Blog

July 12, 2018

Chapter Spotlight: Boulder DSA

by Boulder DSA

Last month, after a long canvassing campaign, the Boulder Democratic Socialists of America held a Medicaid Sign-up Event at a local library. As a steady stream of applicants arrived, a dedicated staff of volunteers were on hand to assist anyone who might have been eligible for state Medicaid benefits with the online application, and to walk them through the process step-by-step.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and now we are pushing the boundaries of our campaign farther into the neighboring town of Longmont, where we will be holding another sign-up on July 21st. Longmont, a huge part of Boulder County, has been heavily affected by the exponential wealth growth in the area over recent years, where life has become increasingly difficult for the working class. 

One of our strategies in working to implement a universal health system in the United States is to try to expand current social health programs. And while there may be ample funding allocated for these programs in Boulder County, the State of Colorado’s Medicaid system is entirely web-based, and the application process is a daunting, bureaucratic task. We stand by the belief that no one should be prevented from taking... (read more)

June 28, 2018

Rob Delaney Talks Medicare for All with DSA

by DSA M4A

Just days before the UK's National Health Service’s 70th anniversary, writer, actor and comedian Rob Delaney is sharing a powerful message: winning healthcare for all Americans is not only necessary, it’s achievable within our lifetimes. Delaney spoke to DSA Medicare for All about his personal connection to the M4A movement, explained how a truly universal healthcare program is affordable and achievable, and encouraged people to get involved.

Delaney is an American citizen born in Massachusetts and now living in London with his wife and two children and an active member of the DSA. While he’s widely known as the co-star and co-writer of the TV show Catastrophe, and recently starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, he is also an outspoken democratic socialist with a deeply personal connection to the Medicare for All movement. In the video, Delaney describes his struggle to afford healthcare for himself and his family while living in the US, which is an all-too-familiar struggle for millions of American families. After the family moved to London in 2015, Delaney says the country’s comprehensive healthcare program, administered by the British National Health Service (NHS), radicalized his views on healthcare.

Earlier this year, while living in... (read more)

June 22, 2018

So, You Want to Pass a Medicare for All City Council Resolution...

by Philly DSA

What does a city council resolution accomplish?

Philly DSA in the council chambers.

In March, Philadelphia DSA members showed up in droves with healthcare workers, community members, and elected leaders to pass a Philadelphia city-wide resolution supporting the Medicare for All Act of 2017 and affirming universal access to healthcare as a human right. This victory showed that in a city where the poverty rate is over 26%, city council leaders learned where to stand when it comes to universal healthcare. To move a national campaign to win Medicare for All, we need to build support from a broad range of cities and municipalities across the country. With some research, planning, and lobbying, you could work with city council members to pass a resolution of support in your city too!

What does a City Council Resolution Accomplish?

  • Moves Public Opinion: Successful resolutions can move public support in favor of universal healthcare. When you are canvassing, talking to community members, or recruiting people to the campaign, you can point to this resolution to build credibility towards your campaign.
  • Builds Momentum: Since single-payer healthcare is a long-term goal, it is important to build tangible benchmarks along the way! If we can move more elected leaders to... (read more)
June 10, 2018

Seniors, Long-Term Care, and Medicare for All

by Christine Riddiough

A while back I was talking with an accountant who said that actuaries were suggesting that people should plan for their retirement assuming that they would live to 105. Most people can’t plan past the next month—if you’re a waitress in the local diner, you may make less than the minimum wage. Your plan for retirement is to work until you drop.

This has implications for our Medicare for All program—we need to think about what this program should look like for an aging US population. For example, a friend of mine was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when she was in her 50s. She died 20 years later, having spent a good part of those 20 years in a nursing home. Then there was my mother-in-law—after my father-in-law died she couldn’t live on her own, but not needing a high level of medical care, she was in an assisted living home for about 10 years. Another friend’s husband had another form of dementia; she retired to take care of him at home.

These stories are not unusual; more and more people are living longer and, in the process, need more help and often those living longer and those providing the... (read more)

June 7, 2018

In Conversation with Adam Gaffney, M.D.

by DSA M4A

Adam Gaffney; photo from The Progressive Physician.

Adam Gaffney is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He is Secretary of the advocacy organization Physicians for a National Health Program and blogs at The Progressive Physician. We recently chatted with Adam about the current movement for Medicare for All, and DSA’s place in it.

A two-parter to begin: You’ve written that you believe Medicare for All should become a litmus test for Democratic politicians; do you worry that this can be misconstrued as a call for supporting a Medicare buy-in as was originally proposed in the ACA? Are we making a mistake by framing this as a fight for Medicare expansion as opposed to socialized medicine?

There are pros and cons to the phrase “Medicare for All.” The obvious advantage is that Medicare is a familiar and popular program that enjoys substantial bipartisan support: if it is so great for older adults, why not give it to everyone? But its primary drawback is that we’re fighting for something much bigger, and better, than Medicare. Medicare includes cost-sharing (copays and deductibles), and excludes important benefits like... (read more)

June 3, 2018

Rallying for Medicare for All in NY's Hudson Valley

by Dan Lutz and Cori Madrid

Last week DSA Medicare for All Steering Committee member Dustin Guastella and DSA M4A Northeast regional organizer Christie Offenbacher visited our chapter to talk about DSA's M4A campaign. And—not to brag— but our event was awesome!

Our chapter started Medicare for All outreach in February 2017, and we've spoken to more than 1,000 of our neighbors about M4A and the New York Health Act. But this was our first public Medicare for All event, and since we didn't want to disappoint our out-of-town guests, we really sweated the details: we phone banked our entire chapter membership two weeks before the event. The day of, 10 comrades showed up an hour early to get everything set up. And after Dino and Christie spoke, we had our canvassing sign-up forms (and lots of pens!) ready.

DSA Medicare for All Northeast Regional Organizer Christie Offenbach. Photo by Casey Brescia

We wanted attendees to leave the forum with a better understanding of what Medicare for All is, and what the five principles of DSA's campaign mean. But we asked Dustin to focus his talk on how we will win Medicare for All. We want all of our members to know that no clever... (read more)

May 31, 2018

Hospital Closings Threaten Survival of Rural Areas

by Travis Donoho

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine.

Michael Kötter

Rural hospital closings are killing rural America. A strong push by DSA to combat the trend through building support for single-payer healthcare could give rural Americans hope. According to a Huffington Post report on rural hospital closings in Georgia by Lauren Weber and Andy Miller, if you want to watch a rural community die, destroy its hospital. 

After the Lower Oconee Community [Georgia] Hospital shut down in June 2014, other mainstays of the community followed.The bank and the pharmacy in the small town of Glenwood shuttered. Then the only grocery store in all of Wheeler County closed in the middle of August this year. Opportunity has been dying in Wheeler County for the last 20 years. Agriculture was once the primary employer, but the Wheeler Correctional Facility, a privately run prison, is now the biggest source of jobs. —“A Hospital Crisis Is Killing America. This State is ‘Ground Zero.’” Huffington Post, September 27, 2017

Since 2010, nearby Tennessee has had the second highest number of hospital closures in the nation after Texas and the most hospital closings in the U.S. per capita. Help in the form of Medicaid expansion will not arrive anytime soon. The likely Democratic... (read more)

May 22, 2018

Winning Medicare for All Takes Mass Action

by Eric Blanc

This is a lightly edited speech delivered to Phoenix DSA during the Arizona teachers’ strike.



Red for Ed supporters at a protest hosted by the Arizona Education Association at the Arizona State Capitol complex in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Many of the big, strategic lessons from the teachers’ strikes aren't widely or universally accepted on the Left, or even among socialists. One is that the working class is still the most powerful social agent for progressive, radical change. It’s sometimes hard even for Marxists to believe this because many of us haven’t seen it demonstrated in our lifetimes. But now we’re seeing it in practice, and it should give us a lot of confidence about our strategy and our political priorities.

Workplace action and strikes remain our most powerful weapon—there’s no equivalent form of action that creates as deep a crisis for capital and the state. This used to be a commonplace notion on the Left until the 1960s in the U.S., and longer elsewhere, but it’s a fact that is either not accepted today or marginally accepted. The general idea today is that there are many different social struggles and it doesn’t really matter where you choose to focus. This leads many activists to just respond to what happens.

Socialists should have... (read more)

May 18, 2018

Labor’s Stake in Medicare for All

by Mark Dudzic

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine.

A union member at the Rally to Save the American Dream in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 15, 2011. Photo by Fibonacci Blue.

There are still those in the labor movement who believe that unionists should oppose single-payer Medicare for All because good union-negotiated benefits strengthen member loyalty and help to organize new members. This misunderstanding persists because the provision of healthcare is deeply embedded in the employment relationship. More than 150 million people in the United States receive employer-provided healthcare insurance. This accident of history is a result of the post–Second-World-War defeat of the left in this country and the subsequent constraints on militant trade unionism. Unions and their allies had to construct “second-best solutions” in the face of unchallenged corporate power.

While unions throughout the industrialized world led the fight to make healthcare a right for all, unions in the United States were instrumental in setting the terms for a “private welfare state” that organized the provision of public goods through private employers. Healthcare became a benefit rather than a right.

Today, bargaining for healthcare has become unsustainable. Rather than being a positive perk of union membership, healthcare has become the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession... (read more)

May 15, 2018

The Medicaid Patchwork

by Jamila Michener with Meagan Day

Copyright, Jacobin. Reprinted with permission. Originally published on Jacobin.com.

Demonstrators are led away by police during a protest against cuts to federal safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on November 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty

Medicaid is the nation’s primary source of health insurance for low-income people. The program has saved millions of lives, but it fails to fully realize its original promise of providing poor Americans across the nation with access to quality health care. Although we often talk about it as if it were a single social program, Medicaid is actually a constellation of discrete state programs, funded with federal money.

Because the federal government only standardizes state social Medicaid policies to a limited extent, some state programs are far more threadbare than others. As a result, a Medicaid enrollee in Georgia, for instance, might have diminished access to care simply because of where they live, and many beneficiaries are compelled to navigate under-resourced bureaucracies to claim their benefits, often to discover that the care they need isn’t covered in their state.

Jacobin staff writer Meagan Day spoke to Jamila Michener, author of Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism and Unequal Politics about why geographic health inequality persists.

MD: What are some... (read more)

May 10, 2018

Devil in the Details: Disabilities and M4A

by Mark S. Alper

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine.

President Johnson signs into law the Social Security Act, establishing Medicare, in 1965.

Medicare for All (M4A) will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people. That is the highest stake in the campaign to win M4A. As a recipient of Medicare because I can no longer work, I write from frightening and painful experience.

But first, some background. Because Medicare as it now stands is often associated in the public mind with Social Security, there is an impression that it has a long and established history in the United States. In truth, Medicare has been in existence as a federal program only since 1965. It is a product of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” vision, which was to be totally subordinated to the escalation of the Vietnam War within a few years. And it was bitterly and viciously opposed by the medical establishment and still bears the scars of that fight in some of its deficiencies.

Medicare was originally offered only to people over age 65 who qualified and who selected it. It consisted of two parts: Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). In 1972, the program was expanded to include... (read more)

May 8, 2018

Register for June's National Single-Payer Strategy Conference in Minneapolis!

by DSA M4A

With the Center for American Progress floating their Medicare Extra for All plan and Senators Jeff Merkley and Chris Murphy introducing their Choose Medicare Act into the Senate, democratic socialists pushing for single-payer healthcare must remember not only the futility of making demands from a position of compromise, but also the incredible opportunity that's before us. Medicare for All has never been as popular with voters as it is now.

Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All coalition partner and Labor Campaign for Single-Payer national director Mark Dudzic writes:

Medicare for All has won the battle of ideas. Now we have to win the battle against entrenched economic and political power. This fight won’t be made any easier by harboring illusions that we can somehow compromise our way to victory. Every country in the world that recognizes healthcare as a right for all of its citizens did so in response to a powerful working class movement backed by unions and grassroots organizations. The time has come to construct such a movement in the U.S.
“A defensive posture and incremental demands have not worked. Let’s play offense instead,” says Michael Lighty of the National Nurses United, himself also a DSA
... (read more)
May 4, 2018

A Profound Break

by James Cole

In Austin, we recently worked to pass a law mandating that all employers provide their workers with earned paid sick days at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 30 hours worked. In some places in the country, this might not sound very impressive, but deep in the heart of Texas this counts as a significant leap forward for workers’ rights. In fact, we’re the first city in the south to guarantee workers paid time off when they’re sick. For Austin DSA, this was a really energizing win. But it’s not just the content of the reform that’s been so energizing.

Winning any reforms in a state like Texas, even in a city as ostensibly “progressive” as Austin, takes an enormous amount of organization and mobilization. In addition to a deeply reactionary state legislature, Texas’s version of the Democratic Party is even more corporate and business-friendly than the national Democratic Party, with many members of our city council openly connected to the local Chamber of Commerce and independent business association. Any kind of improvements in the conditions of working people in Austin, whether reformist or non-reformist, requires a high level of activity on the part of Austin workers... (read more)

May 1, 2018

What Single-Payer Means to an Alaskan Fisherman with Breast Cancer

by Malena Marvin

Originally published on Medium on April 17, 2017.

If you haven’t had a chronic illness while self-employed, the term “single-payer” might not mean much to you. Let me explain what it means to me. Grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up, this is going to take a few minutes.

My life under “Multiple-Payer”

Just before sitting down to do some marketing work for my fishing business today, I opened a letter from Moda Insurance letting me know they wouldn’t be paying my cancer-related medical bills from last December, when I started chemotherapy. The letter did not explain why, it just said I was “ineligible” for service and that an $1100 bill was headed my way.

This is the fourth time in my 18-month battle with cancer that Moda has sent a cryptic letter to tell me I was on the hook for thousands of dollars. The previous three times I was able to show the expensive “mistakes” were Moda’s, not mine. I accomplished this by spending many, many, many hours talking on the phone with hospital billing departments and with Moda while pacing around our house snorting like a wild horse. But trying to snort calmly. Because cancer patients are not supposed to stress... (read more)

April 28, 2018

45 DSA Locals Made it a Weekend of Action

by DSA M4A

On April 21st and April 22nd, 45 DSA chapters and organizing committees hit the streets of their respective communities to make connections with friends and neighbors and offering their vision of a health care system where their well-being and that of their loved ones would be safeguarded from the profit motive of private insurers.

In Philadelphia, the chapter canvassed for single-payer-supporting electoral candidates; New Orleans got some help from some Baton Rouge comrades in kicking off their M4A canvassing; Ventura County tabled at their weekend farmers' market and North Texas hosted an event with health justice advocate Tim Faust — just a handful of the canvasses, actions and fundraisers democratic socialist organizers took part in last weekend, shifting our national campaign into its next gear.

That's somewhere near 1,000 all-volunteer organizers in over 20 states setting their weekends aside to help power this movement — it's only just beginning and the nation is taking notice. Common Dreams covered the weekend in a piece entitled, "Democratic Socialists Aren't Just Demanding #Medicare for All, They're Organizing for It," and a certain US senator from Vermont and author of the Senate's Medicare for All bill tweeted his support:

We're... (read more)

April 26, 2018

M4A Organizing Resource! - Medicare for All: Women and Health Webinar

by Christine Riddiough

Women are the major users of health care, both for themselves and for their children, and often, their parents. Women are also the majority of health care providers, as nurses, home health care workers and often as unpaid providers for elderly relatives. What are the specific concerns for women related to health and how can we organize to address them? What does this mean for our Medicare for All campaign? Join panelists Natalie Shure, Medicare for All committee members Megan Svoboda and Amy Zachmeyer, and DSA National Director Maria Svart to discuss socialist feminist approaches to Medicare for All on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 9pm ET/8pm CT/ 7pm MT/ 6pm PT.

RSVP for the webinar: http://www.dsausa.org/medicare_for_all_women_and_health_webinar 

Read more about women and the for-profit healthcare system.

Christine Riddiough is a member of the DSA NPC, the DSA Medicare for All Steering Committee, and a long-time feminist activist.

April 23, 2018

Spotlight On...NYU YDSA

by NYU YDSA

On February 24th, New York University’s YDSA chapter canvassed in public housing in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan to mobilize around universal health care —Medicare For All (M4A), on the national level, and our statewide fight for the New York Health Act (NYHA). Despite bad weather, over 20 participants from NYU YDSA, Lower Manhattan DSA, and the NYC DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group turned out to agitate working-class residents around health care and ask them to join in advocating for the NYHA.

The NYHA is a single-payer health care bill for the state of New York; it's essentially a state-wide version of M4A. If the NYHA passes and is implemented in New York, this would be a huge tactical victory for the national M4A campaign. Given regular population movement, it would create serious pressure on neighboring state governments for health care transformation. It would lend credence to a demand that all NY legislators support the national bill. And it would prove to the rest of the country that single-payer can and will succeed in the U.S.

We began with a brief one-hour training from the Socialist Feminist Working Group. In just a short training, canvassers got a comprehensive overview... (read more)

April 22, 2018

Earth Day Must Be Anti-Capitalism Day

by DSA M4A

Joint Statement of the Climate & Environmental Justice Working Group and the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All Campaign Committee

To truly affirm a commitment to environmental stewardship this Earth Day, we must oppose the destructive and inhuman practices endemic to capitalist production. Earth Day, in other words, must be celebrated as Anti-Capitalism Day. The U.S. economy’s foundation on profit for the few is a contributor to the lack of access to both quality healthcare and a healthy environment. We are well past the point where the half-measures and compromises propagated by green-washing capitalists should have any appeal or be viewed as legitimate solutions to multiple, global crises. It is time to reorient the system to address the needs of the planet and of people rather than the pursuit of endless growth and profit. Only a clear-thinking, ecosocialist program anchored in a working-class politics that puts the ruling class on its heels can save us from environmental catastrophe.

In the shorter term, the ever more apparent effects of climate change have made life worse for people everywhere, most so among oppressed and marginalized communities. It is low-income Americans who overwhelmingly are found living in proximity to polluting industries, freeways and... (read more)

April 19, 2018

Democratic Socialists of America Primed for Medicare for All Weekend of Action

by DSA M4A

On April 21-22, DSA chapters in dozens of cities around the country will host rallies, canvasses, and town halls as part of the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All campaign’s first nationally coordinated Weekend of Action.

40 chapters in over 20 states will participate, with activities scheduled to begin on the morning of Saturday, April 21 and continue through the weekend. Included in the planned activities are over 20 canvasses, a Medicare for All rally in Denver, a debt clinic and health fair in New Orleans, and town halls in several cities, including Houston and Dallas. Multiple chapters will host launch events for their local Medicare for All campaigns.

These DSA Chapters Are Making it A Weekend of Action
  • East Bay DSA
  • Philly DSA
  • North Central West Virginia DSA
  • WVU YDSA
  • Pittsburgh DSA
  • DSA LA
  • Whatcom DSA
  • Lousiville DSA
  • New Orleans DSA
  • Houston DSA
  • Austin DSA
  • North Texas DSA
  • Green Country DSA
  • San Antonio DSA
  • Twin Cities DSA
  • Chicago DSA
  • Lawrence DSA
  • Madison DSA
  • Denver DSA
  • Phoenix DSA
  • Seattle DSA
  • SnoCo DSA
  • Chattanooga DSA
  • Quiet Corner DSA
  • South Sound DSA
  • Detroit DSA
  • Huron Valley DSA
  • Grand Rapids DSA
  • Western Suburban DSA
  • Kansas City DSA
  • Boone DSA
  • NC Piedmont DSA
  • NYC... (read more)
April 16, 2018

Jacobin & Dissent Team Up In the Fight for Medicare for All

by DSA M4A

Two leading magazines of the left have new issues out, focusing on health care—and they're offering them both to you for the price of one.

Dissent's new issue, with a special section on Healthcare for All, and Jacobin’s "The Health of Nations," are each packed with articles on the struggle for a health care system that works for workers and not for profit.

"The left will not live forever on the sidelines of political power," writes Adam Gaffney in the introduction to the special section of Dissent's issue. "When we have an opportunity to remake our health care system, we must be sure to seize it." The issue provides a piercing diagnosis of the current health care system in the United States—and a path for how to fix it. 

And you won’t want to miss an exclusive interview with Senator Bernie Sanders in Jacobin. He’s got a message on health care—and the message is good. 

For a limited time, get both magazines for the price of one. You'll receive copies of both Jacobin and Dissent — for just $12.95.

We know winning Medicare for All in the United States won't be... (read more)

April 12, 2018

DSA Medicare for All Campaign Spring Update

by DSA M4A

Clockwise from top left: SW Michigan DSA; NYU DSA; Denver DSA


DSA's national Medicare for All Campaign Committee has been working to put together new materials to support the campaign and reaching out to and coordinating among the now 100-plus Local Chapters working on the campaign!

We have an updated website with new organizing materials, Local Chapter updates featured in our blog and we are now organizing for our first National Weekend of Action. Read more below.

COMMUNICATIONS

Our Communications team has been hard at work popularizing our principles and pushing a bold democratic socialist message around Medicare for All.

Our social media is in full swing, so be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We want to use these channels to highlight the amazing work of local chapters in front of a national audience. To help with this, we’ve written a communications best practices guide so you can maximize your chapter’s outreach and engagement.

An updated version of our website is now live! This is Version 3.0, and it has a host of new features that will better serve the campaign and our Local Chapters. We have developed and made available more flyers, posters, stickers, editable... (read more)

April 10, 2018

Model Consumers

by Natalie Shure

Full article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Jacobin.

When the GOP passed its austerity tax plan late last year, it also ended the means of enforcing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate penalty, a move meant to destabilize the ACA, allowing an imagined healthy population to cast off the shackles of mandated insurance and thereby remove their contributions from a pool meant to spread risk evenly. Republicans rejoiced at gutting the mandate, as well as, they'd hoped, President Obama's signature legislation. Democrats feared for such an exodus of the healthy from the private market. Both viewpoints share the notion that individuals purchase health insurance like one does soda pop.

In Jacobin, Natalie Shure writes that "this urge to fix the health care system by tweaking individual incentives and optimizing consumer choices" is emblematic of for-profit health care's consumerist "hellscape" where cost burdens are ever-offloaded onto individuals, to protect corporate bottom lines.

"As insurers struggle to maximize profits amid ACA rules preventing their most barbaric tricks...they've ramped-up cost-sharing. Some 40 percent of Americans now hold a high-deductible plan...around 37 percent of them have foregone care due to high out-of-pocket costs, with little distinction between necessary and frivolous treatments. Smaller user fees like co-pays have an impact on lower-income patients,
... (read more)
April 8, 2018

Spotlight On...Green Country DSA

by Green Country DSA

DSA organizers in Oklahoma's Green Country are finding ample opportunity in recent weeks to make the case for socialism. Not only have GCDSA comrades turned out in solidarity with teachers of the public school teachers' strike, they've thrown themselves into their work on Medicare for All by partnering with Oklahoma University - Tulsa's School of Community Medicine for an educational event on universal healthcare, featuring GCDSA member Scott Carter. Watch a recording of the forum here on Facebook.

Also, comrades Daniel and Jeremy shared their personal stories of coming up against this country's for-profit healthcare system.

Daniel's family suffered greatly for his sister's rare disease — even while covered by excellent private market insurance. Watch Daniel's story here.

Jeremy, a social worker with HIV-positive clients, describes his frustration at getting lost in the machinations of a system whose liabilities take precedence over people's health. Watch Jeremy's story here.

April 5, 2018

Medicare for All Would Eliminate My Job, and Other Reasons I Support It

by An Anonymous Medicare Broker

Photo by Glyn Lowe

I work as a Medicare broker for a private exchange. Every workday, I talk to someone who has been thrown into the world of individual medical insurance and needs advice: “What plan should I select?,” “How do I sign up?,” “When can I sign up?,” “Is there something I can afford?” Depending on their age, gender, state, county, zip code, date of birth, retirement status, health, the current date, carrier-specific rules and dozens of other possible variables, I end up either advising them and getting them something that will meet their particular needs, or I do my best to sound like the news I have to deliver is not that bad.

And it’s not…usually. Medicare, as it is, does a decent job of covering those who are eligible for it. Many people I speak to end up getting better coverage for less money than their old group plans used to provide. Some people have cancer, and learn that being changed over from their group coverage means they can now, finally, get a fully comprehensive level of coverage that doesn’t threaten to bankrupt them with “cost sharing” every year. The original parts A and B of... (read more)

April 3, 2018

Fighting Unequal Access

by Marian Jones

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine.

Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.

In a 2013 report on healthcare issues among African Americans, radio station WNYC reported on then-52-year-old Mike Jackson, who battled diabetes and hypertension. His prescription drugs cost $500 a month. After he lost his job and healthcare, he cut back on the amount of insulin he took to treat his diabetes. Within eight months he had developed neuropathic damage in his toes and feet and permanent damage in his left eye. His story is not atypical.

A program of universal healthcare such as Medicare for All would have a significant impact on African Americans. Members of our community have higher rates of hypertension, prostate or breast cancer, asthma, and diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. The infant mortality rate among African heritage people is almost two-and-a-half times higher than that of their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

Although there are environmental factors, lack of healthcare coverage is a major cause of these health disparities. African Americans, who have lower incomes than non-Hispanic whites, are more likely to be uninsured. Thus, they put off receiving care, forgo routine doctor visits, and cannot afford the prescription medicine that could help them.

African Americans make... (read more)

April 2, 2018

Down With the Copay

by Natalie Shure

Originally published on Jacobin.com. Reprinted with permission.

A hospital in New Ulm, MN in the 1970s. Kathy Phillips / US National Archives

In the week preceding the release of Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, the Vermont senator’s office was flooded with calls — so many, in fact, that the legislative aides on the other line often guessed callers’ purpose before being prompted. At issue was whether the single-payer health care system Sanders’s bill envisions should include copayments, out-of-pocket payments for health services at the point of care.

For the single-payer advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the answer was a resounding “no.” So upon discovering that copays remained in Sanders’s penultimate draft, they sprang into action. After a week of open letters, tweets and appeals from like-minded organizations, Sanders ultimately struck copays from the bill’s final version.

Earlier versions of Sanders’s bill probably included copays for doctors visits and prescription drugs for the same reason that economists like them: they drive down health care usage and costs. After all the attacks branding Sanders’s relatively pedestrian social-democratic platform as fantastical promises of ponies for all, perhaps Sanders’s legislative aides believed meager copays gave their proposal an air of seriousness.

But the obliteration of copays... (read more)

March 30, 2018

‘Our Healthcare Crisis Won’t Be Solved Until We Get Private Insurance Out’

by Janine Jackson

FAIR's Janine Jackson interviewed Margaret Flowers about undermining single-payer healthcare for the March 2, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript that originally appeared on FAIR.org.

Margaret Flowers (image: BillMoyers.com): “This is a time for us to be pushing harder. We can change the political feasibility. That’s something that the public has the power to do.”

MP3 Link to CounterSpin Interview

Janine Jackson: When you hear that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon have a plan to “fix” healthcare, questions, shall we say, naturally arise about how transformative it’s likely to be, this plan of super-wealthy corporate executives that they insist would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

But if the plan comes from a group represented as liberal, and its spokespeople talk about “universal coverage” and “healthcare as a right,” and the New York Times declares it “a better single-payer plan,” well, what are you to think?

Here to help us see what’s going on in a new healthcare proposal that you will be hearing about is Margaret Flowers. Margaret Flowers is co-director ofPopular Resistance and coordinator of the national Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign. She joins us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Margaret Flowers.

Margaret Flowers: Thank you so much for having me.

JJ: I guess I have a straightforward question: What is it, this “Medicare... (read more)

March 27, 2018

Spotlight on...Ventura County DSA

by Ventura County DSA Medicare for All Working Group

When Ventura County DSA worked on their own local Medicare for All campaign, they not only established relationships with potential activists and supportive voters in their own community — they strengthened solidarity with other chapters that passed on necessary skills and knowledge so that Ventura themselves could help other comrades.

At DSA Ventura County, we may be relatively new, fairly small and located outside a traditional hotbed of left-wing activism, but our Medicare for All canvassing is going strong. We average 12 to 14 canvassers at each event which has enabled us to pair experienced canvassers with first-timers. At our most recent canvass day, good conversations were had by all and we even found a few people interested in the chapter. Overall, the experience has been very positive. Many folks in the area are very supportive of single-payer healthcare, much more so than we initially anticipated.

Our success is due in part to our process around identifying areas to canvass. We’re fortunate enough to have the resources and technological expertise to target our efforts at specific groups of voters. Using voter data, we identify neighborhoods with large numbers of left-leaning voters then knock on doors of those individuals who have... (read more)

March 26, 2018

Does Medicare for All Advance Socialist Politics?

by Benjamin Y. Fong

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine

There is broad agreement on the left and within Democratic Socialists of America that Medicare for All (M4A) would vastly improve the lives of most Americans. It is for this reason that the fight for single-payer healthcare was adopted at DSA’s 2017 convention as our top organizational priority. But some socialists fear, especially now that Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act of 2017 has been endorsed by a significant number of Democratic presidential hopefuls, that this issue has become too tame, that we need to be advancing issues to the left of the Democratic Party agenda. After all, getting someone to sign on to a program that is in the objective self-interest of 95% of the country doesn’t necessarily mean that that person is going to be radicalized to fight for a just society down the line.

If we are to talk about the strategic importance of M4A for socialist politics, we must make an honest assessment of the contemporary power of the left. DSA’s recent growth and that of other leftist organizations is tremendously exciting, but forty years of neoliberalism have isolated us from the mass constituency we need in order to challenge our in- ept political elites. The... (read more)

March 8, 2018

This International Women’s Day, Fight for Health Care, Fight for Women

by Christine Riddiough

Originally appeared on DSA’s Democratic Left blog.

March 8 is International Women’s Day – celebrating the struggles and achievements of women around the world. While IWD was initiated by the Socialist Party in the United States, for decades it was ignored in the U.S. until the second wave of the women’s movement revived it in the 1970s.

Yet its revival isn’t reflected in the actions of Congress. For example, on January 28, Republican leaders in the Senate scheduled a vote on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. The procedural vote set by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed as expected, but the attempt to further restrict reproductive rights came just a week after the Trump Administration introduced new rules granting health care workers the license to discriminate against women seeking an abortion. These two measures expose both the Trump administration and GOP perspectives on women and health care and are in stark contrast to the Medicare for All bill introduced by Bernie Sanders last September.

The Sanders bill, S 1804, protects women’s reproductive rights and takes a crucial step in the fight for reproductive justice. The bill would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which for decades has restricted access to... (read more)

March 6, 2018

“It Was About the Insurance Fix”

by Meagan Day

Copyright, Jacobin. Reprinted with permission. Originally published on Jacobin.com.

On Friday, hundreds of striking teachers flooded the foyer of the West Virginia capitol building in Charleston. Holding signs that read “Whose side are you on?” they voted to occupy the building until their demands were met.

As the Supreme Court considers the Janus v. AFSCME case this very week — posing an existential threat to public sector unions throughout the country — labor movement activists should be watching the West Virginia teachers’ strike closely. The coincidence of the two events seems almost scripted: as Janus promises to gut the legal framework for public sector worker organizing, West Virginia teachers are militantly flouting the law.

Many in the labor movement contend that this level of rank-and-file engagement is the key to surviving right to work. The question is, how does a militant mood in a workforce like West Virginia’s teachers come into being? Finding the answer in this case requires paying attention the central demand that caused workers to defy union leadership and embark on one of the largest wildcat strikes in recent American history: adequate health care.

Back to the Table

Three days prior to the building occupation, the West Virginia governor’s office announced that it had... (read more)

March 4, 2018

West Virginia Teachers Are Showing How Unions Can Win Power Even If They Lose Janus

by Lois Weiner
This article is reprinted from In These Times magazine, © 2018, and is available at inthesetimes.com.

Today’s Worker's Day of Action, organized by AFL-CIO affiliates and labor groups, aimed to show the labor movement’s opposition to a verdict for the plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, which begins oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday. Unions fear their power will be diminished if the Court rules against AFSCME, as it is expected to do, and restricts public-sector unions from collecting fees from non-members to pay for collective bargaining. The Right intends to use Janus to gut public employee unions, weakening what is the strongest constituency in organized labor. This in turn will greatly diminish labor’s strength as a progressive force.

Public employee unions are right to be worried, and yet, as today’s demonstrations evidenced, on the eve of oral arguments labor is still grappling with how to protect workers’ rights. The protest’s slogan, “It’s about freedom,” mimics the Right’s own language when it argues that unions shouldn’t be able to collect fees from workers who don’t want to pay. In fact, it's about social justice: The struggle to protect collective bargaining is a fight for the dignity of work and working people.

How then can public employee unions and the labor movement transition from defense... (read more)

March 3, 2018

Blue Cross Pressures Employees to Donate to Opponent of Single-Payer Candidates

by Michael Corcoran
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission. Originally published on TruthOut.org.

Often, the structural problems that keep Democrats from embracing Medicare for All are hidden beneath the political surface. This week, however, Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan Gretchen Whitmer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offered no such subtlety. Their very public collaboration is a case study in how industry money influences campaigns and elections.

Whitmer does not support single-payer health care. She is, however, being challenged by two candidates who do: Abdul El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar. This appears to have Blue Cross (the state's largest insurer) nervous enough to request that its 8,100 employees support Whitmer for Governor. In a letter signed by Blue Cross executives but paid for by the Whitmer campaign, Blue Cross employees were invited to a fundraiser on March 7 and were given suggested donation amounts based on job title. Significantly, the candidate's father, Richard Whitmer, was president of Blue Cross of Michigan for 18 years and even has a building named after him on Blue Cross's campus.

"This is a perfect example of how corporate politicians hold Democrats back, even as other party leaders, like Senators Cory Booker and [Kristen] Gillibrand, are calling for Medicare for All and no corporate money corrupting our... (read more)

March 2, 2018

From Demand to Reality: YDSA Workshop on Medicare for All

by Dustin Guastella

The following remarks were delivered at the 2018 YDSA Winter Conference.

I want to open with a brief explanation of what Medicare for All actually is. Medicare for All is simple –– it means socializing health insurance –– making the Federal Government the insurer of all residents.

It means the establishment of a single, public, universal health insurance system where everyone, regardless of their employment or immigration status will have insurance. It means comprehensive care: all services provided by a medical professional will be covered. It means free, on-demand, unlimited care at the point of service paid for not on the backs of the sick but through taxes on the rich. That means no fees, no co-pays and no deductibles. And it means the establishment of a jobs program to provide jobs for those who currently work in the health insurance industry and would lose their jobs if the private health insurance system were abolished.

And while all of this is attractive to workers, it’s worrisome for our political and economic elite.

Of course insurance companies directly benefit from the high costs of health care, but other major employers will stomach rising premiums so long as it gives... (read more)

March 1, 2018

The Very Bad Politics of 'Putting Health Care Over Politics'

by Tim Faust
Originally published on SplinterNews.com.

On Tuesday, former CMS administrator under Obama Andy Slavitt announced United States of Care, a “non-partisan non-profit” with undisclosed funding that plans on “building and mobilizing a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions that make health care better for everyone.”

“We can’t just wait for politicians in DC to come together solve our health care challenges,” it declared in its inaugural tweet. “Let’s put #health careoverpolitics and build a movement for quality, affordable health care for every American.”

I will admit I was quick to scoff at what I consider toothless mushmouthed nothingspeak. After all, what’s the point of a health care initiative that claims to recognize the massive inequality in American health but is unable to demand even “universal coverage,” a figurative watermelon on a tee-ball-tee among American policy goals, as a desired outcome?

Scrolling through United States of Care’s list of members, it’s easy to feel that kneejerk reaction: that USC is by and large a collaboration of insurance executives, superpowerful health care providers, Republican lawmakers, and figures included mainly to lend it some veneer of credibility, like chronicler of American health Atul Gawande, led by ostensibly well-meaning Democrats who had banked on positions in a Clinton administration and... (read more)

February 28, 2018

Amazon’s Health Care Plans Are Driven By Its Bottom Line, Not Its People

by Benjamin Y. Fong
Originally published on Huffington Post.

DSA member Benjamin Fong wrote for Huffington Post about the corporate powerhouses Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway exploring a “disruptive” health care strategy for its own US-based employees, which would provide (ostensibly low-quality) care at a low cost, supposedly free of profit motives. Fong isn’t having it.

And indeed, in spite of the seemingly progressive rhetoric (“improving employee satisfaction,” “free from profit-making incentives,” etc.), every commentator on this proposal saw it quite clearly as a business decision. The New York Times even compared it to “classic disruption,” where a company enters “a market with a product that is lower in value than that of market incumbents, but much lower in cost.” That a proposed nonprofit health care company would be immediately and so easily compared to “classic disrupters, like Southwest Airlines, MP3s or Japanese carmakers,” is a good indication that most people doubt that health is really the goal here.

Read the rest at Huffington Post.

February 27, 2018

Austin DSA Helps Win Paid Sick Days

by Austin DSA

Austin DSA recently participated in a successful local campaign for a local paid sick day ordinance, which we conceived of as part of our work for Medicare for All. On February 15th, 2018, Austin became the first city in the South to mandate that employers provide their employees with paid sick leave, with the ordinance passing 9-2 at City Council. Austin DSA believes this is a huge win, and can be a model for other chapters having difficulty getting their Medicare for All campaigns off the ground. We think this is especially true for other southern chapters, where state legislatures are hostile to any business regulations passed on a municipal level.

When Denton, TX banned fracking, the legislature passed a law making it impossible for Texas towns to regulate fracking and Texas municipalities are prohibited by the state constitution from raising the minimum wage. State legislators are already making noise about preempting the paid sick days ordinance. Austin's City Council believes that if other cities pass similar ordinances, it will be more difficult for the state legislature to take away the rights of Texas workers. Austin DSA is excited about helping other DSA chapters in Texas pass similar ordinances and... (read more)