County puts universal health care on the ballot
July 2000

Alachua County Commissioners voted July 11 to put a referendum on universal health care on the Nov. 7 ballot. Voters will be asked if they favor legislation to create a universal health care system, eliminating private insurance companies.

The referendum is non-binding, but would indicate what voters would like to see done about our increasingly expensive, complicated and inaccessible private health insurance system.

The Alachua County Labor Party asked the Commission to place the referendum on the ballot, as "a way to send a message to politicians that we want universal health care: Everybody in, nobody out," said Labor Party co-chair Mark Piotrowski. "We're tired of insurance companies and HMOs meddling in our care, making it so expensive and preventing us from getting the treatments we need. It's so expensive now that between 15 and 20 percent of us have no insurance, and those of us who do are paying way too much."

Labor Party chapters in three communities in Massachusetts, Somerville, Quincy and West Roxbury, put nonbinding resolutions on the ballot and won overwhelming approval from voters. "As far as we know, this is the first Florida county which has tried this, but we believe the idea will spread and make it politically too costly for politicians to ignore the option of universal health care."

Around the country universal health care is on the ballot and on the agenda. In Washington state, voters will consider a binding referendum setting up a 'single-payer' system for the state which would provide coverage to everyone for all their health needs in exchange for extremely modest premiums. The Labor Party nationally has challenged all the presidential candidates to adopt Just Health Care, a plan which would provide health care--including prescriptions and long-term care--to everyone in the U.S., and shows precisely where the funding would come from to achieve the program. The Green Party adopted the Just Health Care plan at their convention in June.

The wording of the referendum is as follows:

Universal Health Care
Do you favor legislation to create a system of universal health care in Florida that provides all residents with comprehensive health care coverage (including the freedom to choose doctors and other health care professionals, facilities and services) and eliminates the role of insurance companies in health care by creating a publicly administered health insurance trust fund? This trust fund would receive the funds presently going to the numerous health insurance companies throughout the state.

The Alachua County Labor Party made the following statement to the press after the Commissioners voted:

"It's a well-kept secret that most Americans want a universal health care system that covers everyone for all their health needs. It's an even better kept secret that we're already paying for it-we're just not getting the care, because dollars that could go to provide good coverage for everyone are wasted on paperwork and bureaucracy; insurance company and drug company profits, advertising, and extravagant salaries for top executives. Thirty-seven countries provide better care than the U.S., but we spend more money per person than any of them, according to a recent World Health Organization report.

"Our job-linked private insurance system is terrible for us in that it ties us to our jobs--many people want to retire and can't, many more want to change jobs but can't because they fear losing insurance coverage. Insurance premiums are going through the roof--our raises are eaten up in increasing insurance premiums; more and more people can't get insurance at all as more and more employers don't provide it. Our unions spend much of their time trying to extract adequate health insurance for members, taking up precious resources that could be used for raises, job rights and safety issues.

"After we pay the astronomical premiums, insurance companies meddle in our care-denying us needed care, putting us through a maze of phone calls and paperwork hoping we'll be unable to use our coverage, calling our doctors to kick us out of the hospital as fast as possible. The care has gone out of health care and doctors and other practitioners are blocked from practicing healing by insurance company meddling. The 7-minute doctor visit would be funny if it weren't reality; while many-hour waits in the clinic or emergency room face those without insurance.

"As millions of Americans feel the squeeze, we're fighting back. This referendum is just one of many efforts around the country to send a clear message that we want universal health care, with no more insurance company blockages to care. In Washington State there's a universal health care plan on the ballot in November, and there are initiatives on the ballot in Massachusetts and Illinois. In Maryland there's a legislative effort to enact universal health care by 2002.

"The Labor Party nationally has challenged all the presidential candidates to adopt the Labor Party's Just Health Care plan, in which 80% of Americans would pay less for care and everyone would be covered for all their needs, including prescriptions and long-term care. The Just Health Care plan shows precisely where the funding would come from. The Green Party has adopted the Just Health Care plan.

"We challenge all candidates for state office to stand up to the insurance industry lobby and to adopt the universal principles of Just Health Care--everybody in, nobody out--and to commit to fight for them in the legislature. We don't want to hear about more small adjustments that still put insurance & drug company profits before our health care. We don't want to hear about stopgap drug vouchers that directly transfer public money to price-gouging drug companies, or how we're going to force insurance companies to cover us one disease at a time, or how we might be allowed to sue our HMOs after they've taken our money and refused us care. We want one single, simple health plan that covers everyone. We're spending the money already, let's redirect it to providing quality health care for every resident.

"We challenge the press to speak to people about the effects of health insurance companies on their lives--whether it be that they can't leave a job, or they can't get insurance, or that they've been denied care, or that they've been forced into bankruptcy by health care bills. We challenge the media to stop covering for their drug and insurance company advertisers and start covering reality.

"We invite everyone who wants universal health care to join us in this campaign, bring up this issue for discussion in your union, civic organization or place of worship, tell your health insurance horror stories to the public and elected officials, and tell all your friends and neighbors to vote on November 7: YES to Universal Health Care, NO to private insurance companies."

For more information on the Labor Party's Just Health Care Committee, call 373-4841 or write to 1720 NE 75th St., Gainesville, FL 32641. Or check out the local Labor Party website at and the national Labor Party website is

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