- Category: News
- Created on Wednesday, 04 August 2010 06:34
- Written by Super User
WHO WE ARE – The Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio) is a statewide coalition of organizations and individuals in Ohio seeking fundamental health care reform in our state and country so that every resident is guaranteed full and comprehensive coverage. This includes the full range of medical services, hospitalization, prescriptions, vision care, dental care, mental health care, home care, long-term care, and care for all injuries and illnesses.
We advocate the establishment of a public fund that would pay all health care bills without co-payments or deductibles. Funding would come from the savings realized by eliminating the administrative waste and profits of the 1,500 private insurance companies and HMOs, savings from greater utilization of preventive medicine, and from additional mechanisms deemed necessary to ensure that the public fund has the necessary financial resources, with adequate reserves. The plan we call for is known as a single-payer health care system.
SPAN Ohio is a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)4 organization. Contributions to SPAN are not tax deductible. WHAT WE DO – We carry out a variety of programs designed to educate and inform on the need for single-payer. A focus of our activities is to win enactment of the Ohio Health Care Plan, either through direct legislative action or by an initiative petition sponsored by SPAN Ohio.
SPAN Ohio functions democratically and those who attend its meetings decide what the group's activities shall be. We distribute educational materials, organize public meetings featuring physicians and others with expertise on health care issues, circulate petitions, and introduce single-payer resolutions to organizations and legislative bodies. While campaigning to win single-payer health care in Ohio, we see this as a stepping stone toward achieving a national single-payer health care system, which is our ultimate goal.
Origins and Development of SPAN Ohio
When the Clinton health care plan collapsed in 1994, many people active in the movement to reform the system concluded that national health care was way off in the remote future and that the emphasis should be on attempting to win "small victories" and incremental reforms. Actually, the Clinton plan never called for true universal health care. It specifically rejected eliminating the private health care insurance companies from the system. It was basically a plan for managed care or, more accurately, managed costs.
A broad coalition of forces actively fighting for a single-payer system in the early 1990s disappeared after the 1994 debacle. By the year 2000, increasing numbers of people had come to understand that an incremental approach could not solve the country's health care crisis and that only a fundamental reform of the system would. Indeed, when Clinton left office, there were eight million more people without health care insurance than on the day he was inaugurated. The single-payer movement began to experience a revival.
In February, 2001, six people met at a union office in Cleveland and constituted themselves the Single-Payer Universal Health Care Organizing Committee (SPUHCOC). Their goal was to educate the public about the advantages of a single-payer plan and to build a movement at the grass roots calling upon the Ohio General Assembly to establish such a system.
The founding group was diverse in composition and included unionists, a physician, community activists and retirees. SPUHCOC decided as its initial function to organize a public meeting to be addressed by Claudia Fegan, a Chicago physician who was a past president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and co-author of Universal Health Care: What the United States Can Learn From the Canadian Experience. The meeting was held April 10 and drew an audience of 130 at Case Western Reserve University.
In subsequent months, SPUHCOC concentrated on drafting a model single-payer resolution and getting political bodies, other health care groups, health care providers, unions, community organizations and faith groups to endorse it. In relatively short order, the Cleveland City Council approved the model resolution with only minor modifications and other cities and town councils followed suit. Many physicians, nurses, local unions, and a variety of others endorsed a statement which simply said, "We endorse the campaign to get the Ohio General Assembly to act without delay to pass publicly funded health care guaranteeing coverage for all Ohioans." This statement was unanimously approved by the Cuyahoga County Commissioners, three members of Congress — Sherrod Brown, Dennis Kucinich and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones — and a number of state legislators.
In November, 2001, at the insistence of growing numbers of activists, SPUHCOC changed its name to Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio). Meanwhile, single-payer groups in Toledo and Cincinnati had begun to form and they affiliated with SPAN.
In early 2002, thousands of steelworker retirees from LTV in the Greater Cleveland area lost health care benefits they thought had been guaranteed for life. They were among 600,000 steel retirees confronted with the same drastic loss. The anguish of this situation and the constantly growing numbers of the uninsured from all walks of life created further disillusionment with the market-driven, for-profit system and much greater openness to the single-payer alternative.
By mid-2002, SPAN had become the established organizing center for the single-payer movement in Ohio. By then, SPAN had established a web site at www.spanohio.org, which in its first six months received over 10,000 hits.
It became clear that SPAN needed to branch out and become a genuine statewide coalition. In the summer of 2002, SPAN activists began discussing the possibility of organizing a statewide conference which could be the springboard for forming an Ohio coalition that could mount an effective campaign for single-payer. In September, 2002, the Ohio AFL-CIO, representing 850,000 workers and meeting in convention in Cleveland, voted unanimously to endorse SPAN's campaign for a single-payer health care system in Ohio. The UAW, on a statewide basis, had also endorsed. These developments helped propel momentum for the state conference, which was held in Columbus on January 18, 2003.
This conference was a great success with keynote speeches by Dr. Claudia Fegan and Dan Martin, representing Steelworkers District 1, a panel discussion and workshops for constituency groups. The upshot of the conference was a call for a March 1 meeting to formally launch a statewide single-payer coalition.
The March 1 meeting brought together organizations representing a million Ohioans and a number of dedicated individuals. It was agreed that "Single-Payer Action Network Ohio (SPAN Ohio)" would be the name of the coalition formed at the meeting. An Interim Steering Committee of 29 was elected, pending the adoption of bylaws.
While SPAN continued to gather endorsements for its campaign, the March 1 meeting exhibited increasing interest in the idea of an initiative petition ballot campaign to put the single-payer issue on the ballot. Bob Smiddie, of Pomeroy, had long been urging an initiative and, now that SPAN Ohio had the affiliation of major forces, the idea seemed eminently reasonable, despite Ohio's highly restrictive constitutional provisions on initiatives.
In the months following that meeting, SPAN fleshed out its structure, approved bylaws, changed the name of its governing body to State Council (retaining as members on that body those previously elected to the Interim Steering Committee while adding others), convened periodic meetings of the State Council and moved forward in the drafting of the initiative petition. After months of meetings, discussions and plain hard work, a petition upon which all could agree was finalized and approved by a statewide meeting of SPAN supporters. The petition summary and 201 signatures were filed with the Attorney General's office on July 14, 2004. (The state requires that 100 or more qualified electors sign to begin the process of proposing a law to the Legislature.) On August 5, 2004, the Attorney General certified the petition, and by August 20, five thousand copies, each accommodating 65 signatures, had been printed for distribution. Within five days, nearly 2500 had been picked up by chapters, unions, and individual supporters, all volunteering to help SPAN reach its goal of 140,000 valid signatures. (To be valid, a signature must be that of a registered voter, and must be personally witnessed by the petition circulator.)