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January 25, 2020

The Labor Movement Must Fight for Medicare for All — Not Employer-Based Plans

by Mark Dudzic

Originally appeared in New Politics on Jan. 17, 2020.

At the June 2019 House Ways and Means Committee Hearing on Medicare for All, Texas Republican Kevin Murphy lamented, “That great health care plan that your union negotiated for you? It’s gone. Banned under Medicare for All.”

A right-wing congressman with a 7 percent lifetime voting score from the AFL-CIO crying crocodile tears for great union health care plans can be easily dismissed as just another absurdity of the increasingly dysfunctional American political system. But when Joe “the workingman’s friend” Biden repeats the charge almost word for word and when AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka insists — on Fox News no less! — that “if there isn’t some way to have our plans integrated into the system, then we would not support [Medicare for All],” something is certainly happening out there. Talking points, after all, don’t just come out of thin air. They are carefully crafted and disseminated by a coterie of lobbyists and publicists often working on behalf of shadowy corporate and political interests.

Trumka was shortly joined by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, who just six months earlier had delivered a full-throated endorsement of the Medicare for All Act at a rally celebrating its introduction. In... (read more)

January 6, 2020

When Senator Elizabeth Warren Went to Bat for a Corporate Health-Care Interest

by Zaid Jilani

Originally appeared in Jacobin on Jan. 2, 2020.

On December 20, 2019, the medical device industry — the folks who make everything from surgical gloves to prosthetic legs — breathed a sigh of relief. It was on that day that President Trump signed into law a spending package that, among other things, permanently repealed the medical device tax included in the original Affordable Care Act legislation. (It had been suspended since 2016, but was set to go back into effect.)

The 2.3 percent excise tax had become a source of ire for the industry, which had complained about its profits being sucked away to pay for the government’s health care overhaul.

“This is a great day for American patients, American jobs and American innovation: The medical device tax is officially history. With the end of this burdensome tax, the US medtech industry can do what it does better than anyone else in the world: develop life-changing innovations that save and improve patients’ lives, and create high-paying, high-tech jobs to keep the American economy booming,” Scott Whitaker, president and CEO of the Advanced medical Technology Association, said. “We thank President Trump and his administration for their strong support of medical innovation and for their leadership as we worked... (read more)

December 10, 2019

ALL IN - DECEMBER: Union Support for Bernie Shows Why He's the Only M4A Candidate

by DSA M4A

As we head into 2020, we have everything to gain and the polls to back it up: support for Sen. Sanders is growing in key states like New Hampshire, and voters consistently say he’s the candidate they trust most to enact Medicare for All in office. This is an unprecedented moment in history where the United States could see a Sanders presidency, and Medicare for All is closer to reality than ever before. Working alongside dozens of other coalition organizations, thousands of socialists in DSA chapters across the country have spent countless hours this year organizing events, door-knocking, phone banking and talking to their friends and neighbors about Medicare for All. We know we’ll have to fight much harder in 2020, but it’s clear our hard work is paying off. Please remember to forward this issue to everyone you know interested in Medicare for All and in Bernie's political revolution and get them to subscribe so we can hit the ground running in January.

Big pay-offs have come lately in the form of major union support for Sanders and his Medicare for All plan. National Nurses United endorsed Bernie for president in November, counting his “trailblazing leadership” on “Medicare for... (read more)

December 5, 2019

James Hoffa Is Wrong About Medicare for All

by Ryan Haney

Originally appeared in Jacobin on Oct. 21, 2019.

James Hoffa (Wikimedia)

Last week, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters announced the beginning of a new endorsement process for the 2020 presidential election. In contrast to their last-minute 2016 endorsement of Hillary Clinton, this process began with an issue survey sent out to every one of its 1.4 million members — over 20,000 responded — with more than a year to go before the general election.

Out of roughly ten issues that members were asked to rank, the top three were chosen to constitute a “Teamster Pledge”: pension and retirement security, fair trade deals, and strengthening the right to organize. Though the data are not publicly available, it is likely these are the three issues that unite both Republican and Democrat members of a typically more conservative union.

While health care was not among these top issues shaping the three-point pledge, Teamsters president James P. Hoffa decided to address it anyway — not by declaring the right of all people to quality health care, but by flatly dismissing Medicare For All:

The Teamsters have health care for all. And I just think we have to educate [the candidates] on that issue. I can’t believe they would say that we’re going to
... (read more)
December 2, 2019

Obfuscations from the Anti-Single Payer Crowd

by Naomi Zewde, PhD

I went to a meeting of the “Manhattan Institute” (a Koch by any other name) to hear their take on single-payer. The good news is they are forced to respond to this growing movement, and that they have no good answers or even good questions. The bad news is they were planting seeds of misdirection in the audience members’ minds that could eventually make their way to the airwaves or to political debates. 

The US is Not Exceptional

“If there was one main takeaway from the evening,” the moderator remarked, “it would be that the US is really not very different from the other countries.” 

This is an entirely necessary misdirection for the anti-single-payer crusader, because once you take a good look at how much we enrich our healthcare industry, you really can’t look away without doing something about it. The kinds of statements they make to obscure our monumental problems would be, “every country has a mix of public and private payers,” and “95% of the French have supplemental insurance” (not mentioned: the French public system covers between 70% and 90% of costs).

Let’s be very clear: the US is absolutely exceptional. The US spends the most... (read more)

November 22, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: Lehigh Valley DSA Pressures Bethlehem City Council to Support M4A

by Lehigh Valley DSA

The city of Bethlehem, PA found itself in the national spotlight earlier this year when FOX News hosted a town hall here with Bernie Sanders. And despite a lot of liberal handwringing about whether a Democratic candidate for president should give time to Donald Trump’s favorite network, Bernie scored. The standout moment came when FOX’s Bret Baier asked the audience how many of them would be willing to switch to Sander’s Medicare for All Plan. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hands.

We’re telling you this story from April to set the stage for something that happened in November, when Bethlehem’s city council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Medicare for All. A host of other cities, including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit have all passed similar resolutions.

Our chapter has made Medicare for All a priority since the beginning. We’ve held town halls on the topic, done phone banking and door-to-door canvassing and worked with local and national Medicare for All advocates. So when we learned on November 5 that Bethlehem would be taking up the resolution the following night, we went into action, mobilizing our members to attend the meeting and to contact members of council to... (read more)

November 18, 2019

Bernie Is the Only Medicare for All Candidate

by DSA M4A
Senator Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, 2015 (Michael Vadon/Flickr)

In her recently announced healthcare proposal, Senator Elizabeth Warren states she will not fight for Medicare for All in the first two years of her term if she wins the 2020 election. Instead, her plan is to pass a means-tested public option, preserving private insurance companies. 

That means there is only one presidential candidate committed to fighting for Medicare for All from day one in office: Senator Bernie Sanders. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has endorsed Sanders in part because we know he is the only candidate willing to go to war with insurance corporations and drug companies, while building a grassroots movement for Medicare for All.

Warren has been inconsistent on the subject of healthcare. But now, with the release of her plan for “transitioning to Medicare for All,” single-payer advocates have definitive proof that Warren is not committed to Sanders’s popular healthcare policy. Warren’s complicated proposal effectively cuts Sanders’s bill into two separate pieces of legislation. Only after creating a public option—years into her potential term—does Warren say she will take up the fight for a single-payer healthcare system. Such an approach will only serve to divide our movement and weaken our credibility in this... (read more)

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... (read more)

October 24, 2019

We Don’t Need More “Choice” — We Need Medicare for All

by Natalie Shure

Originally appeared at Jacobin on Oct. 4, 2019.

President Trump, December 21, 2018, in the Oval Office with a stack of documents awaiting his signature. (White House/Shealah Craighead)

During a speech earlier this month at an upscale Florida retirement village, Donald Trump announced a new executive order aimed at expanding the Medicare Advantage program — which allows private insurers to compete with traditional Medicare plans — so as to ward off the program’s alleged demise via Medicare for All. “Standing in solidarity with our nation’s seniors, I declare once again that America will never be a socialist country,” he said at the event. The order, titled “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors,” was originally, and hilariously, dubbed “Protecting Medicare from Socialist Destruction.”

With around one-third of Medicare-eligible seniors currently opting for private Medicare Advantage plans over traditional Medicare, one might be inclined to celebrate the fact that some 19 million elderly and disabled Americans are empowered to make the “choice” that’s best for them and their families. But a closer look exposes the problems inherent with this model, which further entrenches the commodification of health care and the byzantine financing system that facilitates it.

When it comes to health insurance, we’ve never actually needed “choice.” We never have. Trump’s move is simply a push for more privatization within one of the nation’s largest public... (read more)

October 10, 2019

ALL IN - OCTOBER: What We Can Learn From the GM Strikes

by DSA M4A

September saw one of the largest auto-worker strikes in decades! Tens of thousands of workers took the picket lines with a range of demands, including one that is especially near and dear to our hearts: better healthcare.

Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers walked out of General Motors plants across the country on Sept. 15 with demands that included fair wages, job security and an increased share of the profits. In a press release that announced the strike, though, healthcare was front and center: “Among GM failures, affordable healthcare for thousands remains unsettled for no good reason.”

GM retaliated by cutting off healthcare coverage for the striking workers two days after the union announced the strike, and that’s when one of the world’s top automakers made an amazing case for why we all need to join the fight for single-payer healthcare. “It took less than a full day for GM to cut off healthcare and begin using it as leverage to try to force the UAW to agree to a contract that still doesn’t give back to workers for the sacrifices they made when the auto industry was going ass up. It’s not ass up anymore; GM pulled... (read more)