Originally published Feb. 10, 2015.
One of the best-known health care activists from President Obama's home state has recently moved to North Carolina.
Jim Duffett, longtime director of the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care, relocated to Chapel Hill in August, drawn by milder winters and job opportunities for his wife, an oncology nurse. In Illinois he spent 30 years working for affordable care and patient rights, eventually building a coalition of 300 groups representing health care, faith, labor and various communities.
"One fond memory is having had the honor of working with Obama on health care reform in Illinois during Obama's years as a (state) senator, and now, 'knowing he is the president and still knows you,' " Duffett said in an interview with The (Champaign) News-Gazette.
Duffett, a proponent of a single-payer insurance system, has connected with the NAACP-led Forward Together Moral Movement and is looking for work in advocacy here. He says he's still getting up to speed on North Carolina's health care scene, but sees some similarities with his old turf. Both states have powerful political opposition to Medicaid expansion, he said, and Illinois' 2013 approval was hard-fought and narrowly won. In North Carolina, he says, he hopes to build alliances with some of the hospital, medical and business interests that united with more traditional anti-poverty groups in Illinois. "There's definitely going to have to be a bit more base-building," he said, though the Moral Monday protests "are definitely galvanizing folks."