by the California Wellness Foundation, show that the majority of Californians want the government to guarantee some form of affordable health coverage.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, is the author of SB 840, the universal-health-care bill. Her measure was considered by the Senate this. Last year, Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill after the Legislature approved it.
Schwarzenegger, in remarks Tuesday to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, described California’s health-care system was “in a disastrous situation.”
“[It] is outrageous that here we have the seventh largest economy in the world, and we have 6.5 million people that are uninsured,” he said.