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Building a movement for universal health care in Illinois

By Kathy Wollner, Rush Medical College
and Zach Bay, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine
Standard responses you get when you ask a medical student to participate in health policy advocacy:

“The system is too complicated to try to change it.”
“There’s nothing I can do to make the system better.”
“I support change but I don’t think we can actually make a difference."
“I support this but I am too busy.”

These are the statements we hear time and again and even tell ourselves on occasion. Being both a medical student and a single-payer advocate is certainly not for the easily discouraged. In spite of these challenges, this month in Illinois twenty medical students teamed up to speak out against our inefficient, extremely expensive health care system that doesn’t even begin to take care of everyone. 

On April 11, AMSA members from Northwestern, Rush, and Rosalind Franklin joined with colleagues from the Illinois Single Payer Coalition in support of the Illinois Universal Health Care Act (HB 311). Over the course of the day, we spoke with or distributed literature to every Representative and Senator in the state legislature. Though diverse in age, culture, race, gender and religion, we were unified by our common commitment to a single payer health care system that will cut out the for-profit middle-man between doctor and patient. Our white coats broadcast our stake in the health care system as health professionals in training.

Aderonke Bambgose, AMSA president at Northwestern, gave an impassioned speech on the glaring faults of our current health care system:

Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program, gave an assessment of the national fight for single-payer and a shout out to students’ commitment to health justice:

Meeting with policy makers and hearing their different viewpoints on the issues was both challenging and inspiring. It was great to learn that although our voices alone seem weak, we can make our collective voice be heard by sharing our opinion with those elected to represent us. 

While we know achieving universal health care in Illinois will be an uphill battle, we’re in it for the long haul. How could we not be? The health care system is the world we will take part daily as health professionals and, every more importantly, the reality of health care – or lack there of – for our future patients.

Here’s some audio coverage of the press conference from CBS local news and additional videos from the press conference can be viewed here.

If you’re in Chicago and you’d like to get involved in single-payer advocacy, please contact us (email! 

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Comments  2

  • Sandra Daniels 04 Aug

    I have been reading and hearing these statements for much of the past three years. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it is so difficult to build a system that is based on human rights and entitlement, rather than insurance companies, employment status and financial wealth. This wonderful country is at its knees with debt and despair. A simple system similar to that of Canada, UK and Australia will not only boost self esteem in the health system, but allow those who are suffering in our so called wealthy country.

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  • Jenny 10 Nov

    I am all for a one payer healthcare policy if the nation is able to afford it. In order to implement such a system, we need to make many cutbacks on other nation expenditures, maybe from military expenses. Will the one payer policy end up raising taxes for everyone else?
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