Nurses lead the way: national union is at forefront of fights over health care, workers' rights.

Author:Johnson, Sharon
 
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The big red buses are ready to roll. Throughout this spring, National Nurses United, the nation's largest professional association of registered nurses, will be hitting the road to urge legislators in Washington, D.C., and several state capitals to oppose Republican plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The union, which now represents nurses in all fifty states, is headquartered in Maryland. It has 185,000 members nationwide. The NNU was the first national union to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders in his bid for President, and its members campaigned on his behalf.

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"We were disappointed by the loss of Senator Sanders because he shares our position that health care insurance is a public good, rather than Trumps view that it is a commodity sold on the market," says Jean Ross, union co-president. "From day one of the campaign, we recognized that health care would continue to be a major issue after the election, so we will be working harder than ever to maximize the number of Americans who have health insurance."

Now the group is setting its sights on trying to protect President Obama's signature health care law, which has added twenty million Americans to the insurance rolls. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, about eighteen million people would become uninsured within a year; by 2026, that number would grow to thirty-two million, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Premiums would dramatically increase as well.

The union will also call on voters across the country to build support for its long-term goal of replacing private health insurance coverage with a universal health care system.

NNU members have been active in state politics for decades, helping to pass legislation to improve patient protections as well as bills on housing, education, and other safety net measures that make a difference in patients' lives, according to Deborah Burger, the unions co-president.

"Participating in our first presidential campaign taught us that championing these issues isn't enough," Burger says. "Everywhere our buses stopped, people told us that despite the [Affordable Care Act] and state measures, they cannot get the care they need because insurance companies are still making the decisions."

Working on the Sanders campaign underscored the need to question the conventional wisdom that Democrats are proponents of health care reform and Republicans are opponents.

"We discovered that on...

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