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July 18, 2007

New Yorkers Say U.S. Health Care Is Sicko

Some 150 New Yorkers gathered last night at Saint Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue to brainstorm about making single-payer health care a U.S. reality. The crowd was keyed up—as Americans are in many areas of the country—by Michael Moore’s new hit documentary Sicko, as well as by a single-payer bill now in Congress and promises lately from several presidential hopefuls to help the millions of un- and under-insured Americans. HIV/AIDS care was among the crises on the agenda and ACT UP-style activism was held up as a possible model for the single-payer movement.

The meeting—the first public gathering of a new group called the Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition—drew dozens of medical students and health professionals, but also elderly New Yorkers and a smattering of activists. Saint Bart’s Reverend Kevin Bean, who is part of a new citywide program connecting congregations to community activism, opened the meeting with a passionate demand that American health care be “accessible, affordable and quality.”

Ajamu Sankofa, New York City chair of Healthcare-NOW!, told the crowd, “We simply can no longer have people tell their stories—What do we do?” And ACT UP founding member Eric Sawyer said, “We must mobilize the same networks that existed [for AIDS] in the 1980s. The experience of combining direct action, meeting behind the scenes with government officials and lobbying for congressional representatives can be very valuable.”

The meeting broke down later into working groups for discussions on everything from legislative efforts to strategies for reaching medical and nursing schools. The Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition holds its next meeting in about three weeks; for specifics, call Ajamu Sankofa at 718-703-4041 or Joanne Landy, Executive Director of Physicians for a National Health Program at 212-666-4001.

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