Health Care for All NC began in a living room in Durham in 1994. Dr. Carol Kirschenbaum gathered with several physicians interested in universal health care. They knew well about health care inequality and wasted health care dollars. The small group met monthly and formed a chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.
That same year, an NC joint legislative effort called the Health Planning Commission had released a landmark report. It highlighted the number of uninsured – more than 900,000 North Carolinians – and outlined the potential savings in both lives and dollars with a single-payer system. Even without single-payer, with some fundamental reforms, there could be significant savings and waste reduction.
Soon it was clear that the organization needed broader representation than doctors alone. In 1997, the group followed a Massachusetts example and took the name NC Committee to Defend Health Care.
For the next period, organizing and education centered on using the Health Planning Commission report as a rational framework to promote health care as a right and legislation that the right to health care be written into the State constitution. There was a period of intense activity with election of Verla Insko to the NC House in 1997 and strong support from Dr. James Bryan, then president of the NC Medical Society. In 1999, Rep. Insko filed a bill that would guarantee the right to health care for North Carolinians.
The NC Committee continued to meet monthly in the Triangle. Across the state, they put on public events, attended community fairs and presented at church meetings. There was lobbying in Raleigh with press conferences to get media attention. The group grew beyond physicians, and gradually won endorsements by more than 70 local and state organizations for the “right to health care” and for a constitutional amendment.
The Committee also matured as an organization, adopting bylaws and electing officers. Sadly, founder and leader Dr. Kirschenbaum passed away in June 2005. But the organization she started carries on. In 2006 the IRS granted full 501(c)3 status. In 2008 the group officially changed its name to Health Care for All NC.