by Lee Mercer, President, HCAO
Over 100 HCAO activists from all over Oregon braved ice, sleet and snow to attend the Saturday, Nov. 15 statewide strategy meeting. Like the 100 settlers in 1843 who voted to become a territory of the U.S. (and if they had voted otherwise we would be part of Canada and have universal health care now!), we were charting a brave new future for Oregon. Reviewing our strategic plan to achieve single payer health care, we discussed various policy options to support the HCAO mission. The day also featured breakouts for training in intensive lobbying and use of talking points.
A highlight of the day was a tag team presentation by Representative Barbara Smith Warner (District 45) and veteran AFSCME lobbyist Mary Botkin. They did an overview of the political environment in Oregon (current make-up of the legislature looks good for our issue) and provided much wisdom on doing respectful and effective lobbying in the Capitol. Instead of making lots of noise in the rotunda, they advised talking to all legislators (not just those who agree with us), learning what each legislator cares about, and making sure we communicate and meet with the legislators’ staff members, as informing them on our issue is almost as important as informing the legislators. Legislative Assistants have their own staff network in the Capitol, and our issue can move forward there, as well.
Besides remaining committed to legislation for a ballot measure to achieve the “Health Care for Oregon Plan” to create a publicly funded health care system and an extension and funding for HB 3260 (the health care study bill), we outlined other policy options HCAO is considering. Strong support was indicated among attendees for secession from the U.S. to create the Republic of Cascadia (with Washington and British Columbia), with health care as a human right enshrined in its constitution. This was a fully tongue-in-cheek proposal by President Lee Mercer.
In a strategic plan overview by Organizational Development and Labor Caucus Chair Lou Sinniger, more serious consideration was given to seeking an amendment to the Oregon Constitution declaring health care is a human right (and it is the state’s responsibility to ensure it to all residents). This is supported by our voter poll in June indicating 77% believe health care is, indeed, a human right. Another popular proposal was to organize campaigns to ask city councils and county commissions throughout Oregon to endorse the HCAO policy proposals.
Charlie Swanson from the Legislative Committee did an overview of the current re-write of elements of HB 2922, the Health Care For Oregon Plan. Decisions we need to make include how many services to cover, whether to fund incentives for prevention programs and educating sufficient medical personnel, and what revenue sources will pay for the health care system beyond current funding (Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc).
Treasurer Bill Whitaker and Finance Chair Terry Rogers did an overview of the HCAO budget. Due to additional expenses like the health care study by Dr. Gerald Friedman, we need additional donations to finish 2014. Packets went out with representatives to many coalition member organizations asking for donations. At the meeting, recent donations were announced from SEIU 503, AFSCME 75, AFSCME 2975, the Southern Oregon Central Labor Council and Nurses for Single Payer. $4,900 was collected at the meeting (Yay!). All individuals and organizational members are encouraged to--
Lively break-out groups trained attendees in lobbying techniques, including telling your own story (briefly) and answering tough questions (or, as we were told to call them, “questions of opportunity”). This is in preparation for the upcoming Rally in Salem.
Pumping the crowd up for the February 11 Rally, Cheryl Simpson, chair of the Mobilization Committee, showed the new Rally TV Promotion by Bob Wickline, now playing on Community Media TV in Portland. Bob, as well as blues artist Norman Sylvester, Salem’s Dr. Atomic and the Raging Grannies are among the musicians already booked to play at the Rally.
The “Power of 100” was also noted when it was announced we have just reached 100 organizations in the Health Care for All coalition and over 13,000 people in our database. And, that if each of the 100 plus attendees of Saturday’s meeting were to invite 25 people, we would bring the 2500 attendees we are planning for to the February 11, 2015 Rally. See you at the Rally!
Finally, all HCAO members are encouraged to provide input on HCAO policy options and strategy directly to Lee Mercer, President, HCAO.