Best Ways to Promote Single-Payer Health Care?
September 14, 2011 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Reasonably educated, late-30s American male voter, working full-time, with no political connections. What are the most effective ways I can support a shift to single-payer health care in the United States?

As is the case for so many Americans, healthcare--or more accurately, its cost--is becoming more and more important to me and my family.

I'm a longtime advocate of single-payer health insurance. Inspired by posts like this one I read on the blue this morning, and just getting sick (har har) of hearing myself rant to my girlfriend, I'm itching to Do Something already, but I don't know where to start.

I don't have much free time or money, but I'm willing to invest what I have of both. I do vote and contact my elected officials on different issues as appropriate, but I also realize that will only go so far (i.e., nowhere, at least under the current political system) where healthcare is concerned.

So... educating and organizing locally? Donating to organizations dedicated to SPHC? Agitating on Capitol Hill? I guess I just want to identify what is likely to have the most impact on the process of SPHC becoming a viable possibility in this country, put my efforts into that, and encourage others to do the same. Help?
posted by Rykey to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Much the same as this AskMe from yesterday re: war.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:46 AM on September 14, 2011

A well written letter to your Congress people each month is a start. Promise a donation to the reelect if they will go on record supporting it. Support every step towards it too.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:46 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Physicians for a National Health Program is like the AMA, except they strongly push the cause of single payer healthcare.
posted by spamguy at 6:49 AM on September 14, 2011

Vote for the most progressive candidate in every election. Encourage all of your friends, family, and associates to do the same.
posted by hworth at 7:02 AM on September 14, 2011

A lot of states have organizations working towards universal health care (not necessarily single-payer - I don't know if that's a deal-breaker for you). In Massachusetts we have a group called Health Care for All that looks like it has branches in other states, and they appear to work with a national organization called Community Catalyst. Might be worth looking into.
posted by mskyle at 7:18 AM on September 14, 2011

In addition to the above, I think it's important to engage people in thoughtful, RESPECTFUL conversation about the topic. You're probably not going to win over anyone who thinks of SPHC as socialism, but there are still a lot of people who haven't formed a strong opinion on the issue. There are people who don't want to think about it because the two sides seem so fight-y. There are people who have been covered by their employers and in good health their whole lives (so far!) who don't expend much effort thinking about how much it would suck if either of those things change. There are TONS of people who don't understand how much of the cost of healthcare comes from processing the paperwork for a zillion different insurance companies. If you can give people the facts about this without alienating them, you multiply your power for change by adding more people to your "side" of the debate.

Of course, part of being able to do this is knowing the facts yourself. You have to be able to cite your sources and provide trustworthy information. If you don't know the answer to a question, don't make up a generalization or fake statistic. You also have to be able to stay calm when people don't agree with you. Polarizing the argument with anger and hyperbole only makes change less likely.
posted by vytae at 7:21 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Rykey, if only the electorate were composed of you.....I wrote a rambling take that shows why any rational person would want single payer. We have evidence that single payer is more efficient, more affordable, and cuts back in duplicative administration (MEDICARE), but it's not going to happen. PNHP is the strongest program I know about it. I'm a member and we're treated like pariahs in this so called humanistic profession. I routinely turn off Fox-News in the doctor's lounge. People openly call me "that liberal doc." (here was my rambling post)

But, to make real change is going to require a Democratic President, 65 Democratic Senators, and Democratic congress, and as witnessed the judicial hositility to a health care program that does not cut cost much and insures 98% -- probably a couple conservative people to die on the Supreme Court -- and based upon modern medical techniques that their government issued health care allows them to have and that they actively deny to their fellow citizens -- they won't die soon.

At any rate, try supporting Democratic candidates. If we had 65 Dems -- the government option (which would lay the foundation for single payer) would have passed and that's the start.

The issue to polarized to win directly. I've had nurses....nurses for 25 years! -- tell me that they would rather not have the government control their Medicare as they are about to retire!

But, once it passes, if it ever does, and I really believe it has to -- no successful nation can spend 20% of its GDP on health care -- you won't be able to take it away.....remember, the conservative opposition in Canada, Britain, France, Germany, etc -- would never dare say anything against universal health care -- it's just too popular once passed.

Look at how Romney is defending social security. The thing about single payer is that it actually saves money and lowers costs. Most people get more out of social security than they put in!

Support the Democratic party. They are not perfect but they're the only way a single payer bill will ever happen.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:23 AM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Daily Kos Elections will help you figure out which House or Senate races near you are vulnerable. That would be my top priority.

What you are asking for is less like trying to pass a single bill, but more akin to building a movement, I'm afraid. Fill the pipeline with progressives and talk to them about the issue, even when they're at the very local level.

I'd also find the most savvy nonprofits working on this issue and join any sort of volunteer team they have.
posted by salvia at 7:31 AM on September 14, 2011

That would be my top priority.

That = volunteering for their field outreach canvass GOTV teams.
posted by salvia at 7:33 AM on September 14, 2011

Also, eventually learn how to throw a fundraiser party or otherwise hit up your friends for money.
posted by salvia at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

What are the most effective ways I can support a shift to single-payer health care in the United States?

Never, never, never, never vote for a Republican. Never.
posted by JackFlash at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2011

Thanks for the ideas so far. I should have been clear in the OP, but yes, I always vote, and I always vote for the most progressive candidates (who can win, anyhow, meaning I usually vote Democratic), and no, I never, ever vote Republican.

Any ideas beyond voting/supporting a particular candidate? Again, I apologize for not phrasing my original question properly.
posted by Rykey at 9:11 AM on September 14, 2011

Depending on where you are, it might be easier than you think to build political connections that can make you more influential with your local Member of Congress. County parties (particularly in rural areas) are notoriously understaffed and are always looking for reliable, competent, and energetic volunteers. Just call up your local Democratic county chairperson and ask what they need help with. You might wind up making phone calls, knocking on doors, or delivering yard signs for a while, but prove you can do those things, and you'll probably start getting responsibility for larger projects before you know it. If you're halfway personable, they might even ask you to run for a local office yourself.

Odds are, once you get to this level, you'll be running in the same circles as your Member of Congress (if you're represented by a Democrat) or his/her likely challengers (if you're not). Make their acquaintance, conspicuously help them out when you can, and you'll become more influential than just Some Constituent With a Stamp. Make known your opinion on universal health care, and if you're lucky, your rep will start thinking that you represent an important strain of thought in his/her district.
posted by burden at 6:38 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Promise a donation to the reelect if they will go on record supporting it.

Don't do this. Of course money plays a role (much too large a role) in our legislative process, but this isn't how it works. The official work a member of Congress does and his/her reelection campaign are supposed to maintain a wall of separation (even though this wall gets decidedly fictional lots of the time) and some sort of quid pro quo offer in official mail is just not how things are done. The 20-something interns or junior staffers who open your letter will at best roll their eyes and at worst be insulted that you think their boss can be bribed into doing whatever you want (and if their boss can be bribed, it's probably going to require more money than you have anyway). I say this as someone who has opened plenty of them. Letters, in general, are good though - be courteous and to the point (stick to just the topic of single-payer and don't attempt to cram in a thousand other issues) and put a return address on the letter itself (in case the envelope gets lost). Try not to be too offended if you get a form letter back - it doesn't mean your letter wasn't read.
Meetings are much better than letters - see if you or you can a group of people can meet with either your representative or a member of his or her staff, either in DC or in your local office. You will probably get a staffer, not your representative - this is ok; staff are often the more knowledgeable ones. Expect a very short meeting. Bring a one page summary of what you're asking for. Get the staffer's card and follow up. In my office, at the end of every week the legislative team would meet and go around the table and talk about any ideas for new bills or for existing bills that we thought our boss should cosponsor, based on either our own interests or on issues brought to us by constituents during meetings. The legislative director would approve these ideas or not, and ideas that made the cut would then be brought to the next level of meetings, which included the congressman, who had the final say on. Every office works a little differently, but they've all got some sort of filtering process like this where a good idea that a constituent presents to a staffer can make it make it to a representative's ear and sometimes get support. Since you're more powerful in group, see if there are organizations you can join (maybe this one? I'm not familiar with it but looks good) that does lobbying visits.

But let's say your representative sucks and is never going to be interested in single-payer healthcare, ever. In that case, you need a new representative! Find the best candidate running for that seat and do whatever you can (time and/or money, preferably both!) to support their election.
But why are we only talking about the federal level? Vermont passed single payer legislation, and maybe your state can too. Once again, lobbying and/or campaigning, except here you're one of a much smaller group of constituents and in an arena where most people are probably less active, so your voice counts way more than it did when you were talking to your congressperson, and if you convince just a few friends to vote a certain way it could potentially swing an election.
Or, start even smaller. Your local city council member, school board member, etc. probably doesn't want to stay in the small time forever - find out which ones are ambitious and weighing a state-level run (or maybe even federal), befriend them, and see if they'd be willing to make single payer part of their platform when they do. You absolutely can meet these people at your local Democratic Party committee meetings and events (along with a lot of other good and dedicated people), like burden said. Also like burden said, you can always run for office yourself.

I guess almost none of this is really specific to single payer, but I think it's more or less the best you can do on any issue like this (see also the war question from yesterday). I don't really see much movement on this issue any time soon, but you know, moral arc of the universe and all that - be willing to be in this for the long haul.
posted by naoko at 10:08 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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