By Amanda Scott
Southern Maryland Newspapers Online, July 17, 2013
In an effort to bring a universal health care system to Maryland, local chapters throughout the state have been following the footsteps of a successful grassroots campaign by the same name in Vermont.
On Saturday, the Healthcare is a Human Right (HCHR)-Maryland Calvert County Chapter held its inaugural “Healthcare Speakout” at the Calvert Library Prince Frederick to share the movement’s grassroots efforts to achieve universal health care for all Marylanders.
“We’re pushing to start seeing health care as a right — not a commodity,” said Sergio Espana, the state HCHR organizer.
The statewide campaign for universal health care began in December and has since gained traction in several counties where local chapters have been initiated, including Frederick, Howard, Baltimore, Montgomery, Calvert and Carroll counties. According to Healthcare-Now of Maryland’s website, the Maryland chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program and Healthcare-Now of Maryland partnered to create a “Health Care is a Human Right” campaign in Maryland.
In 2011, Vermont was the first state to adopt a universal health care system after the Vermont Workers’ Center launched the grassroots Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign in 2008 in the state. According to the HCHR Vermont website, citizens in Maryland, California, Oregon, New York and Maine are using strategies from Vermont’s campaign.
Stephen Wallace, a member of the Calvert County chapter, said Saturday the campaign is not political.
“It’s not a left or right thing. It’s about people. It’s about people’s health,” Wallace said, adding that people’s concerns about health care “just shouldn’t be there.” Those anxieties, he said, demonstrate that “the [health care] system isn’t working.”
According to Healthcare-Now of Maryland, a universal health care system would create a single-payer, publicly-financed, privately-delivered system that covers all Marylanders.
During Saturday’s “Healthcare Speakout,” four members of the Calvert County chapter shared stories of their experiences with the “broken” system and their hope for a new, universal, single-payer system.
Calvert County chapter member Brandon Johnson of Lusby said that after he and other members of his family had several medical issues, the medical bills “stacked up,” and his parents had to file for bankruptcy.
“That’s flawed. There’s no reason anybody should have that problem,” Johnson said.
Fellow chapter member Liam Fletcher of Prince Frederick said the stories he hears from other people about health care “just makes me sad.”
Fletcher said the movement is about “not putting profit above people,” like he said insurance companies will do.
Robert Wells, another chapter member from Prince Frederick, said, “We have to get rid of the profit-driven system” and the greed, so that everyone can get basic medical care.
“No one deserves to make a profit off of other people’s suffering,” Bobby Morrison, a chapter member from Huntingtown, said.
A universal system, member Cory Johnson said during Saturday’s presentation, would eliminate co-pays, deductibles and insurance hassles.
Cory Johnson also explained that there are many myths about such a system, such as: it can’t happen; it will never work; publicly-funded health care is too expensive and less effective; the government will choose doctors and make medical decisions; and it’s a “socialized” system.
“So, it’s not just the point that the system is bad for those who don’t have [insurance]. It’s also bad for those who do have it,” Cory Johnson said.
According to HCHR-Maryland, under the Affordable Care Act, there will still be more than 436,000 Maryland residents without health care. In 2012, according to Saturday’s presentation, there were 802,000 uninsured Maryland residents, accounting for 13.8 percent of the total population.
In 2010 in Maryland, there were an estimated 15,000 medical bankruptcy claims, according to the presentation. In its first year, a universal health care system in Maryland would save the state an estimated $7 billion, or 15 percent of existing health care spending, by reducing administrative costs and anti-competitive marketing practices, according to the presentation.
In addition, HCHR-Maryland claims the U.S. spends more money on health care than any other country and is less effective. A universal health care system could save the country more than $570 billion annually if implemented nationally, according to the presentation.
To increase awareness of the campaign in Calvert County, the chapter plans to host more “Healthcare Speakouts” and go door-to-door to meet with residents.