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November 8, 2019

ALL IN - NOVEMBER: We Already Know How to Pay for M4A

by DSA M4A

Lately pundits and establishment politicians have been zeroing in on an age-old attack against Medicare for All: “How are we going to pay for it?”

The question has dominated recent debates, Sunday morning panel discussions, and talk show interviews — and it’s revealed a major difference between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders, who has been advocating for single-payer Medicare for All for decades, has taken the question head-on. “I think it’s fair to say that yes, taxes will go up,” he said in the October Democratic primary debate, before going on to explain that, since the plan will eliminate all premiums, copays, deductibles, and bills, it will save the vast majority of Americans substantial sums of money (not to mention the time, stress, and agony that goes with our current market-based healthcare system).

Warren, meanwhile, has repeatedly dodged the topic of taxes. Then on Friday, Nov. 1, she released her plan to fund Medicare for All. Not surprisingly, her plan relies on a Rube Goldberg-like series of mechanisms for funding, which leaves it open to attack and compromise. Simply put, funding Medicare for All through a hodgepodge of revenue streams — sprawled across different agencies, departments, budgets, and committees — means it’s much more susceptible to being chopped up and slimmed down. What’s more, her reliance on a head tax, instead of a more straightforward payroll tax, “is clearly unworkable and bad,” writes Matt Bruenig at People’s Policy Project.

“All companies have to do to avoid rather large head tax charges is spin off workers into independent contractor status,” he writes. “Or spin them off into firms with less than 50 employees that they then contract with for services.” This, Bruenig argues, could send the program into a “death spiral.”

The truth is, we already know how to pay for Medicare for All. As Sanders said in a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, “people make this more complicated than it is.” Credible studies, such as the one completed by UMass Amherst, have demonstrated exactly how to pay for the plan while lowering healthcare costs, improving coverage and outcomes, and saving the United States trillions.

Sanders’ honesty about this fact demonstrates his commitment to Medicare for All as the only solution to our healthcare crisis, writes Tim Higginbotham in Jacobin. But it also demonstrates his political commitment to the policy, and shows he’s the only candidate that we can trust to take up the fight without compromise.

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!


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News from the M4A blog and the broader campaign

Tell us why you’re fighting for Medicare for All through our #DontBargainWithOurLives campaign! We’re encouraging union members and DSA chapters to upload short videos of themselves talking about why Medicare for All is so important. Fill out this form to share your video with us and we’ll help promote it when the campaign kicks off on December 9. Let’s flood social media with #DontBargainWithOurLives videos and messages! We want to make it clear that the labor movement isn’t just fighting for their own benefits — they’re fighting with all of us for Medicare for All.

We went to the Single Payer Strategy Conference in Portland! Organizers from the DSA Medicare for All campaign joined hundreds of other M4A supporters from organizations like Labor for Single-Payer, National Nurses United, Social Security Works and several unions for an inspiring weekend of discussion and action. Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson gave an impassioned speech Friday night to kick off the conference, and then on Saturday DSA members hosted a panel Saturday about our Medicare for All campaign. Sanders Institute Fellow Michael Lighty closed out the conference with the keynote panel, saying in part that “no one has done more to invigorate this movement than DSA.” See you next year!

Any politician who emphasizes expanding “access” to healthcare isn’t on our side, explains Natalie Shure. Only the rich have a true “choice” when it comes to healthcare, while everyone else is at the mercy of their employer’s plan or forced outside the system altogether because they can’t afford to use their insurance — or even buy it at all. “Insurance is not, and has never been, ‘health care,’” she writes. “Your insurance plan is merely an entry ticket into the healthcare system, which includes a set of inscrutable and ever-shifting stipulations regarding the specific benefits you’re entitled to, and for how much.”

Republicans aren’t the only ones pushing this false choice: a number of Democrats vying for the 2020 nomination are touting their own complicated, means-tested healthcare programs that keep the structures of capital intact. We don’t need more “choice” — we need Medicare for All.

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

Medicare for All would sharply reduce overall spending on healthcare, writes pediatrician Donald M. Berwick for USA Today. “The fact is that, without a change, Americans will spend over $45 trillion on healthcare in the next 10 years,” he writes. “Under Medicare for All, total health care spending would likely be far lower.” He points to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan as the path forward, saying the Senator’s plan leaves options open “for thoughtful exploration, careful choice and adjustments over time” that make Medicare for All financially viable.

Berwick also pushes back against claims that taxes would rise for middle class families. A family of four paid an average of $20,576 in premiums this year, and those costs continue to rise. “Framing this debate by fear mongering over ‘higher taxes’ ignores that this money is already coming out of American families’ pockets,” he says.

“Jeff Bezos, the richest man in America, gets to decide on a whim whether Washington Post employees get to see a doctor or not,” the political director of National Nurses United tweeted after Post employees were told the company was shifting to a high-deductible health insurance plan. The sudden switch means employees bear more of the cost for their health insurance, and perfectly illustrates why employer-provided insurance is unstable and unjust. Sen. Sanders also weighed in, saying, “We shouldn't allow Jeff Bezos, or any other boss, to choose their profits over workers’ health care. We need Medicare for All.”

Voters strongly oppose employer-sponsored health insurance once they understand what it means, writes Matt Bruenig of People’s Policy Project. The finding comes from a poll conducted by Emerson Polling, which revealed 70 percent of voters opposed “employers being allowed to change or eliminate health insurance against the employees’ wishes.” The statement was supported by just 11 percent of respondents. The finding lays bare the disingenuous and insidious nature of the universal healthcare framing pushed by many centrist Democrats and Republicans. In reality, people aren’t afraid of Medicare for All: they’re afraid of insurance instability, which is a key feature of employer-sponsored insurance. “[It is] one of the least popular things I’ve ever seen polled about the US healthcare system,” Bruenig writes. What does this mean for those of us in the fight for universal healthcare? Keep reminding people that Medicare for All means you’ll never, ever have to worry about losing your health insurance. 

Ten thousand baby boomers a day will turn sixty-five over the next ten years, and most will need long-term care at some point. Meagan Day at Jacobin writes that we need to plan for these enormous long-term care needs now by enacting Medicare for All, which provides the healthcare safety net many seniors will need without bankrupting them. “If we create a national single-payer program that comprehensively covers long-term care, we will be prepared to handle the aging of our nation’s population,” she writes. “If we don’t, social chaos awaits.”

Private long-term care is prohibitively expensive for most, and expenses aren’t fully covered by the current Medicaid program. Day says those who claim Medicare for All is unaffordable are “missing the forest for the trees.” We simply can’t afford to ignore the needs of a massive portion of the population and their families.

The fight for Medicare for All is turning doctors into activistswrites Abigail Abrams for TIME, and that’s a good thing. With more than 27 million Americans uninsured, doctors and nurses are increasingly finding themselves on the frontlines of our broken system, and they are channeling that anger into political organizing for Medicare for All. “The idea that things have to be done a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always been done — in the Trump era, that doesn’t hold a lot of water,” said Miriam Callahan, a medical student at Columbia University. “If we gain enough power we can actually make that change and bring about the world we want.”

🔦Chapter spotlight 🔦

A look at what locals are doing around the country

Detroit DSA’s Medicare for All working group is hosting a town hall on Nov. 6!Dr. Victoria Dooley, a vocal single-payer advocate, and Marjorie Mitchell, from MICHUHCAN, are slated to speak alongside the working group’s chair, Kyle Minton. Great work!

Philly DSA members joined a rally for affordable healthcare held by UNITE HERE catering workers at American Airlines. Nicolas O’Rourke, who the chapter endorsed for City Council, also made an appearance and spoke to the crowd. Keep the pressure on!

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