Butte County Health Care Coalition
Keeping Single-Payer "On The Table"


 The Butte County Health Care Coalition (BCHCC) was founded in October 1991. Our first meeting was held in Conference Room 1 of the Chico Municipal Building and was attended by five single payer supporters. We immediately set about educating ourselves and our community, networking with like minded organizations, and advocating for single payer legislation on both the State and Federal level. At that time single payer legislation was sponsored on the State level by Senator Nicholas Petris (D-Oakland), while Federal legislation was sponsored by Representative Marty Russo, (D-Ill).

In the 1992 Presidential election health care was a central issue and single payer supporters were hopeful of a fair hearing. We wrote, spoke and lobbied extensively in support of legislation sponsored by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash). The Clinton administration however refused to confront the power of the insurance industry and their allies and those legislative efforts died an untimely death. In response single payer supporters in California began looking to the initiative process as a means of establishing a statewide single payer system in California.

In November 1993 single payer activists from around the State, including representatives of the BCHCC, met in Oakland. Despite limited resources and a very short timeline, a decision was made that under the circumstances we had no real choice but to go forward with a Statewide Initiative for the November 1994 Ballot. The BCHCC supported this decision.

Circulation of petitions for what was to become the California Health Security Act – Prop. 186 began in early 1994. Members of the BCHCC collected over 8,000 signatures to help qualify the Initiative for the Ballot.

Despite an impressive grass roots effort Prop.186 was defeated. To some extent this was a result of our own tactical and strategic errors. More significantly though, the Initiative was opposed by every daily newspaper in California – on the grounds that “managed care” was a better option than a “government takeover” of the health care system. We also faced the indifference or hostility of the Democratic Party hierarchy (despite widespread and enthusiastic support among the Democratic rank and file) and the unlimited financial resources of the health insurance industry and their allies.

The BCHCC and our local allies were the center of the Prop 186 campaign in the North State. Our members gave over 150 presentations to audiences in nine Northern California counties, along with innumerable radio, television and newspaper interviews. We raised over $25,000 for the State campaign and distributed over 20,000 pieces of literature as well as purchasing advertisements in local newspapers.

Following the defeat of Prop. 186, single payer advocates in California regrouped. While we continued to support federal legislation, we focused our efforts primarily on the State of California, joining with other single payer advocates to form Health Care for All – California. Though we elected to maintain our independent status by joining as an affiliate rather than as a chapter we have continued active participation in the HCA-CA State organization, and our members have served, and continue to serve, on the State Board.

Our recent efforts have been primarily directed toward developing a popular understanding of and support for single payer healthcare, and building support for State legislation such as that proposed by former State Senator Sheila Kuehl, (D-Santa Monica) and State Senator Mark Leno, (D-San Francisco), the author of SB 810, California’s current single payer bill. We have also worked to consolidate a network of political allies devoted to the establishment of a single payer system, and have worked with those allies on related issues of economic and social justice, such as the California Budget Project.

We have also worked to expand our membership base, and to develop a more efficient organizational structure adequate to the achievement of our organizational goals. Most notably, in order to ensure organizational accountability (and provide possible tax advantages for our supporters) we have restructured the BCHCC as a non-profit 501 C3-4 organization, through creation of the Butte County Health Care Education Coalition (BCHCEC). The BCHCEC is devoted solely to educational activities related to single payer health care, and is designed to complement the efforts of the BCHCC, which are directed to advocacy political action.

Written by Tom Reed




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