Founded in 1981, Families USA (FUSA), originally known as the Villers Foundation, is an influential Washington-based health-care advocacy group “dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
One of FUSA's co-founders is Ron Pollack, who currently serves as the group’s Executive Director and Vice President. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed Pollack as the sole consumer representative on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry, where he worked on the Patients’ Bill of Rights. The Hill and National Journal cited Pollack as one of the top nonprofit lobbyists in Washington.
FUSA's other co-founder, Philippe Villers, is currently the organization's President. He also serves on the ACLU's President’s Committee and Amnesty International USA’s Executive Directors Council.
FUSA’s board of directors is composed of numerous leaders from prominent progressive organizations, including:
- Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
- Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Chair of Reform Immigration for America
- Jarrett Barrios, President of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)
- Kathy Bonk, Executive Director of the Communications Consortium Media Center, which is funded by Public Interest Projects
- Gordon Bonnyman, Executive Director of the Tennessee Justice Center
- James M. Christian, Sr. of PSI Family Services
- Robert Edgar, Co-Chair of Win Without War, former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, and President and CEO of the George Soros-funded Common Cause
- Jeff Kirsch, Vice President of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
FUSA has spent tens of millions of dollars, organizing and lobbying for health-care coverage for children and the uninsured. Until 2009, the organization was a prominent supporter of universal government-run health care. When the Democrats abandoned their pursuit of that goal -- due in part to the public opposition during the summer of 2009 -- FUSA followed suit, receiving harsh criticism from the left for ostensibly abandoning its values.
One of FUSA’s principal projects is the Stand Up For Health Care website, which is aimed to “empower ordinary Americans with the knowledge and opportunity to become leaders in the movement for health care reform.” Besides hosting a blog, the project organizes petitions and letter-writing campaigns to Congress for health-care advocacy.
Each year, FUSA runs a Health Care Action (HCA) conference to promote increased levels of government control over the American health-care system. At the 15th HCA conference in January 2010, guest speaker (and White House Senior Advisor) Valerie Jarrett told the crowd that the fight for new legislation was “not over.” “You have been out there in the trenches working with us every single day,” she said. “On behalf of President Obama, I want to have the pleasure of thanking you. […] I want to reassure you he has not given up on this.”
With the passage of the Democratic health-care reform bill in March 2010, FUSA Executive Director Ron Pollack told the Washington Post: “I’m not worried about the bill. It has its imperfections and there are things we can build on in the future. The immediate concern is implementation. […] It’s implementation that will translate this bill into real health-care reform.”
Pollack also indicated that, if his group were successful, the eventual price tag for the health-care bill would be substantially greater than the Congressional Budget Office had originally predicted:
"[T]here is a large number of people who will be eligible" for funding that the CBO "presume[d] won’t enroll. We’re actually helping to found a new organization to work on this. Its placeholder name is Enroll America, and it will involve all the different interest groups, from supporters of reform like consumers groups to community health centers and doctors and insurers. And what we’ll do is raise tens of millions of dollars for state groups to work with the state to try to create the most effective systems to apply and enroll."
In 2010, FUSA again partnered with the Obama administration to rehabilitate the image of the unpopular health-care bill with a nationwide PR campaign. Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director, and Andrew Grossman, a top Democratic strategist who coordinated grassroots efforts on behalf of health-care reform in 2009, collaborated to build a campaign that would last until 2014; it would consist of “road shows” all across the nation in order to provide federal officials with an advocacy platform to promote the bill. Pollack described this initiative as an effort to shape the media’s perception of health-care legislation. “Those events are intended to be media-centric,” he stated. “We devote a lot of time before and after to meet with editorial boards, to do radio and TV interviews and sit down with local reporters.”