The Ad Hoc Committee to Defend Health Care, a coalition of doctors and nurses who oppose market-driven changes in the industry, is launching a campaign to ban for-profit conversions in Massachusetts.
The group also will work to place a referendum on the 2000 election ballot to guarantee universal access to care in the state.
The committee unveiled its plans at a public meeting at Boston's Faneuil Hall on Dec. 2. The event marked the first anniversary of the group's "Tea Party," when it dumped corporate reports of profit-making healthcare companies into Boston Harbor.
The Ad Hoc Committee was formed in 1997 in response to its founders' perception of threats to the integrity of the healthcare system posed by profit-oriented enterprises. The committee wrote a manifesto, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The group claims 4,500 adherents, mostly in Massachusetts. It has active branches in Illinois, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., a physician at Harvard Medical School and the committee spokeswoman, said the group wants to ban conversions of hospitals, HMOs and physician groups to for-profit status. The fine points of how such a ban would work haven't been developed yet, she said.
Massachusetts has 78 acute-care hospitals, of which two are for-profit.
The committee also wants to place a referendum on the state ballot in November 2000 asking for universal access to care.
"The point of the referendum is to give instruction to the executive branch," she said. "It has to be specific enough that we get universal access but vague enough that we get a big tent," which all advocates of reform can join.
Although Woolhandler favors a single-payer plan, committee members are variously lobbying for "pay or play"-in which employers either pay for health insurance or pay a tax-managed competition or other options.
Universal coverage, Woolhandler said, would be defined as access to primary, specialty and hospital care.
Massachusetts voters approved a reform referendum in 1986, but it was weakly worded and had little effect, she said.