In 1990, Dr. Henry Simmons — who had held a variety of positions in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations — founded the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) “to use public education and policy advocacy to secure and sustain health system reform enactment and implementation.” He has served as the coalition’s President since its inception.
NCHC identifies itself as “a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization of more than 80 member organizations, representing medical societies, business, unions, health care providers, associations of religious congregations, pension and health funds, insurers, and groups representing consumers, patients, women, minorities, and persons with disabilities.” The coalition boasts a broad membership that rallies around five key principles:
Health care coverage for all
Improvement of health care quality and safety
Among NCHC’s coalition members are: the AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Library Association, the Children’s Defense Fund, the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the National Council of Churches, the National Council of La Raza, the National Education Association, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
NCHC’s sister organization, the NCHC Action Fund calls itself “a separate 501(c)(4) non-profit organization committed to the same principles [as NCHC].” In February 2009, it named Ralph Neas, former President of People for the American Way, as its President and CEO. At the time, Neas stated that NCHC always had been, and (under his stewardship) would continue to be, politically nonpartisan.
Throughout much of 2009, Henry Simmons and Ralph Neas continued to underscore NCHC’s purportedly broad and inclusive political approach to health care. In June of that year, for instance, Simmons and Neas stated that “Failure to achieve a [health care] bill supported by a bipartisan majority would be a tragedy.”
By January 27, 2010, with public support for more governmental involvement in health care declining, the NCHC Action Fund adopted a far different position. Applauding the ability of President Obama and the Democratic Congressional leadership to achieve “more progress” in “one year … than had been accomplished in the past 100 years,” Neas called “to redouble our efforts to enact comprehensive health system reform.” He strongly rejected Republican “incrementalism” and backed the legislative strategy of reconciliation to avoid “further interruptions” to the task of passing the President’s health care reform as soon as possible.
A number of other notable leftwing activists sit on the NCHC board of directors. Former Congressman Robert Edgar is the coalition’s Chairman. A United Methodist minister, Edgar was General Secretary of the National Council of Churches from 2000 to 2007, and he is Co-Chair of the Win Without War coalition.
Another notable board member of the NCHC is John Sweeney, a union activist since the 1960s who served as President of two of the largest and most powerful unions in America. He was a four-term President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and President of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) from 1995-2009. He is also a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.