Blog

April 10, 2018

Model Consumers

by Natalie Shure

Full article appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Jacobin.

When the GOP passed its austerity tax plan late last year, it also ended the means of enforcing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate penalty, a move meant to destabilize the ACA, allowing an imagined healthy population to cast off the shackles of mandated insurance and thereby remove their contributions from a pool meant to spread risk evenly. Republicans rejoiced at gutting the mandate, as well as, they'd hoped, President Obama's signature legislation. Democrats feared for such an exodus of the healthy from the private market. Both viewpoints share the notion that individuals purchase health insurance like one does soda pop.

In Jacobin, Natalie Shure writes that "this urge to fix the health care system by tweaking individual incentives and optimizing consumer choices" is emblematic of for-profit health care's consumerist "hellscape" where cost burdens are ever-offloaded onto individuals, to protect corporate bottom lines.

"As insurers struggle to maximize profits amid ACA rules preventing their most barbaric tricks...they've ramped-up cost-sharing. Some 40 percent of Americans now hold a high-deductible plan...around 37 percent of them have foregone care due to high out-of-pocket costs, with little distinction between necessary and frivolous treatments. Smaller user fees like co-pays have an impact on lower-income patients,
... (read more)
April 8, 2018

Spotlight On...Green Country DSA

by Green Country DSA

DSA organizers in Oklahoma's Green Country are finding ample opportunity in recent weeks to make the case for socialism. Not only have GCDSA comrades turned out in solidarity with teachers of the public school teachers' strike, they've thrown themselves into their work on Medicare for All by partnering with Oklahoma University - Tulsa's School of Community Medicine for an educational event on universal healthcare, featuring GCDSA member Scott Carter. Watch a recording of the forum here on Facebook.

Also, comrades Daniel and Jeremy shared their personal stories of coming up against this country's for-profit healthcare system.

Daniel's family suffered greatly for his sister's rare disease — even while covered by excellent private market insurance. Watch Daniel's story here.

Jeremy, a social worker with HIV-positive clients, describes his frustration at getting lost in the machinations of a system whose liabilities take precedence over people's health. Watch Jeremy's story here.

April 5, 2018

Medicare for All Would Eliminate My Job, and Other Reasons I Support It

by An Anonymous Medicare Broker

Photo by Glyn Lowe

I work as a Medicare broker for a private exchange. Every workday, I talk to someone who has been thrown into the world of individual medical insurance and needs advice: “What plan should I select?,” “How do I sign up?,” “When can I sign up?,” “Is there something I can afford?” Depending on their age, gender, state, county, zip code, date of birth, retirement status, health, the current date, carrier-specific rules and dozens of other possible variables, I end up either advising them and getting them something that will meet their particular needs, or I do my best to sound like the news I have to deliver is not that bad.

And it’s not…usually. Medicare, as it is, does a decent job of covering those who are eligible for it. Many people I speak to end up getting better coverage for less money than their old group plans used to provide. Some people have cancer, and learn that being changed over from their group coverage means they can now, finally, get a fully comprehensive level of coverage that doesn’t threaten to bankrupt them with “cost sharing” every year. The original parts A and B of... (read more)

April 3, 2018

Fighting Unequal Access

by Marian Jones

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine.

Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.

In a 2013 report on healthcare issues among African Americans, radio station WNYC reported on then-52-year-old Mike Jackson, who battled diabetes and hypertension. His prescription drugs cost $500 a month. After he lost his job and healthcare, he cut back on the amount of insulin he took to treat his diabetes. Within eight months he had developed neuropathic damage in his toes and feet and permanent damage in his left eye. His story is not atypical.

A program of universal healthcare such as Medicare for All would have a significant impact on African Americans. Members of our community have higher rates of hypertension, prostate or breast cancer, asthma, and diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. The infant mortality rate among African heritage people is almost two-and-a-half times higher than that of their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

Although there are environmental factors, lack of healthcare coverage is a major cause of these health disparities. African Americans, who have lower incomes than non-Hispanic whites, are more likely to be uninsured. Thus, they put off receiving care, forgo routine doctor visits, and cannot afford the prescription medicine that could help them.

African Americans make... (read more)

April 2, 2018

Down With the Copay

by Natalie Shure

Originally published on Jacobin.com. Reprinted with permission.

A hospital in New Ulm, MN in the 1970s. Kathy Phillips / US National Archives

In the week preceding the release of Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, the Vermont senator’s office was flooded with calls — so many, in fact, that the legislative aides on the other line often guessed callers’ purpose before being prompted. At issue was whether the single-payer health care system Sanders’s bill envisions should include copayments, out-of-pocket payments for health services at the point of care.

For the single-payer advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the answer was a resounding “no.” So upon discovering that copays remained in Sanders’s penultimate draft, they sprang into action. After a week of open letters, tweets and appeals from like-minded organizations, Sanders ultimately struck copays from the bill’s final version.

Earlier versions of Sanders’s bill probably included copays for doctors visits and prescription drugs for the same reason that economists like them: they drive down health care usage and costs. After all the attacks branding Sanders’s relatively pedestrian social-democratic platform as fantastical promises of ponies for all, perhaps Sanders’s legislative aides believed meager copays gave their proposal an air of seriousness.

But the obliteration of copays... (read more)

March 30, 2018

‘Our Healthcare Crisis Won’t Be Solved Until We Get Private Insurance Out’

by Janine Jackson

FAIR's Janine Jackson interviewed Margaret Flowers about undermining single-payer healthcare for the March 2, 2018, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript that originally appeared on FAIR.org.

Margaret Flowers (image: BillMoyers.com): “This is a time for us to be pushing harder. We can change the political feasibility. That’s something that the public has the power to do.”

MP3 Link to CounterSpin Interview

Janine Jackson: When you hear that Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Jamie Dimon have a plan to “fix” healthcare, questions, shall we say, naturally arise about how transformative it’s likely to be, this plan of super-wealthy corporate executives that they insist would be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

But if the plan comes from a group represented as liberal, and its spokespeople talk about “universal coverage” and “healthcare as a right,” and the New York Times declares it “a better single-payer plan,” well, what are you to think?

Here to help us see what’s going on in a new healthcare proposal that you will be hearing about is Margaret Flowers. Margaret Flowers is co-director ofPopular Resistance and coordinator of the national Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign. She joins us now by phone. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Margaret Flowers.

Margaret Flowers: Thank you so much for having me.

JJ: I guess I have a straightforward question: What is it, this “Medicare... (read more)

March 27, 2018

Spotlight on...Ventura County DSA

by Ventura County DSA Medicare for All Working Group

When Ventura County DSA worked on their own local Medicare for All campaign, they not only established relationships with potential activists and supportive voters in their own community — they strengthened solidarity with other chapters that passed on necessary skills and knowledge so that Ventura themselves could help other comrades.

At DSA Ventura County, we may be relatively new, fairly small and located outside a traditional hotbed of left-wing activism, but our Medicare for All canvassing is going strong. We average 12 to 14 canvassers at each event which has enabled us to pair experienced canvassers with first-timers. At our most recent canvass day, good conversations were had by all and we even found a few people interested in the chapter. Overall, the experience has been very positive. Many folks in the area are very supportive of single-payer healthcare, much more so than we initially anticipated.

Our success is due in part to our process around identifying areas to canvass. We’re fortunate enough to have the resources and technological expertise to target our efforts at specific groups of voters. Using voter data, we identify neighborhoods with large numbers of left-leaning voters then knock on doors of those individuals who have... (read more)

March 26, 2018

Does Medicare for All Advance Socialist Politics?

by Benjamin Y. Fong

Originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of DSA’s Democratic Left magazine

There is broad agreement on the left and within Democratic Socialists of America that Medicare for All (M4A) would vastly improve the lives of most Americans. It is for this reason that the fight for single-payer healthcare was adopted at DSA’s 2017 convention as our top organizational priority. But some socialists fear, especially now that Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act of 2017 has been endorsed by a significant number of Democratic presidential hopefuls, that this issue has become too tame, that we need to be advancing issues to the left of the Democratic Party agenda. After all, getting someone to sign on to a program that is in the objective self-interest of 95% of the country doesn’t necessarily mean that that person is going to be radicalized to fight for a just society down the line.

If we are to talk about the strategic importance of M4A for socialist politics, we must make an honest assessment of the contemporary power of the left. DSA’s recent growth and that of other leftist organizations is tremendously exciting, but forty years of neoliberalism have isolated us from the mass constituency we need in order to challenge our in- ept political elites. The... (read more)

March 8, 2018

This International Women’s Day, Fight for Health Care, Fight for Women

by Christine Riddiough

Originally appeared on DSA’s Democratic Left blog.

March 8 is International Women’s Day – celebrating the struggles and achievements of women around the world. While IWD was initiated by the Socialist Party in the United States, for decades it was ignored in the U.S. until the second wave of the women’s movement revived it in the 1970s.

Yet its revival isn’t reflected in the actions of Congress. For example, on January 28, Republican leaders in the Senate scheduled a vote on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. The procedural vote set by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed as expected, but the attempt to further restrict reproductive rights came just a week after the Trump Administration introduced new rules granting health care workers the license to discriminate against women seeking an abortion. These two measures expose both the Trump administration and GOP perspectives on women and health care and are in stark contrast to the Medicare for All bill introduced by Bernie Sanders last September.

The Sanders bill, S 1804, protects women’s reproductive rights and takes a crucial step in the fight for reproductive justice. The bill would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which for decades has restricted access to... (read more)

March 6, 2018

“It Was About the Insurance Fix”

by Meagan Day

Copyright, Jacobin. Reprinted with permission. Originally published on Jacobin.com.

On Friday, hundreds of striking teachers flooded the foyer of the West Virginia capitol building in Charleston. Holding signs that read “Whose side are you on?” they voted to occupy the building until their demands were met.

As the Supreme Court considers the Janus v. AFSCME case this very week — posing an existential threat to public sector unions throughout the country — labor movement activists should be watching the West Virginia teachers’ strike closely. The coincidence of the two events seems almost scripted: as Janus promises to gut the legal framework for public sector worker organizing, West Virginia teachers are militantly flouting the law.

Many in the labor movement contend that this level of rank-and-file engagement is the key to surviving right to work. The question is, how does a militant mood in a workforce like West Virginia’s teachers come into being? Finding the answer in this case requires paying attention the central demand that caused workers to defy union leadership and embark on one of the largest wildcat strikes in recent American history: adequate health care.

Back to the Table

Three days prior to the building occupation, the West Virginia governor’s office announced that it had... (read more)