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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)

October 8, 2018

All In: DSA Medicare for All Newsletter #1

by DSA M4A

Hello and thanks for reading All In, the very first issue of the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All newsletter! This newsletter will serve as your guide to what’s happening with the campaign, including important upcoming dates, campaign milestones, spotlights on chapter activities and relevant healthcare news and updates on legislative activity. Want the next one in your inbox? Sign up here.

We have two important campaign updates to announce: First, we’re encouraging all M4A supporters to write their reps to support H.R. 676! Known as the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, the bill “establishes the Medicare for All Program to provide all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care.” We’ve written three different letters you can copy and use to send to your reps based on their current stance toward the legislationWe need to keep the pressure on to ensure this bill survives!

Second, we’re going on tour! DSA is sponsoring Medicare for All: A speaking tour with Michael Lighty. The tour features longtime union activist and former DSA national director Michael Lighty. The tour will bring together DSA chapters, local unions, left-wing candidates and mass organizations... (read more)

October 4, 2018

Our Movement's Moment

by Michael Lighty

Originally appeared in Jacobin as "A Permanent Infrastructure" on February 15, 2018.

We're going on tour in October! Visit our All In tour page to find an event in your area.

The current crisis in US politics feels like irreconcilable differences based on race and gender. The meanness, partisanship, and division conveyed across media, practiced seemingly for electoral advantage, reveals a profound moral crisis building for decades. Despite what it seems, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, described the dynamic: "The tensions are not between the races, but between the forces of justice and injustice; between the forces of light and darkness."

As a democratic socialist, radical democrat and human rights leader, Dr. King understood what these kinds of media portrayals and personal invective also hide: the economic injustice at the root of our inhumanity.

We could talk about this crisis in many ways, but taking Dr. King as the touchstone, this Jacobin article addresses the injustice he found most inhumane: healthcare denied.

Though written a few months ago, the following piece speaks to the on-going importance of building a justice-based Medicare for All movement for the upcoming election and beyond.

Put directly, there is no health without justice, and there is no justice without health.

Other historical moments when we went... (read more)

September 25, 2018

The Medical Lobby is Already Peddling Lies About Medicare For All

by Ryan Cooper

Originally appeared August 16, 2018 in The Week.

Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, January 2016. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Medicare-for-all is getting some real momentum behind it, with several more supporters winning congressional primaries [in August]. The medical industry — drug companies, insurance companies, medical providers, and others — has thus been gearing up to preserve the fat profits they enjoy under the horrendous status quo. They've formed a group called The Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF) to run a propaganda campaign against universal health care.

Their main argument is pretty clearly going to be centered around loss-aversion. "Most Americans support commonsense, pragmatic solutions that don't interrupt the coverage they rely upon for themselves and their families," PAHCF spokesman Erik Smith told The Hill. (Jonathan Chait and Paul Krugman have made similar points.)

But this argument is garbage. Medicare-for-all would mean vastly more people enjoying good health care, and dramatically fewer people getting kicked off their insurance overall.

For starters, the status quo system leaves about 30 million people uninsured. Those people don't get to rely on the "commonsense, pragmatic solutions" of our current system, they just go without health care, or die of... (read more)

September 19, 2018

What does democratic socialism mean?

by Meagan Day

Originally appeared on Vox, on August 1, 2018.

Medicare for All rally, Los Angeles, February 2017. Photo by Molly Adams.

As part of Vox's First Person series of personal essays, East Bay DSA member Meagan Day defined democratic socialism with authority as a DSA member, in the midst of so many articles this past summer attempting to explain the movement away as something none too radical.

Where does our Medicare for All campaign fall into her outlook?

Winning [Medicare for All] in the US would be an enormous relief to the millions of Americans who, even with insurance, find themselves stymied by claims denials and crushed by medical debt. Many progressives and an increasing number of centrist liberals — hell, even a few Trump voters — want the private insurance industry to be replaced by a single comprehensive public insurance program, one we all pay into with our taxes to relieve everyone of financial stress in times of illness. We want that too.

Read more at Vox.

Meagan Day is a staff writer at Jacobin magazine and a member of the East Bay DSA.