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UHCAN Statement of Unity

By admin | June 21, 2008

Major health care reform is again at the top of our nation’s agenda.  However, the outcome is far from certain. Will supporters of the status quo again succeed in confusing the public, capturing our elected officials and stone-walling meaningful reform? Will health care in America continue to cost too much, cover too little and leave too many out?
To do our part to help meet the challenge, UHCAN has identified a new priority for our work in 2008-09: to build active unity within the health care justice movement.  This email spells out the reasoning behind this decision, and how we hope to work with all of your organizations to make it happen.  

Our sixteen years in the health care justice movement have allowed us to develop relationships with every part of our broad and diverse movement. We have operated as an inclusive network that promotes collaboration and works to help other groups succeed. We celebrate the growth and development of new coalitions and campaigns and help advocates for differing approaches learn from and work with each other to advance the cause of health care for all.  
UHCAN has decided to devote significant organizational resources to this active unity initiative because we believe that active unity in the health care movement is an absolute necessity for success in the fight for health care justice in
America This is an historic political moment in the U.S.
with health care at or near its core.  Divide and conquer is the basic organizing strategy of the opponents of health care justice.  If they succeed, we all lose, as we have time and again.   Actively unified we have the opportunity ensure their divide-and-conquer strategy fails this time.  But, for active unity to work, we all must do our part.

For the last few months UHCAN has circulated our thoughts on this active unity initiative among both longstanding and new colleagues, and are gratified at the responses we have received.   Their ideas and suggestions have helped us deepen our understanding of the need for this initiative and the specific challenges our movement faces.  The result is an open letter to our colleagues in the health care justice movement, On the Road Together in 2008-2009:  Building Active Unity for Health Care for All (reprinted below).
We have received statements of support from a number of leaders in our movement (see excerpted quotes and list of those who have submitted statements of support to date below) which have reinforced our commitment to building active unity.  We want to call special attention to the following words from one of
America‘s foremost champions for health care justice:

U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-MI)
Statement in Response to UHCAN’s Open Letter:


“Health care reform is coming in America.  I am very proud of my years of work on health care, including H Con Res 99, and my sponsorship of HR 676.  But I deeply believe that the health care legislation I work on in 2009 will be the most exciting and important bill of my career.  It will be more than life saving.  It will have a global dimension.  Other countries will be watching what we do.”                 
“It won’t be easy. We will need much more active support than exists now. 
We need to expand the people we are talking to, to make sure we are not always talking to ourselves. I am doing that in Congress and hope that everybody does it where they are.  2008 really is the year to work together and learn from each other. Many people and groups have good ideas that can help us get the health care
America deserves.  Working together, we will win.  We have long been on the right side.  If we are united, we will be on the winning side as well.”

UHCAN is proud that Congressman Conyers and other leaders and organizations with strongly held positions see the value of this unity building effort.  This public commitment by these leaders is an explicit first step in an ongoing initiative UHCAN is working to pursue.
Unity in the health care movement has been elusive in the past – to be achieved it must be actively sought. We do not underestimate the difficulties of finding better ways to disagree and still work together. This is true whether inside a single coalition or between different organizations. The higher health care reform moves up the political agenda, the greater will be the attempts to divide us. That is why UHCAN believes that leaders in the movement for health care reform in 2009 must first lead the way in building and maintaining unity within our movement in 2008.
UHCAN has begun to promote dialogue and tools that we and others are developing that will help groups stick together more, work together better, and resist efforts to divide and conquer us.  We view this active unity initiative like an organizing campaign – there are no shortcuts. Unity is built step-by-step, organization by organization, coalition by coalition.  In pursuit of active unity, over the next six months UHCAN intends to organize dialogues and actions with national and state partners to identify ways to build unity and find common ground.  We aim to:
Facilitate connections and relationship-building between national organizations and their affiliates with state-based health care justice groups:

-engage state groups with national campaigns, efforts, resources and materials
-incorporate active unity discussions into UHCAN monthly conference calls with
  health care justice leaders, and expanding 1-on-1 consultations and hands-on 
  support from UHCAN staff
-enhance UHCAN communications tools with a focus toward building collaborative 
  mutual support and respect for shared values and goals
-develop peer-to-peer learning opportunities to promote learning from states where
  advocates with diverse perspectives have successfully united around a common
  reform agenda


Organize networking and training workshops to help build unity and find common ground, (both regionally and organization specific) topics will include how to:


-embrace our differences instead of letting them divide us
-improve effective ways to talk about health care and coordinating messaging
-promote public health insurance as an essential component of health care reform
-focus attention on inequities and the economic impact of the lack of quality, 
  affordable health care on families, business and all levels of government
-expose failures of market-based solutions that leave people on their own in the
  private insurance market
-work together to engage key constituencies and the public, and keep health care
  a top priority issue during this election season

UHCAN believes that focusing on these ideas and actions will help deflect attacks that can derail comprehensive health reform and strengthen the health care justice base.   Working together our movement can build the united power that will be needed during the 2009 policy debates to secure guaranteed, quality, affordable health care for all in

Building Active Unity for Health Care for All:
Excerpts from Statements of Support from Health Care Justice Leaders

“With private insurers unable to control health care costs, protect us from financial risk and guarantee health security, the entire health care system is falling down.  2008 is the chance we have been waiting for.  And, all together is the way to win health care for America now.” 

-Diane Archer, Founder,
Special Counsel, Institute for America‘s Future
Medicare Rights Center and

“Creating a health care system that works for all of us must start with the vision that we are all in this together.”

Jeff Blum, Executive Director, USAction

“As the healthcare reform debate in this country heats up once again, all organizations that support any role of government in healthcare must come together and work to ensure that we defeat the profit interests in our system.  We must recognize that the policy disagreements between our groups are much smaller than our collective disagreement with the profit-driven special interests in healthcare.” 

Flavio Casoy, Health Policy Team Chair,
American Medical Student Association (AMSA

“Like UHCAN, we recognize that it’s going to take all of us, working together, to win a mandate for guaranteed access to quality, affordable health care for all in 2008 and to hold our political leaders accountable for change in 2009.”                                

-Margarida Jorge, Director, Americans for Health Care,
A Project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 


“[we are] pleased to join in the Universal Health Care Action Network’s call for unity around quality, affordable, health care for all. We believe that there exists an inherent ideological divide between people who believe in continuing to rely on health insurance companies and those who believe in true quality, affordable, health care for all.”                                                   

-Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Director,
Health Care for America Now! (HCAN)    


“It is essential that we remain united and allegiant to our overarching goal and consider alternative reform ideas on the basis of their relative merits and not through an ideological filter. Unity, all above else, demands an acceptance of divergent views as we work for the common good. All of us share the responsibility to reform health care in America and by working together, we will.”

 -Steve Kreisberg, Director of Collective Bargaining and HealthCare Policy,
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 



“It is time for us to unite together in support of health policies that would ensure that every individual would have access to reasonably comprehensive health care services in an equitably funded system that is affordable for each and every individual and affordable for society. Trading away these principles would divide us, but by uniting behind them, we can finally get the job done.”

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)     
Don McCanne, MD, Senior Health Policy Fellow,


“The elimination of segregation and unequal access should take utmost priority.  Lets us all work for affordable, quality healthcare for all not based on market forces but patient- centered care.”

-Jaime Torres, DPM, National Coordinator,
Latinos for National Health Insurance    


“Make no mistake – we must present a unified front if we have any hope of helping the millions of people in this country who can not wait any longer for real change in our health care.  We must work together – to seize the political opportunity and demand change – or face the same fate as our last attempt.”

-Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights, National Women’s Law Center

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