Rallying for single-payer in NYC

By Akua Ofori and Dawning Greenstreet

NEW YORK--Nearly 150 people turned out in Times Square November 13 to voice their demand for a national single-payer health care plan.

The rally was sponsored by the Private Health Insurance Must Go (PHIMG) coalition--a New York-based non-partisan group of individuals and organizations that are focused on education, legislative advocacy and direct action--with the support of more than 30 other groups.

The small but spirited rally demanded an end to the private health insurance industry, as well as passage of legislation known by its official designation HR 676, which would implement a national single-payer health care system that covers everyone, irrespective of their citizenship status.

Speakers at the event discussed topics ranging from the implications of the presidential elections, the recent New York state budget cut proposals, the impact of the economic crisis and what's wrong with the private health insurance system.

People spoke about the historical significance of Obama's election, but also stressed the importance of building a strong grassroots movement for single-payer health care. Others read the stories of individuals who lost their lives due to denial of coverage by private insurers.

Some members from the Transport Workers Union, which represents subway and bus workers, and the American Federation of Teachers discussed the central role of labor unions in the fight for universal health care coverage.

One speaker pointed out the hypocrisy of politicians criticizing national health care coverage for being socialistic or too expensive, while on the other hand voting to nationalize the mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and give more than a trillion dollars of taxpayer dollars to bail out banks.

After the speakout, the crowd marched from Times Square to the offices of GHI/HIP, the insurance plans that cover a majority of municipal workers in New York City. The insurance giant wants to convert from non-profit status to a for-profit. That would increase the cost of coverage for workers and their families.

PHIMG has produced a petition calling on the New York City Council to pass a resolution in favor of HR 676; the petition was circulated at the rally for demonstrators to sign. One of their next steps will be to use this petition for building grassroots support for single-payer health care.

As a follow-up to the rally, the coalition will host a teach-in December 6 on HR 676 and building the movement for health care.