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December 18, 2018

Crisis in Elder Care

by Abigail Gutmann-Gonzalez

Originally appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Democratic Left.

Women who work outside the home are facing a generational crisis as they find themselves searching for home care for elderly relatives. The U.S. elderly population, defined as those age 65 or older, accounted for 13% of the population in 2010, a figure expected to grow to 20% by 2030.

The elderly population has greater need for in-home care and few means to attain it. For this reason, caregiving often falls to the family—particularly wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law. Daughters are 28% more likely to care for an elderly parent than are sons, and women provide almost two-thirds of unpaid elder care overall. Time magazine highlighted the case of Ruby Lawrence, who had to shoulder the burden of caring for her elderly mother with dementia because her family could not pay for extended long-term care but was not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Caregivers like Lawrence may also experience negative psychological consequences, such as anxiety, depression, and stress, as a result of providing care.

Because women on average make 80 cents for every dollar that men make, women are often pressured to take on a caregiver role in order to ensure that the one wage shared in a family is... (read more)

December 11, 2018

A Health System That Punishes the Sick

by Natalie Shure

Originally appeared at Jacobin on November 16, 2018.

Obamacare is finally safe.

With the Democrats’ retaking of the House, Republicans will no longer have the votes to try, once again, to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with their latest ghoulish plan to block millions from the healthcare system. In an era where voters consistently rank health care as their number one issue, the election results were widely seen as a repudiation of right-wing ideology on health care.

Like practically every partisan fight over the future of Obamacare, the midterm battles foregrounded the law’s most popular plank: protection for people with preexisting conditions. So supportive are voters of that policy (recent polls register approval at over 80 percent) that Republicans publicly pledged their commitment to the cause: “All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions,” Donald Trump tweeted in October. “And if they don’t, they will after I speak to them.” Midterm voters, it seems, were justifiably skeptical of this promise, which contradicted both the party’s legislative record and the logical underpinnings of right-wing economic policy.

But if Republicans want to leave sick people at the mercy of the market, it’s worth noting that people with preexisting conditions are hardly protected under the Obamacare status quo. The American healthcare system... (read more)

November 30, 2018

Lobbyist Documents Reveal Health Care Industry Battle Plan Against Medicare for All

by Lee Fang and Nick Surgey

Published by Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All with permission from The Intercept in partnership with Documented.

Now that the midterms are finally over, the battle against “Medicare for All” that has been quietly waged throughout the year is poised to take center stage.

Internal strategy documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented reveal the strategy that private health care interests plan to use to influence Democratic Party messaging and stymie the momentum toward achieving universal health care coverage.

At least 48 incoming freshman lawmakers campaigned on enacting “Medicare for All” or similar efforts to expand access to Medicare. And over the last year, 123 incumbent House Democrats co-sponsored “Medicare for All” legislation — double the number who supported the same bill during the previous legislative session.

The growing popularity of “Medicare for All” in the House has made progressives optimistic that the Democratic Party will embrace ideas to expand government coverage options with minimal out-of-pocket costs for patients going into the 2020 election. But industry groups have watched the development with growing concern.

Over the summer, leading pharmaceutical, insurance, and hospital lobbyists formed the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, an ad hoc alliance of private health interests, to curb support for expanding Medicare.

The campaign, according to one planning document, is designed to “change the... (read more)

November 20, 2018

ALL IN: DSA MEDICARE FOR ALL NEWSLETTER #2

by DSA M4A

Welcome to the second issue of All In, the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All newsletter!

First, we have some celebrating to do: Democratic Socialists all over the country ran and won elections in the midterms, and many centered M4A as a key component of their campaign. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were elected to Congress, while the number of Democratic Socialists elected to state legislatures jumped from just four to 11. While the blue “wave” turned out to be more of a trickle, these small gains made by socialists all over the country show our movement is growing and that people are “ready to rally around a politics that foregrounds classwide demands.” Let’s keep the momentum up!

But, while these wins in the midterms were exciting, we must not let our guard down. Republicans have begun their long awaited attack on Medicare for All and its advocates, and unfortunately they aren’t our only threat. While Trump peddles lies about the “Opportunity Costs of Socialism” (wherein he accidentally endorses single-payer), leading liberals have tried their best to misinform the public about what state-sponsored insurance means while crowding the legislature with a number of counterfeit proposals that... (read more)

November 9, 2018

A Public Option is Not a Solution

by Tim Higginbotham

Bernie Sanders sealed Medicare for All’s place in the popular imagination with his 2016 presidential run.

Ever since, its popularity has continued to grow—multiple recent polls show that 70% of Americans support the single-payer policy, which would cover all American residents through a comprehensive, national insurance plan. This is bad news for establishment Democrats, who have a vested interest in maintaining the market-based system we have today. In an attempt to counter Medicare for All, they’ve rallied around a less radical approach that will preserve the private insurance industry and keep their donors happy—the “public option.”

The public option is a pretty self-explanatory idea—basically, the government would allow people to “buy in” to public health insurance, whether that be through Medicare, Medicaid, or a public plan on the ACA market. Proponents of the public option love to argue that people are happy with their private plans, and that what they really want is—in the words of Tim Kaine—“more choices, not less.”

This is a dishonest reading of public opinion. While polling shows that as many as 71% of workers say they are “satisfied” with their employer-sponsored insurance, this is in a country where the alternative is having no... (read more)

October 30, 2018

“We’re Having Those Light-Bulb Moments”

by Meagan Day, interviewing Kristin Seale

Originally appeared at Jacobin on October 22, 2018.

Kristin Seale is a democratic socialist candidate for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. She’s running to represent the 168th district in Delaware County, which encompasses the southern suburbs of Philadelphia. Seale’s campaign is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, and she’s a member of Philadelphia DSA.

Seale is a full-time worker whose family depends on her income, which means she’s been campaigning in her off-hours. She was a labor delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, and her platform sounds a lot like those of Sanders and the candidates he’s inspired since his presidential run: Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college and student debt relief, and strong action against corporations on behalf of the environment.

Jacobin’s Meagan Day talked with Seale about the public versus the private provision of goods and services, and the rise of working-class politics in the United States.

MD

Let’s start with healthcare, which is the first issue on your platform. How is the private health insurance system failing ordinary people?

KS

My district is a very mixed-income district. And what I’ve found, no matter what door I knock on in this district, healthcare is an issue... (read more)

October 30, 2018

The Feminist Case for Single-Payer

by Natalie Shure

Originally appeared at Jacobin, December 8, 2017.

Demonstration before the Supreme Court of the United States, June 2016. Jordan Uhl/Flickr.

In the spring of 1969, a dozen feminists gathered at a women’s conference in Boston and came to a sober conclusion: their encounters with the United States health-care system had been overwhelmingly negative. They felt unsettled by doctors, alienated from their bodies, grifted by fees, and altogether powerless to navigate an industry they believed objectified them just as popular culture did.

The conference launched a years-long project, with each participant delving into some aspect of anatomy, sexuality, or society related to women’s health. The result was a self-published volume of essays called Women and their Bodies, which the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective used to provide women with a resource produced from their own perspectives and experiences.

Within a few years, the landmark feminist booklet was re-dubbed Our Bodies, Ourselves, released by Simon and Schuester, and sold millions of copies. In 2012, the Library of Congress named it one of the most significant works in American history. In recent years, it has inspired Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, which similarly seeks to be a health-care guide “by and for” the transgender community.

While Our... (read more)

October 23, 2018

Medicare for All Foes Pack Serious Lobbying Power; Congress Must Choose Between People and Industry

by Public Citizen

Originally published at Citizen.org.

Headquarters of the American Medical Association in Chicago, IL. Wikimedia Commons.

While a majority of the public, and an increasing number of politicians, support a Medicare-for-All health care system, any serious proposal will face major hurdles due to the lobbying power of insurers, big pharma and other industries that are deeply invested in the status quo, according to a new report by Public Citizen.

Organizations from health care-related industries spent $660 million on at least 3,335 lobbyists in 2017, with more than 75 percent of the lobbyists deployed from the pharmaceuticals/health products, health services/HMOs, and insurance or hospitals/nursing homes industries. As the Medicare-for-All debate continues to heat up, private insurers likely will view single-payer as an existential threat to their businesses. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical and hospital industries are also likely to resist a system that would hinder their ability to charge far more for their services in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world. As a result, congressional lawmakers must eventually choose whether to side with Americans, or with special interests.

“The lobbying push, including television ads and other scare tactics that the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries will use to protect their ability to keep profiting... (read more)

October 16, 2018

10 Questions About Healthcare, Answered

by Michael Lighty

Originally published at the Sanders Institute.

Doctors for the 99 Percent march from Zuccotti Park to St. Vincent's Hospital, October 26, 2011; Michael Fleshman

By now, we’ve all heard the talking points, and it can be incredibly difficult to differentiate the facts from the hype.

"Don't other countries with single payer experience really long wait times?"

"Why should we expand Medicare? Don't a lot of people have negative experiences with it?"

"Why should I pay for someone else's healthcare?"

Over the course of recent months, [the Sanders Institute has] received hundreds of questions like these from our subscribers, followers, and other members of our community. These are questions from people who want to learn about the issue and how they can make a difference to move this country forward.

1. How does healthcare in the United States compare to other developed countries?

Simply put, we get less and pay more than other countries. The United States spends over twice the average amount per person on healthcare compared to every major industrialized country, and we consistently rank 11th out of 11 countries in comparative studies conducted bi-annually by the Commonwealth Fund. Here are some quick facts:

  • 30 million Americans are uninsured and an additional 39 million are... (read more)
October 11, 2018

A Senior on Medicare Responds to President Trump

by Rob Hudson

The Hudsons

This week President Trump put out an op-ed calling Medicare for All a “threat to seniors” that would “end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.” I’ve been watching conservatives try to scare seniors into opposing good reforms my whole adult life, and now that I am a senior (a year older than Mr. Trump), I find the tactic even more offensive. The truth is that Medicare is a decent program, but it has a lot of room for improvement—which is exactly what Medicare For All does.

I have been on Medicare for eight years. In addition to Part A, which everyone is automatically enrolled in at age 65, I am enrolled in Part B (which is also automatic unless you intentionally opt out). Part B requires that I pay a premium, which is deducted from my Social Security benefits. Beyond this coverage, I also purchase supplemental insurance through a private insurance company to help with costs not covered by Parts A and B, as well as separate prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D), also through a private insurance company.

This hybrid system is complicated... (read more)