Sunday, June 01, 2008

CAP Report from the May 30th Demonstration



On Friday May 30th, the Coalition Against Privatization held its
second street demonstration against the proposed conversion
(privatization) of GHI/HIP to for-profit status. As you may have
heard, this privatization would remove an important non-profit
healthcare carrier thereby exposing 4 million people in NY State to a
for-profit health insurer. Non-profit status places a cap on
administrative spending at 15% of the overall budget, provides
oversight on premium increases and restricts access to funding from
financial markets (thereby insuring that the overall goal of the
company is the provision of healthcare and not the accumulation of

The application for conversion sailed through Albany in April of 2007
and met little resistance until January 2008. Democrats, Republicans
and, until recently, most of the leaders of municipal trade unions
supported the privatization. They hope to profit from the estimated
$3 – $5 billion dollars in assets, which will be liquidated if the
conversion is approved. Plan subscribers, including 1.2 million
municipal workers and their dependents (retirees included), would be
thrown into a for-profit system which has left more than 46 million
people without health insurance and 50 million under-insured.

In January 2008, 300 people, many retirees on fixed incomes, testified
at a hearing held by the Superintendent of Insurance. The vast
majority spoke against the proposed conversion with many demanding
single-payer national health insurance. Since then, CAP has been
formed and has organized street demonstrations on May 9th and May
30th. In addition, CAP supporters flooded the phone lines of the
Superintendent of the Insurance on May 12th in a planned call-in action.

Friday's demonstration targeted the office of GHI in midtown.
Protesters then moved to the office of Governor David Paterson. Along
the way, the march received support from passers-by in the form of
conversations, pumped fists and words of encouragement. The employees
at GHI, who face possible termination or transfer if the conversion is
approved, were also receptive to our message. Chants included: "Eric
Dinallo–Just Say No!" / "David Paterson–Tell Him No!" and "People over
Profits–Healthcare is a Right!"

Speakers included representatives from the UFT rank and file caucus,
Independent Community of Educators, TWU Local 100 rank-and-file
activists, UFT retirees, D.C. 37 retirees, Socialist Party USA,
Healthcare – NOW and Socialist Action. The speakers highlighted the
need to break through the silence on this issue by taking the word
directly to rank-and-file workers who have largely been kept in the
dark by political and trade union representatives. It was also noted
that one unelected administrator, Superintendent Eric Dinallo, now
controls the fate of 4 million people. Finally, many speakers
combined their opposition to the privatization with renewed calls for
building the movement for single-payer national health insurance.

Coverage of the march will air on a WBAI (99.5 FM) program entitled,
"Building Bridges," this Monday evening, June 2nd, at 7:00pm. There
will also be a second article by Ari Paul in this Tuesday's edition of
The Chief.

The march began with a surprise announcement that Randi Weingarten,
the head of the Municipal Labor Council and the President of the UFT,
had penned a letter to Superintendent Dinallo expressing concern about
possible increases in premium rates and denial of access to care
should the conversion be approved. She stated that the municipal
unions were in the process of reviewing their support of the proposed
conversion. This is an important victory for CAP since we have
consistently argued that premium rates and access would be jeopardized
by a for-profit carrier. Activists in ICE have also attempted to
bring this message to the floor of the UFT Delegate Assembly for the
past three months and have had many positive conversations with DA

Going forward, CAP is participating in the June 19th national
demonstrations in support of single-payer national healthcare.
Demonstrations will be organized in 17 cities throughout the U.S. The
New York City demonstration will unite CAP with Healthcare NOW! and
Private Health Insurance Must Go! We will demand the passage of H.R.
676 and speak out against the privatization of GHI/HIP. The
demonstration will be held on Thursday, June 19th, at 5:00pm in front
of the office of GHI at 441 9th Avenue (34th & 9th). We will then
march to the office of United Healthcare at 1 Penn Plaza (33rd bet.
7th & 8th).

Please consider participating in our growing movement to stop the
privatization of GHI/HIP and secure healthcare as a basic human right!

A CAP organizer can be contacted at (718) 869-2279 or by email at

In Peace and Solidarity,

The Coalition Against Privatization

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