Skip to main content

Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

BOOK REVIEW/Jai Jai Noire "Health Democracy: Liberating Americans From Medical Insurance" 2012, by Paul Glover

September 14, 2013
Body paragraph

BOOK REVIEW/Jai Jai Noire Sept 17, 2013


BOOK REVIEW/Jai Jai Noire Sept 17, 2013


"Health Democracy: Liberating Americans From Medical Insurance" 2012, by Paul Glover ($17 e-book, $25 paper)



Paul Glover’s, “Health Democracy: Liberating Americans from Medical Insurance” is well timed for the type of issues the majority of us face as part of our daily reality, and describes how one grassroots group addressed medical coverage needs in their community for low to moderate income people. Paul Glover currently serves as the Philadelphia coordinator for the Patch Adams Clinic 


There is safety and progress in solidarity. Glover and a group of locals decided, in the late 90’s, to address their community’s health care needs. The result was the Ithaca Health Alliance, providing emergency health and dental coverage for $100 per year for an individual, $175 for a couple (any configuration), and $50 for a child per year. They began carefully, at first only covering what had been determined to be the most common emergency room needs, and built up over time to eventually opening a clinic.  The Ithaca Health Alliance makes it very clear to their members that this is not a replacement for insurance covering major health needs or catastrophic diseases and injuries, however those on a tight budget know that a trip to the ER for stitches or a broken ankle, or to a dentist over a lost dental crown, can spell disaster.  Most folks these days cannot absorb a sudden bill --- as little as $75-$500, let alone $1500-$3000-- without a domino effect that can last the rest of the year, or even permanently.  Having no insurance or a high co-pay makes any emergency a double emergency. The Ithaca Health Alliance model addresses coverage of member emergencies and high co-pays, and has been doing so since the late 90’s.


Ithaca Health Alliance became increasingly popular and successful - Ithaca’s  mayor became a member on the first day. In 2004 the State of New York threatened to shut down and squash the band of upstarts sprinkling on their crony profit parade, disingenuously claiming to be “protecting consumers.” The Ithaca Health Alliance was not to be bullied and using effective grassroots strategies, got the NY Insurance Department to back off.  Glover discusses the tactics used to battle both the NY Insurance Department and the IRS.


Glover details the how-to process of creating a health fund alliance, how the Ithaca Health Alliance started with four people kicking in a total of $400 and quickly grew. Glover describes the math used to calculate what could be covered, the caps, and when new services could afford to be added while guaranteeing solvency. Writing clearly and articulately in a brief book (73 pages) that is fun to read, Glover lays out instructions on how to incorporate, legal issues, organizing an office, staff, volunteers and interns, plus how the alliance created good will and credibility with the Chamber of Commerce, other local businesses, and most importantly, the local hospital and local health providers (the alliance’s quick payouts being among their most endearing features.)  As Glover makes clear, building a cooperative health alliance demands a dedication to democracy, transparency, and excellent service, both to members and providers.


Paul Glover also drops a history lesson into his book with the story of the similar cooperative health fund begun by farmers in a small Saskatchewan town in 1947 that led to Canada’s current system, as well as giving examples of other successful Mutual Health Alliances around the world.


Preventative care -- and access to it -- are critical to a healthy society. The Ithaca Health Alliance early on included alternative health care, nutrition education, and member discounts to local health food stores and farmer’s markets as part of their member benefits. They also cover a member’s medical emergency regardless of where the emergency occurs (e.g. out of state while traveling.)


"Heath Democracy" is a must-have for grassroots organizers, collectives and cooperatives, small business owners and local merchants associations, as well as health providers themselves who envision the freedom to provide dignified, quality service directed by health professionals rather than criminally overpaid bureaucrats. The health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have a golden goose that they have made abundantly clear their unwillingness to give up. It truly is up to us to take care of ourselves and each other

This cooperative health care movement is now national and Glover discusses Philadelphia’s alliance and their ongoing wrestling match with the Pennsylvania Insurance Department in even greater detail in his book "A Crime Not a Crisis"  For more on the ongoing battle to allow people to pool resources to insure one another:


To order Paul Glover’s “Health Democracy: Liberating Americans From Medical Insurance” go to:   $17.00 as an e-book or as a physical copy by sending $25 and your shipping address to: Paul Glover, 431 W. Walnut Lane, Philadelphia, PA 19144 

Paul Glover is also available for presentations and to teach nuts ‘n’ bolts workshops on creating cooperative health alliances. Contact him through:


Paul Glover will be appearing to talk about Health Democracy :

Oct 4, 2013 at EcoVillage in L.A.

Oct 6, 2013 in Pasadena




Jai Jai Noire is a filmmaker, resident of a Limited Equity Housing Coop in Berkeley, board member of the Bay Area Community Land Trust and NoBAWC volunteer. She has taped and posted over 110 housing & worker coop videos at and her 4+ hour, 2-DVD set, "This Way Out: A Guide To Starting A Worker Cooperative" is available from: or by sending $37.25 and your shipping address to Jai Jai Noire, PO Box 12231, Berkeley, CA 94712-2231


Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.