Blog

May 6, 2019

All In: May - Medicare for All Enters New Territory

by DSA M4A

The campaign to win Medicare for All is entering new and exciting territory. Our demand is both more viable than it has ever been before, and more under attack than we have ever seen.

Within just the past few months, we’ve seen the introduction of Medicare for All bills in both the House and the Senate. Last week, Medicare for All had its first ever Congressional hearing — a landmark worth celebrating!

DSA member, lawyer and healthcare activist Ady Barkan, while dying of ALS, flew out to DC and delivered a powerful testimony:

"Despite these obstacles and despite the personal challenges that I face, I sit before you today a hopeful man, a hopeful husband, and a hopeful father. I am hopeful because right now, there is a mass movement of people from all over this country, rising up."

The day before the hearing, we joined Ady Barkan and National Nurses Unitedin a rally outside of the HQ of PhRMA (the most prominent pharmaceutical lobbyist). DSA chapters and other coalition groups have been diligently spreading the word for months through canvassing, town halls, and bird dogging their representatives. We can’t let stop now, and the bill now heads to the Ways and Means committee.

Meanwhile in the 2020 Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders remains the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. When the most popular politician in the country supports Medicare for All, you know you’re on the right track!

Single-payer poses a serious threat to big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. UnitedHealth, which is the fifth-largest US corporation by total revenue of any kind, took a massive hit and recently “underperformed the S&P 500 by its widest margin since April 2009.” We’ve seen glimpses of the attacks the insurance industry and healthcare lobbyists were prepared to mount, but now they’re coming in full force. The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHC) — an anti–Medicare for All coalition with partners such as American Medical Association (AMA), American Hospital Association (AHA), and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) — has spent a combined $143 million on lobbying against Medicare for All in 2018 alone.

We shouldn’t be surprised by these attacks. In fact, we know that they actually show our the strength and power of our movement. A broad, class-based movement built around a demand that would improve the lives of millions of citizens is an immediate threat to an industry that controls our lives through healthcare. We aren’t fooled by their rhetoric, and we always knew they were going to put up a fight. So are we.

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

Goodies from the M4A blog and the broader campaign

  • Winning Medicare for All is a matter of life and death. Our advocacy needs to reflect that urgency. Libby Watson at Splinter reflects on the hearing by saying we need to focus on the moral urgency of the issue and not get mired down in the bog of “How We Will Pay For It.” Of course the wonky details will need to be dealt with, but for now our mission is championing healthcare — through Medicare for All — as a human right. “It is time to start being meaner to politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, who don’t support single-payer,” she writes. “Remind them what they do support when they say they want to preserve a system that includes $6,000 deductibles and people dying from rationing their insulin... This is not some wonky debate over taxes and premiums; it is a moral emergency."
  • We’re very excited to partner with groups like Our Revolution and Public Citizen to promote a new organizing tool for M4A activistsMedicare 4 All Resolutions. Passing a local resolution in your town or city is a powerful step that you can take to build the movement for Medicare for All. Now with this tool people across the US can easily see who else is organizing in their city, and get involved
  • Medicare for All is the prescription rural communities need, writes lifelong Iowan and registered nurse Barb Kalbach. Rural hospitals have been hit especially hard by our privatized healthcare system, with more than 100 closing their doors since 2005. What’s more, hospitals sometimes wait years for insurance companies to reimburse their claims, effectively draining them of operating funds. “We’re watching our farms and small towns wither away as the countryside empties out and our health declines,” Kalbach writes. The only thing that could provide relief are provisions in Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill such as coverage for long-term and in-home care, and a special budget for providers in rural areas. “A system that puts the wellbeing of our community ahead of the bottom line of a select few can and will deliver the care we need,” she writes.
  • Medicare for All is no silver bullet for solving gender and racial inequalities, but it is a necessary step, writes Our Revolution executive director Heather Gautney. “Poor health outcomes among black Americans, due in large part to lack of access to care, would be significantly mitigated by instituting a universal health care program,” she writes. This is also something that other Democratic primary candidates, such as Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, don’t seem to understand. If these candidates are genuinely interested in solving these disparities, they must recognize the forces that have caused them: capitalist markets, profit motives, and ruling-class power. “If Democrats are serious about defeating Donald Trump in 2020, they cannot continue to play footsie with drug and insurance companies and allow them to exploit our sick and our elderly,” she says. So far, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to unequivocally demand Medicare for All.

🗞News

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

  • If we think of health insurance premiums as an existing “tax,”hysterical claims that Medicare for All would burden the middle class with higher taxes quickly fall apart. Workers from all income levels contribute a staggering “40 percent of their pay toward taxes and health premiums,” writes Matt Bruenig, founder of People’s Policy Project, in The New York Times. Eliminating private health insurance premiums through a universal plan and paying for it through a progressive tax structure would “more than offset the rise in formal taxes for all but the wealthy.” Millions of americans already contribute a huge portion of their income to get limited care in the world’s most expensive, bloated healthcare system. It’s time for a system that works for everybody through Medicare for All.
  • Medicare for All would squeeze hospitals, and that’s a good thing,Jonathan Cohn writes at Huffington Post. Hospitals would essentially be paid the way Medicare pays them now, where the government would provide a fixed fee based on each patient’s diagnosis. Although this process would be difficult, it’s necessary to achieve a system where everyone can receive the care they need. Along these lines, “hospitals shouldn’t have prices any more than schools or parks or libraries,” says Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). “We need to move away from a hospital financing system that requires hospitals to have prices, incents them to grow profits, or requires them to compete.”
  • Joe Biden has a murky track record at best when it comes to healthcare policy. The former vice president announced his presidential bid in April, but he has yet to take a firm stance on Medicare for All. He supported President Obama’s push for the Affordable Care Act and has criticized Medicare cuts in President Trump’s budget, but he seems to be leaning more toward incremental reforms like a Medicare buy-in option over complete industry overhaul. Sorry Joe — sometimes taking no position speaks just as loudly as holding one. We want a candidate who takes an uncompromising stance on healthcare, and won’t accept anything less than Medicare for All.
  • Bernie Sanders has a podcast! Hear the Bern is co-hosted by Briahna Joy Gray, Sanders’ National Press Secretary. It features “voices from the campaign headquarters, as well as surrogates, activists, and volunteers who can give listeners a sense of how campaigns work behind the scenes.” Start with episode 2, Busting Trump’s Healthcare Myths.

🔦 Chapter spotlight

A look at what locals are doing around the country

  • Medicare for All is the “gateway drug” to socialism, Detroit DSA members Kyle Minton and Will Toms write. Whether you’re a longtime activist or just learned about socialism yesterday, there’s a place in this movement for you, and working on your chapter’s local M4A campaign is a great place to start. Detroit DSA has been making progress on their goal to convince every Michigan Democratic House Representative to sign on to Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill while building a strong socialist community at the same time. Keep up the great work, Detroit!
  • Why hasn’t Rep. Cedric Richmond signed on to support Medicare for All, asks Frances Gill of New Orleans DSA. The Democratic rep from Louisiana has voiced tentative support for the bill, but has yet to come out in full support of Rep. Jayapal’s bill. Meanwhile, more than 321,000 Louisianans live without health insurance. “If Richmond truly believes that all Louisianans... deserve comprehensive healthcare, he will co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act,” she writes. “If he chooses not to do that, we hope he’ll tell us: which of his constituents does he believe should go without healthcare?”
  • Bull City DSA tweeted that the Durham City Council passed a Medicare for All resolution! Better yet, the resolution passed unanimously.
  • We love seeing your M4A canvassing photos! Check out these beautiful canvassing photos from our friends in Greensboro DSA and Winston-Salem DSA, Philly DSA, Seattle DSA, Central New Jersey DSA and Detroit DSA. If you’d like to host your own Medicare for All canvas, we’ve got plenty of resources and tips to help you on our website.

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