Fighting for Our Health

The Epic Battle to Make Health Care a Right in the United States

By Richard Kirsch

Subjects: Health Care, American Politics, Public Policy
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9781930912243, 416 pages, February 2012

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Table of contents

Thomas L. Gais

Introduction: The Great Quest
1. Thumb Out in Both Directions
2. The Solution Is the Problem
3. Building Health Care for America Now
4. Ready, Set, Go!
5. Health Care in the 2008 Election
6. The Economy or Health Care?
7. From the Ground Up—Champions
8. From the Ground Up—Swings
9. The Happy Warrior
10. No HELP for the Gang of Six
11. The Guns of August
12. The White House Waffles
13. If the Insurance companies Win—You Lose
14. The Baucus Bill Is a Failure
15. Did the White House Try to Get Me Fired?
16. The House Makes History
17. Harry’s Dilemma
18. Lieberman’s Revenge
19. Christmas Eve
20. Not Again!
21. Stop Big Insurance—Congress Listens to Us
22. Fighting for Our Health
Epilogue: The Fight Goes On

Insider Richard Kirsch offers a vivid, first-person account of how health care reform came to be.


This first-person account brings readers inside the biggest and most consequential issue campaign in American history. Fighting for Our Health recounts how a reform campaign led by grassroots organizers played a crucial role in President Obama's signing historic health reform legislation in March of 2010—defeating the tea partiers, Republican Party, health insurance industry, and the US Chamber of Commerce. The action takes place inside the Beltway—the White House, Congressional anterooms, and the streets of DC—and at hundreds of town meetings, demonstrations, and confrontations in places like Danville, Virginia and Lincoln, Nebraska.

The book describes the tense relationship between progressives and the Obama administration, as the President and his team both pushed for reform and made repeated concessions to the health care industry, while trying to squelch any pressure from the left.

Most powerfully, it is the story of the triumph of thousands of people who had seen loved ones die, families go bankrupt, small businesses ruined, and futures destroyed by the health insurance system in the United States.

The book is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students as well as the general reader. Detailed enough to interest people primarily concerned about health care policy and politics, it will also capture readers generally interested in US political dynamics and the health of American democracy.

Richard Kirsch is an Institute fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. He has 36 years of experience leading citizen campaigns on health care, campaign finance reform, and other issues. As national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now he appeared on PBS's The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, CNN, ABC's World News Tonight and Good Morning America, Fox, CSPAN, and The Colbert Report. He was frequently quoted in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.


"…if you are looking for a great blow-by-blow as to how the law [the Affordable Care Act] came about, and especially how the mandate came to be despite President Obama's initial antagonism to it, I suggest you read Fighting for Our Health. " — Michael Waldholz, Forbes

"Kirsch provides an excellent account of the trials and tribulations of passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 … People who want to understand what goes on behind the scene in Congress, the White House, and interest groups must read this book. It also gives the reader an insight into the fortitude and the strength that it takes to further a career and a cause. " — CHOICE

"The story of intense and rough politicking over more than a year after Obama outlined his health care plan is best told in Fighting for Our Health, by Richard Kirsch, a grassroots organizer. " — New York Review of Books

"Fighting for Our Health is the best account available of the formation of a coalition of unions and advocacy groups in support of comprehensive health reform. " — Dissent

"[Fighting for Our Health] contains many fascinating details on a range of issues, from forming alliances to coordinating messaging and generating influence … There is remarkable insight available in this book all the way down to the granular detail on how organizations like [Kirsch's] work to mobilize the citizenry and to create change in America … all readers would benefit from deriving greater insights into how political action really gets done in the US, both inside and outside of the government. " — American Journal of Neuroradiology

"Richard Kirsch's book is the rarest of combinations: an insider look at American politics that instructs as well as entertains. As head of the remarkable advocacy organization Health Care for America Now, Kirsch was on the frontlines of the fight for affordable, quality coverage for all Americans in 2008–10. Now he recalls those searing yet inspiring experiences with wit, wisdom, and a wry sense of humor. The result is a compelling story of the power of citizens' groups that says much about how health care reform happened—and what its passage and uncertain implementation mean for our democratic future. " — Jacob S. Hacker, Professor of Political Science at Yale University and coauthor of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class