The Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) emerged out of “the first nationwide conference for single-payer activists” in March 1992. In a follow-up conference in November of that year, 250 leaders from 37 states established UHCAN as a national organization and situated it in Ohio “to symbolize [its] identity as a grassroots center for health care reform advocates.”
UHCAN supports a single-payer health care system controlled by the federal government. Its Board Co-Chair (and Executive Director of the Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign) is Mark Hannay, who sees single-payer health care as a right to which all Americans are entitled; i.e., as part of the unfulfilled promise of President’s Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The organization also advocates “health care justice” as a natural extension of the “moral arc” of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
UHCAN is affiliated with more than 50 national associations and hundreds of state groups. It supports the five principles for health care reform established by the Institute of Medicine:
In UHCAN’s calculus, the best way to achieve these objectives is to put government in charge of the health care system, rather than to institute reforms that favor free-market principles.
Most notably, UHCAN has partnered in its national campaigns with the George Soros– and Teresa Heinz Kerry-funded Health Care for America Now!. In fact, UHCAN is a member of the HCAN network, which includes also the following national organizations: the Congressional Black Caucus Health Brain Trust; Democracy for America; the Gamaliel Foundation; the League of United Latin American Citizens; the National Abortion Federation; the National Coalition for LGBT Health; the National Congress of American Indians; the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; the National Minority Quality Forum; the National Women’s Health Network; 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women; the Older Women’s League; the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; the Progressive States Network; True Majority; the U.S. Public Interest Research Group; and the YWCA.
UHCAN has also partnered with Divided We Fail, a group led by SEIU President Andrew Stern. UHCAN’s constituency campaigns have also included the Children’s Defense Fund, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Progressive States Network, and the respective Health Care Campaigns of the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). UHCAN has also partnered with the Gray Panthers, a national organization of “intergenerational activists dedicated to social change,” and the National Council of Churches.
A top priority for UHCAN is to build grassroots connections to local and national media. In its publication titled “Media Tips & Success Stories: Getting Better Media Coverage for Your Group’s Actions and Messages,” UHCAN outlines strategies for reaching out to the public, local politicians, and media outlets. For example, the UHCAN publication cites Kathleen Duffy of Campaign for Better Health Care, who explains that her success in Illinois lies in developing a “story bank” to use as “bait for media coverage.” Working alongside liberal Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, Duffy’s group was able “to identify local residents” that would share their health care stories with the public and also “to educate them about how reform will help them.”
In January 2010, UHCAN co-signed a letter to all members of Congress to vote in favor of a Democratic health care proposal to greatly increase the role of government in the American health care system. Other national organizers to sign this letter included the Mennonite Central Committee, the National Council of Churches, the National Women’s Law Center, 9 to 5 – National Association of Working Women, People Improving Communities Through Organizing, the SEIU, and Sojourners. In addition, the letter was signed by local chapters of Citizen Action, Pax Christi, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and the YWCA.
A notable member of UHCAN’s Board of Directors is Nick Unger, who also serves as the Health Care Campaign Training Director of the AFL-CIO. In UHCAN’s Annual Meeting on November 19, 2009, Unger described the organization’s mission in terms of political warfare — a battle not simply for health care, but against the Republican Party, “Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, the insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, [and] Goldman Sachs.” According to Unger, a Democratic victory on this battlefield would help to correct the “wrong turn” America had made in electing Ronald Reagan to office three decades earlier:
“From a political analytical point of view, the last time America turned the corner was 1980, and we sure turned wrong. And we are living with the price of it now. We are at a corner now. If we miss this one, I don’t know if I will ever get a shot at another one.”