August 9, 2018

Single-Payer or Bust

by Adam Gaffney

This piece was originally published in Dissent's Spring 2018 issue, in a special section on Healthcare for All edited by Adam Gaffney.

Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas speaking at the opening of the University Hospital in Saskatoon, May 14, 1955 (Image number R-B2876-1, Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan)

In the 1960s, a struggle took place over the fate of healthcare in Canada. On one side, there were the proponents of the single-payer program called Medicare, like the stubborn Scottish-born socialist Tommy Douglas. Medicare was modeled on a program passed in the province of Saskatchewan in 1961 under Douglas’s leadership, which provided universal coverage of physicians’ services (the province’s 1947 plan for universal hospital coverage had already been federalized in the late 1950s). And on the other side there were those who advocated a more gradual approach, such as Ernest Manning, the premier of Alberta, who went on television in 1965 to ask the nation to “look before we leap.” After all, the Saskatchewan program—funded by premiums and a slew of new taxes—had been implemented only after a bruising physicians’ strike, which ended only after twenty-three bitter, dangerous days that made international headlines. And that was just in one snowy, sparsely populated province—this was what Douglas was now demanding for the entire nation.

It wasn’t that Manning was opposed to expanding healthcare access. On the... (read more)

August 2, 2018

Medicare for All Weekend of Action 8/11-8/12

by DSA M4A

Support for Medicare for All has never been greater, and the failures of incremental reform have never been so clear.

Our demand for a federally funded single-payer Medicare for All system has fast become the leading issue for insurgent democratic socialist politicians. And it has captured the imagination of the working-class majority too. Recently, Representatives Keith Ellison, Pramila Jayapal, and Debbie Dingell announced the new Medicare for All Caucus in the House. Single-payer will soon be a litmus test for all politicians.

This is in no small part thanks to our work in DSA. Every week, thousands of members are organizing across the country to pressure elected officials and talk to their neighbors, co-workers and family members to broaden the support for Medicare for All. We’re building the movement for a piece of real democratic socialism.

However, we have a long road ahead. The Trump administration and the billion dollar lobbying operation launched by the insurance industry are dead-set on discrediting the Medicare for All movement. Moreover, our threats are not limited to them. In many ways, we have a more insidious danger to confront: the liberal establishment.

Recently, liberal pundits in the press have muddied the debate on... (read more)

July 24, 2018

The U.K. Created A Health Care System To End Class Privilege. America Must Do The Same.

by Benjamin Y. Fong and Dustin Guastella

Originally appeared on Huffington Post on July 5, 2018.

National Health Service Junior Doctors on strike outside Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital over cuts to NHS programs, April 2016. Photo: Roger Blackwell.

At the beginning of the 20th century, British health care was in shambles: fragmented, inadequate and largely propped up by private philanthropy. In 1911, the liberal government introduced the National Insurance Act, but it was very limitedand covered only workers, not their dependents.

When the Labour Party ascended to power in 1945, its health minister, Aneurin Bevan, was prepared to defend a new system of health care provision that was opposed, in his words, to the “hedonism of capitalist society.”

Described as a “squalid nuisance” by Winston Churchill and a “medical Führer” by the British Medical Association, Bevan laid out clear principles for the creation of the National Health Service that were built neither around apolitical concerns about economic efficiency nor technocratic concerns of functionality. By funding health care through general taxation and making it free at the point of service, the primary goal behind the NHS was to abolish class privilege in health care.

In a leaflet distributed shortly before the NHS opened, the service was described as a program whereby: “Everyone... (read more)

July 24, 2018

Medicare for All's Demands Are Clear and Not to Be Defined by Politicians, Lobbyists or Pundits

by Tim Higginbotham and Chris Middleman

Originally appeared on Vox, on July 13, 2018.

Courtesy of Philly DSA

The movement for Medicare for All is something to be reckoned with — but we need to keep the pressure up. It's great news that House representatives are forming a Medicare for All caucus, but, as DSA members have written in Vox, we need to keep them fighting for our interests and not those of private insurers or pharmaceutical companies.

Let there be no doubt — Medicare-for-all is a universal, public program that would provide comprehensive medical care to all American residents, totally free at the point of use. Any attempt by pundits or lobbyists to muddy the waters around this proposal is an obvious attempt to co-opt the campaign’s momentum with an eye toward weakening future legislation and protecting the interests of health-industry profiteers.

Read the whole piece by DSA M4A organizers here.

Tim Higginbotham and Chris Middleman are organizers on the Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All campaign's Communications Subcommittee.

July 12, 2018

Chapter Spotlight: Boulder DSA

by Boulder DSA

Last month, after a long canvassing campaign, the Boulder Democratic Socialists of America held a Medicaid Sign-up Event at a local library. As a steady stream of applicants arrived, a dedicated staff of volunteers were on hand to assist anyone who might have been eligible for state Medicaid benefits with the online application, and to walk them through the process step-by-step.

The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive, and now we are pushing the boundaries of our campaign farther into the neighboring town of Longmont, where we will be holding another sign-up on July 21st. Longmont, a huge part of Boulder County, has been heavily affected by the exponential wealth growth in the area over recent years, where life has become increasingly difficult for the working class. 

One of our strategies in working to implement a universal health system in the United States is to try to expand current social health programs. And while there may be ample funding allocated for these programs in Boulder County, the State of Colorado’s Medicaid system is entirely web-based, and the application process is a daunting, bureaucratic task. We stand by the belief that no one should be prevented from taking... (read more)

June 28, 2018

Rob Delaney Talks Medicare for All with DSA

by DSA M4A

Just days before the UK's National Health Service’s 70th anniversary, writer, actor and comedian Rob Delaney is sharing a powerful message: winning healthcare for all Americans is not only necessary, it’s achievable within our lifetimes. Delaney spoke to DSA Medicare for All about his personal connection to the M4A movement, explained how a truly universal healthcare program is affordable and achievable, and encouraged people to get involved.

Delaney is an American citizen born in Massachusetts and now living in London with his wife and two children and an active member of the DSA. While he’s widely known as the co-star and co-writer of the TV show Catastrophe, and recently starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 2, he is also an outspoken democratic socialist with a deeply personal connection to the Medicare for All movement. In the video, Delaney describes his struggle to afford healthcare for himself and his family while living in the US, which is an all-too-familiar struggle for millions of American families. After the family moved to London in 2015, Delaney says the country’s comprehensive healthcare program, administered by the British National Health Service (NHS), radicalized his views on healthcare.

Earlier this year, while living in... (read more)

June 22, 2018

So, You Want to Pass a Medicare for All City Council Resolution...

by Philly DSA

What does a city council resolution accomplish?

Philly DSA in the council chambers.

In March, Philadelphia DSA members showed up in droves with healthcare workers, community members, and elected leaders to pass a Philadelphia city-wide resolution supporting the Medicare for All Act of 2017 and affirming universal access to healthcare as a human right. This victory showed that in a city where the poverty rate is over 26%, city council leaders learned where to stand when it comes to universal healthcare. To move a national campaign to win Medicare for All, we need to build support from a broad range of cities and municipalities across the country. With some research, planning, and lobbying, you could work with city council members to pass a resolution of support in your city too!

What does a City Council Resolution Accomplish?

  • Moves Public Opinion: Successful resolutions can move public support in favor of universal healthcare. When you are canvassing, talking to community members, or recruiting people to the campaign, you can point to this resolution to build credibility towards your campaign.
  • Builds Momentum: Since single-payer healthcare is a long-term goal, it is important to build tangible benchmarks along the way! If we can move more elected leaders to... (read more)
June 10, 2018

Seniors, Long-Term Care, and Medicare for All

by Christine Riddiough

A while back I was talking with an accountant who said that actuaries were suggesting that people should plan for their retirement assuming that they would live to 105. Most people can’t plan past the next month—if you’re a waitress in the local diner, you may make less than the minimum wage. Your plan for retirement is to work until you drop.

This has implications for our Medicare for All program—we need to think about what this program should look like for an aging US population. For example, a friend of mine was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when she was in her 50s. She died 20 years later, having spent a good part of those 20 years in a nursing home. Then there was my mother-in-law—after my father-in-law died she couldn’t live on her own, but not needing a high level of medical care, she was in an assisted living home for about 10 years. Another friend’s husband had another form of dementia; she retired to take care of him at home.

These stories are not unusual; more and more people are living longer and, in the process, need more help and often those living longer and those providing the... (read more)

June 7, 2018

In Conversation with Adam Gaffney, M.D.

by DSA M4A

Adam Gaffney; photo from The Progressive Physician.

Adam Gaffney is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He is Secretary of the advocacy organization Physicians for a National Health Program and blogs at The Progressive Physician. We recently chatted with Adam about the current movement for Medicare for All, and DSA’s place in it.

A two-parter to begin: You’ve written that you believe Medicare for All should become a litmus test for Democratic politicians; do you worry that this can be misconstrued as a call for supporting a Medicare buy-in as was originally proposed in the ACA? Are we making a mistake by framing this as a fight for Medicare expansion as opposed to socialized medicine?

There are pros and cons to the phrase “Medicare for All.” The obvious advantage is that Medicare is a familiar and popular program that enjoys substantial bipartisan support: if it is so great for older adults, why not give it to everyone? But its primary drawback is that we’re fighting for something much bigger, and better, than Medicare. Medicare includes cost-sharing (copays and deductibles), and excludes important benefits like... (read more)

June 3, 2018

Rallying for Medicare for All in NY's Hudson Valley

by Dan Lutz and Cori Madrid

Last week DSA Medicare for All Steering Committee member Dustin Guastella and DSA M4A Northeast regional organizer Christie Offenbacher visited our chapter to talk about DSA's M4A campaign. And—not to brag— but our event was awesome!

Our chapter started Medicare for All outreach in February 2017, and we've spoken to more than 1,000 of our neighbors about M4A and the New York Health Act. But this was our first public Medicare for All event, and since we didn't want to disappoint our out-of-town guests, we really sweated the details: we phone banked our entire chapter membership two weeks before the event. The day of, 10 comrades showed up an hour early to get everything set up. And after Dino and Christie spoke, we had our canvassing sign-up forms (and lots of pens!) ready.

DSA Medicare for All Northeast Regional Organizer Christie Offenbach. Photo by Casey Brescia

We wanted attendees to leave the forum with a better understanding of what Medicare for All is, and what the five principles of DSA's campaign mean. But we asked Dustin to focus his talk on how we will win Medicare for All. We want all of our members to know that no clever... (read more)