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August 15, 2019

ALL IN - AUGUST: Democratic Debates Reveal Who's On Our Side; M4A Success at DSA National Convention

by DSA M4A

Recently, more than a thousand elected DSA delegates from across the country met in Atlanta for the biennial national convention. There, we deliberated on dozens of organizational and political priorities for the coming two years, including Medicare for All.

In the time since our campaign was adopted at the last convention in 2017,we’ve been working nonstop with all of you to build a mass movement for a truly single-payer Medicare for All program. It has been both challenging and successful.

In line with other priority campaigns, our national committee collaborated on a report that was delivered to the national convention. The report detailed these challenges, successes, and the overall arch of our campaign. Additionally, our report listed several recommendations to guide our strategy and bolster our resources for the next two years. The overwhelming support from delegates for our report gives us the momentum we need to ramp up our efforts and mobilize even more working-class people to fight for Medicare for All.

The convention was also a time for us to bring Medicare for All activists together in more focused settings. We hosted a star-studded panel with longtime healthcare activist Michael Lighty, journalist Natalie Shure, Physicians for a National Health Program president Adam Gaffney, and national coordinator for the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Mark Dudzic (watch here). There was also a hands-on workshop with Austin DSA on how to organize local campaigns in the fight for Medicare for All (watch here).

DSA’s recommitment to Medicare for All comes at a critical time. Our tireless campaigning has pushed Medicare for All to the center stage and into an exciting turning point for our movement. HR 1384 has reached 118 cosponsors, making it the official Democratic Party position in the House.Meanwhile, on the presidential debate stage, Bernie “I wrote the damn bill!” Sanders is continuing to champion Medicare for All — he even predicted attack ads that aired during the debate! As the largest grassroots socialist organization in the United States with more than 55,000 dues-paying members, we’re proud of what we’ve built together and now it’s time to see it through. We can build on this momentum and finally cement healthcare as a human right in America. We’re going to win, and we’re going to do it together.

If you have friends, family members or colleagues who are interested in keeping up with the campaign, tell them to sign up here to receive All In straight to their inbox. Thanks for reading!

📋 From the campaign

News from the M4A blog and the broader campaign

Medicare for All is so good that Joe Biden has no choice but to lie about it,writes Tim Higginbotham. The topic of healthcare took center stage during both nights of Democratic debates in late July, and it’s no surprise that Biden came out hard in defense of Obamacare (his line that “the criticism of Obamacare is a bunch of malarkey” was meant to sting but instead was met with weak applause). He also championed his own plan — essentially the Affordable Care Act 2.0 — which makes no attempt to fundamentally change the current healthcare system. His talking points about Medicare for All are disingenuous half-truths and in some cases, outright lies. We’re not fooled.

In what has so far been one of the most inspiring displays of solidarity during presidential campaign season, Sen. Bernie Sanders orchestrated a 2,000-person rally in just 36 hours to save a Philadelphia hospital. But it’s not just any hospital, write members of Philly DSA: Hahnemann Hospital largely serves low income-individuals and people of color, making it a lifeline for many who already struggle to keep their heads above water. The hospital was purchased in 2018 by an investment banker who seemingly planned to make money off the prime real estate it occupies. Instead, he bankrupted it. “A hospital is being converted into a real estate opportunity in order to make some wealthy guy even more money, ignoring the health-care needs of thousands of people, that is pretty crazy,” Sanders said during the rally. Philly DSA members write that Sanders effectively recruited the local union movement to help, while stressing during the speech that the hospital would not have to close under a Medicare for All system. Ultimately the rally was a show of strength for our movement: it’s about treating healthcare as a human right, not a vehicle for corporate profits.

Medicare for All is a pretty simple idea, so why are so many media organizations reporting people are confused about it? A few of the reasons are obvious, writes Rian Bosse. For one, many Democratic lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates have intentionally sent mixed messages about Medicare for All, while the for-profit healthcare industry has deep pockets it’s using to misinform the public. But Democratic lawmakers and insurance industry execs aren’t ordinary people, and their messages don’t reflect what people want. “Confusion about Medicare for All is not a sign that voters don’t want Medicare for All,” writes Bosse. “Medicare for All is a straightforward idea that resonates with ordinary people, and it’s our job to make sure that big pharma and the insurance industry’s confusion campaign is revealed to be the ugly lie that it is.”

🗞 News

Related news articles, essays, articles from outlets beyond the campaign

On Medicare’s 54th birthday, we must pledge to defend and expand it,writes Luke Thibault in Jacobin. Despite its weaknesses, Medicare is one of America’s most beloved social programs because it’s a universal program not based on charity. Millions of people use it or know someone who does — and it works well. Medicare’s universality makes it an engine of solidarity, binding large swathes of the population together in a collective project. By covering both the working class and the middle class, Medicare combats the politics of resentment that otherwise fuels the Right’s agenda.

Our hard work is paying off: Medicare for All is now the official Democratic Party position in the U.S. House. Sanders speechwriter and former journalist David Sirota tweeted the news Aug. 1, saying that Rep. Jayapal’s legislation has an official majority in the House with 118 co-sponsors. Conversations about a single-payer system would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago, but now it’s become one of the most important issues ahead of 2020. We’re not settling for anything less than a universal, single-payer system that’s free at the point of service. Everybody in, nobody out.

“The insurance has been great until I got to a point that I really needed something for survival,” a woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer told the Associated Press. Anthem Blue Cross denied Kim Lauerman a drug that helps prevent infections and fever during chemotherapy, and when she ended up getting an infection, she missed vital chemo sessions. She now worries her advanced cancer may return because her treatment was cut short, while doctors and hospitals worry about the outsized control health insurance companies have over patient care. “No independent research tracks how frequently insurance issues delay or curtail care nationally, but doctors say they’ve seen a marked increase in difficulties over the last few years,” the AP reports.

Kamala Harris doesn’t support Medicare for All and she never did, Tim Higginbotham writes in Jacobin. Although she calls her plan Medicare for All, it’s far from it. Her plan would further privatize Medicare and ultimately keep private insurance in control of healthcare. Not to mention it would take ten years to implement, which essentially signals she has no intention of even taking her own plan seriously. “Harris has long masqueraded as a supporter of Medicare for All, but the rollout of KamalaCare finally gives us clarity,” Higginbotham writes. “She will fight on behalf of insurance companies, not against them.”

Joe Biden claims his healthcare plan will insure 97 percent of Americans, but what about the lives of other 3 percent? Matt Bruenig of People’s Policy Project writes that up to 125,000 people could die within the first 10 years from lack of health insurance. That’s 125,000 human lives lost because of a system we can reform, if we choose. “Needless to say, this is not acceptable,” Bruenig concludes. “No Democrat should be running on a health plan that does not provide universal coverage.”

Sick patients shouldn’t have to battle pharmacies for the life savings drugs they need. Under Medicare for All, they wouldn’t have to. Pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, add a frustrating, and sometimes deadly, obstacle patients must navigate to get the drugs they need. In short, insurers often form partnerships with particular PBMs and require that patients receive drugs only from those pharmacies in a sequence set by the PBM, not the doctor. The result is that “pharmacy benefit managers have the authority to trump a doctor’s medical judgment without seeing patients or knowing their full medical history, and without accountability for the consequences of what happens to sick people.“ Thousands of patients are denied life-saving medications this way, and doctors are hamstrung by the complicated system. “I can’t call them and say, ‘Hey, by the way, what you’re saying doesn’t make sense,’ because they are hiding behind all these processes,” said one doctor. “And we are struggling here.”

 🔦 Chapter spotlight

A look at what locals are doing around the country

Austin DSA gave an incredible presentation at the DSA National Convention about how to run a successful pressure campaign. The chapter successfully pressured Rep. Lloyd Doggett to co-sponsor the House Medicare for All bill by organizing a strategic campaign and building a local coalition. They shared the slides from their presentation here.

Charleston DSA hosted a discussion featuring healthcare activist and Medicare for All champion Michael Lighty on Aug. 8. He touched on the recent devastating events in Mississippi, in which children were left sobbing in the streets after their parents were arrested by ICE in the largest immigration raid in a single state in U.S. history. “Health justice must cover everyone in the country, regardless of their immigration status,” he said. “Medicare for All is a powerful, class-based, universal response to violence, misogyny, white supremacy and xenophobia as it would address health impacts and greatly improve the material positions of women, people of color, immigrants, and all working people.” You can watch Lighty’s full speech here.

Michigan chapters Bricks & Roses DSA and Detroit DSA put another win on the board by successfully pressuring Rep. Dan Kildee to co-sponsor H.R. 1384 this month, bringing the current total to 118 co-sponsors! Earlier this year, the Detroit chapter also successfully pushed for the removal of Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Dan Loepp from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s transition team. Keep up the outstanding work!

Twin Cities DSA hosted a Medicare for All forum on July 18th with Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Rep. Illhan Omar. Catch up with their live-tweet thread or this video for highlights from the event. “The American healthcare system is broken,” Rep. Ihlan Omar told the crowd. “It is a moral imperative we fix it, and Medicare for All will do that.”

SnoCo DSA continues to run a robust canvassing operation in the suburbs outside Seattle, Wash. Our comrades in the PNW are out knocking on doors talking to their neighbors about Medicare for All regularly on weekends and looking great while doing it! For tips on running your own canvass, check out our Organizing Guide.

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