Blog

December 5, 2019

James Hoffa Is Wrong About Medicare for All

by Ryan Haney

Originally appeared in Jacobin on Oct. 21, 2019.

James Hoffa (Wikimedia)

Last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced the beginning of a new endorsement process for the 2020 presidential election. In contrast to their last-minute 2016 endorsement of Hillary Clinton, this process began with an issue survey sent out to every one of its 1.4 million members — over 20,000 responded — with more than a year to go before the general election.

Out of roughly ten issues that members were asked to rank, the top three were chosen to constitute a “Teamster Pledge”: pension and retirement security, fair trade deals, and strengthening the right to organize. Though the data are not publicly available, it is likely these are the three issues that unite both Republican and Democrat members of a typically more conservative union.

While health care was not among these top issues shaping the three-point pledge, Teamsters president James P. Hoffa decided to address it anyway — not by declaring the right of all people to quality health care, but by flatly dismissing Medicare For All:

The Teamsters have health care for all. And I just think we have to educate [the candidates] on that issue. I can’t believe they would
... (read more)
December 2, 2019

Obfuscations from the Anti-Single Payer Crowd

by Naomi Zewde, PhD

I went to a meeting of the “Manhattan Institute” (a Koch by any other name) to hear their take on single-payer. The good news is they are forced to respond to this growing movement, and that they have no good answers or even good questions. The bad news is they were planting seeds of misdirection in the audience members’ minds that could eventually make their way to the airwaves or to political debates. 

The US is Not Exceptional

“If there was one main takeaway from the evening,” the moderator remarked, “it would be that the US is really not very different from the other countries.” 

This is an entirely necessary misdirection for the anti-single-payer crusader, because once you take a good look at how much we enrich our healthcare industry, you really can’t look away without doing something about it. The kinds of statements they make to obscure our monumental problems would be, “every country has a mix of public and private payers,” and “95% of the French have supplemental insurance” (not mentioned: the French public system covers between 70% and 90% of costs).

Let’s be very clear: the US is absolutely exceptional. The US spends the most... (read more)

November 22, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: Lehigh Valley DSA Pressures Bethlehem City Council to Support M4A

by Lehigh Valley DSA

The city of Bethlehem, PA found itself in the national spotlight earlier this year when FOX News hosted a town hall here with Bernie Sanders. And despite a lot of liberal handwringing about whether a Democratic candidate for president should give time to Donald Trump’s favorite network, Bernie scored. The standout moment came when FOX’s Bret Baier asked the audience how many of them would be willing to switch to Sander’s Medicare for All Plan. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hands.

We’re telling you this story from April to set the stage for something that happened in November, when Bethlehem’s city council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Medicare for All. A host of other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit have all passed similar resolutions.

Our chapter has made Medicare for All a priority since the beginning. We’ve held town halls on the topic, done phone banking and door-to-door canvassing and worked with local and national Medicare for All advocates. So when we learned on November 5 that Bethlehem would be taking up the resolution the following night, we went into action, mobilizing our members to attend the meeting and to contact members of council to... (read more)

November 18, 2019

Bernie Is the Only Medicare for All Candidate

by DSA M4A

Senator Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, 2015 (Michael Vadon/Flickr)

In her recently announced healthcare proposal, Senator Elizabeth Warren states she will not fight for Medicare for All in the first two years of her term if she wins the 2020 election. Instead, her plan is to pass a means-tested public option, preserving private insurance companies. 

That means there is only one presidential candidate committed to fighting for Medicare for All from day one in office: Senator Bernie Sanders. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has endorsed Sanders in part because we know he is the only candidate willing to go to war with insurance corporations and drug companies, while building a grassroots movement for Medicare for All.

Warren has been inconsistent on the subject of healthcare. But now, with the release of her plan for “transitioning to Medicare for All,” single-payer advocates have definitive proof that Warren is not committed to Sanders’s popular healthcare policy. Warren’s complicated proposal effectively cuts Sanders’s bill into two separate pieces of legislation. Only after creating a public option—years into her potential term—does Warren say she will take up the fight for a single-payer healthcare system. Such an approach will only... (read more)

November 8, 2019

ALL IN - NOVEMBER: We Already Know How to Pay for M4A

by DSA M4A

Lately pundits and establishment politicians have been zeroing in on an age-old attack against Medicare for All: “How are we going to pay for it?”

The question has dominated recent debates, Sunday morning panel discussions, and talk show interviews — and it’s revealed a major difference between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders, who has been advocating for single-payer Medicare for All for decades, has taken the question head-on. “I think it’s fair to say that yes, taxes will go up,” he said in the October Democratic primary debate, before going on to explain that, since the plan will eliminate all premiums, copays, deductibles, and bills, it will save the vast majority of Americans substantial sums of money (not to mention the time, stress, and agony that goes with our current market-based healthcare system).

Warren, meanwhile, has repeatedly dodged the topic of taxes. Then on Friday, Nov. 1, she released her plan to fund Medicare for All. Not surprisingly, her plan relies on a Rube Goldberg-like series of mechanisms for funding, which leaves it open to attack and compromise. Simply put, funding Medicare for All through a hodgepodge of revenue streams — sprawled across different agencies, departments, budgets, and committees... (read more)

October 24, 2019

We Don’t Need More “Choice” — We Need Medicare for All

by Natalie Shure

Originally appeared at Jacobin on Oct. 4, 2019.

President Trump, December 21, 2018, in the Oval Office with a stack of documents awaiting his signature. (White House/Shealah Craighead)

During a speech earlier this month at an upscale Florida retirement village, Donald Trump announced a new executive order aimed at expanding the Medicare Advantage program — which allows private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare plans — so as to ward off the program’s alleged demise via Medicare for All. “Standing in solidarity with our nation’s seniors, I declare once again that America will never be a socialist country,” he said at the event. The order, titled “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors,” was originally, and hilariously, dubbed “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction.”

With around one-third of Medicare-eligible seniors currently opting for private Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare, one might be inclined to celebrate the fact that some 19 million elderly and disabled Americans are empowered to make the “choice” that’s best for them and their families. But a closer look exposes the problems inherent with this model, which further entrenches the commodification of health care and the byzantine financing system that facilitates it.

When it comes to health insurance, we’ve never actually needed... (read more)

October 10, 2019

ALL IN - OCTOBER: What We Can Learn From the GM Strikes

by DSA M4A

September saw one of the largest auto-worker strikes in decades! Tens of thousands of workers took the picket lines with a range of demands, including one that is especially near and dear to our hearts: better healthcare.

Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked out of General Motors plants across the country on Sept. 15 with demands that included fair wages, job security and an increased share of the profits. In a press release that announced the strike, though, healthcare was front and center: “Among GM failures, affordable healthcare for thousands remains unsettled for no good reason.”

GM retaliated by cutting off healthcare coverage for the striking workers two days after the union announced the strike, and that’s when one of the world’s top automakers made an amazing case for why we all need to join the fight for single-payer healthcare. “It took less than a full day for GM to cut off healthcare and begin using it as leverage to try to force the UAW to agree to a contract that still doesn’t give back to workers for the sacrifices they made when the auto industry was going ass up. It’s not ass up anymore; GM pulled... (read more)

October 1, 2019

Democrats Should Fight Trump With Medicare For All

by Tim Higginbotham & Luke Thibault

Originally appeared at Jacobin on Mar. 29, 2019.

President Donald Trump holds up a signed letter he wrote to a member of the U.S. military on Monday, April 17, 2017, during the 139th Easter Egg Roll at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (White House)

Democratic leadership have now signaled to voters what their party would look like in power, by introducing their vision for American health care policy: the laughably named Protecting Pre-existing Conditions and Making Healthcare More Affordable Act. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, believes this bill presents “a clear contrast in terms of what we as House Democrats are about, and what Republicans are about.”

The bill is aimed at redressing the Trump administration’s early and recent assault on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Its key features are increased subsidies for private insurance, bolstered funding for enrollment outreach, and the closure of loopholes that allow insurance companies to sell short-term plans that discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. The legislation protects private insurance plans and does not include a public option to compete with them on ACA’s market exchanges.

This is contrary to Donald Trump’s picture of the Democratic Party’s “radical socialist” health care platform. It’s also contrary to what many... (read more)

September 19, 2019

GM's Decision to Cut Off Employee Health Insurance 'Yet Another Reason Why We Need Medicare for All'

by Jake Johnson

Originally appeared at Common Dreams on Sep. 18, 2019.

UAW strike, April, 2008. (Scott Dexter/Flickr)

General Motors' decision Tuesday to stop paying healthcare premiums for nearly 50,000 of the company's striking workers offered a powerful case for why Medicare for All is necessary to ensure stable and quality insurance as a right for everyone in the United States.

That was the argument advanced by single-payer supporters in the wake of GM's move, which union leaders and others quickly denounced as a cruel intimidation tactic designed to break the United Auto Workers strike.

"By taking healthcare off the bargaining table, workers can demand and win real gains in wages and pensions."
—Michael Lighty

Sara Nelson, president of the American Association of Flight Attendants, said employer-provided insurance allows corporations to use the threat of healthcare cuts "to hold workers hostage."

"Medicare for All puts power back in our hands," said Nelson.

Labor historian Toni Gilpin echoed Nelson, calling employer-provided healthcare "a cudgel that will be used against workers."

Michael Lighty, a founding fellow at the Sanders Institute think tank and an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America's Medicare for All campaign, told Common Dreams that under a single-payer system, employers would no longer have "tons of leverage because... (read more)

September 12, 2019

ALL IN - SEPTEMBER: He Wrote the Damn Bill!

by DSA M4A

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team released several exciting new platforms this month, and we’re especially excited about one in particular when it comes to Medicare for All: The Workplace Democracy Plan.

Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Plan is unprecedented in scale and scope, and Liza Featherstone writes in Jacobin that it’s “the most pro-union platform of any major presidential candidate in decades.” Sanders’s plan would make it easier for employees to form unions, eliminate state-level right-to-work laws, give federal workers the right to strike, eliminate “at-will” firing, and more.

As Featherstone writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean unionizing every workplace will magically become a breeze, but it will significantly lower the barriers to forming a union while balancing the scales of power between workers and their employers. Sanders even includes a specific M4A provision. Directly from the platform (emphasis ours):

“Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company... (read more)