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... (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)

October 1, 2019

Democrats Should Fight Trump With Medicare For All

by Tim Higginbotham & Luke Thibault

Originally appeared at Jacobin on Mar. 29, 2019.

President Donald Trump holds up a signed letter he wrote to a member of the U.S. military on Monday, April 17, 2017, during the 139th Easter Egg Roll at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (White House)

Democratic leadership have now signaled to voters what their party would look like in power, by introducing their vision for American health care policy: the laughably named Protecting Pre-existing Conditions and Making Healthcare More Affordable Act. Hakeem Jeffries, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, believes this bill presents “a clear contrast in terms of what we as House Democrats are about, and what Republicans are about.”

The bill is aimed at redressing the Trump administration’s early and recent assault on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Its key features are increased subsidies for private insurance, bolstered funding for enrollment outreach, and the closure of loopholes that allow insurance companies to sell short-term plans that discriminate against people with preexisting conditions. The legislation protects private insurance plans and does not include a public option to compete with them on ACA’s market exchanges.

This is contrary to Donald Trump’s picture of the Democratic Party’s “radical socialist” health care platform. It’s also contrary to what many... (read more)

September 19, 2019

GM's Decision to Cut Off Employee Health Insurance 'Yet Another Reason Why We Need Medicare for All'

by Jake Johnson

Originally appeared at Common Dreams on Sep. 18, 2019.

UAW strike, April, 2008. (Scott Dexter/Flickr)

General Motors' decision Tuesday to stop paying healthcare premiums for nearly 50,000 of the company's striking workers offered a powerful case for why Medicare for All is necessary to ensure stable and quality insurance as a right for everyone in the United States.

That was the argument advanced by single-payer supporters in the wake of GM's move, which union leaders and others quickly denounced as a cruel intimidation tactic designed to break the United Auto Workers strike.

"By taking healthcare off the bargaining table, workers can demand and win real gains in wages and pensions."
—Michael Lighty

Sara Nelson, president of the American Association of Flight Attendants, said employer-provided insurance allows corporations to use the threat of healthcare cuts "to hold workers hostage."

"Medicare for All puts power back in our hands," said Nelson.

Labor historian Toni Gilpin echoed Nelson, calling employer-provided healthcare "a cudgel that will be used against workers."

Michael Lighty, a founding fellow at the Sanders Institute think tank and an activist with the Democratic Socialists of America's Medicare for All campaign, told Common Dreams that under a single-payer system, employers would no longer have "tons of leverage because... (read more)

September 12, 2019

ALL IN - SEPTEMBER: He Wrote the Damn Bill!

by DSA M4A

Sen. Bernie Sanders and his team released several exciting new platforms this month, and we’re especially excited about one in particular when it comes to Medicare for All: The Workplace Democracy Plan.

Sanders’s Workplace Democracy Plan is unprecedented in scale and scope, and Liza Featherstone writes in Jacobin that it’s “the most pro-union platform of any major presidential candidate in decades.” Sanders’s plan would make it easier for employees to form unions, eliminate state-level right-to-work laws, give federal workers the right to strike, eliminate “at-will” firing, and more.

As Featherstone writes, this doesn’t necessarily mean unionizing every workplace will magically become a breeze, but it will significantly lower the barriers to forming a union while balancing the scales of power between workers and their employers. Sanders even includes a specific M4A provision. Directly from the platform (emphasis ours):

“Bernie will require that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All. When Medicare for All is signed into law, companies with union negotiated health care plans would be required to enter into new contract negotiations overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Under this plan, all company... (read more)

September 9, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: NYC DSA Pushes Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to Cosponsor Medicare for All

by NYC DSA Healthcare Working Group

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman George Miller, in April, 2014. (House Democrats/Flickr)

On Wednesday, September 4th, House Democratic Caucus chairman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) announced his support for Medicare for All. Not only does this historic announcement bring the total number of cosponsors in the House of Representatives up to 119 (including the majority of the Democratic caucus), but as one of the highest-ranking Democratic lawmakers in Congress, Rep. Jeffries's support will give this legislation an especially large boost. Since Jeffries is Democratic Party leadership, the early success of this local pressure campaign speaks to the growing power of DSA's field organizing in the region and to the particular approach we are taking in the NYC Healthcare Working Group.

Since NYC DSA members first met with him in February of this year, Rep. Jeffries has continually expressed his unwillingness to take a clear position on Medicare for All. In the months that followed that initial meeting NYC DSA members collected hundreds of constituent signatures on our petition seeking his support, made thousands of phone calls to his legislative office, raised the issue with him at town halls, co-hosted... (read more)

September 7, 2019

Austerity By Paperwork

by Meagan Day

Originally appeared at Jacobin, on Oct. 1, 2018.

Unemployment rates of US counties, March 2017. (Wikipedia)

Conservatives love negative incentives. Many will tell you flat-out that the best way to solve pervasive poverty is to make being poor as unmanageable as possible.

“The more you make people comfortable in their poverty, the more you strip them of the reasons of standing up on their own again,” says right-wing media personality Glenn Beck.

Celebrity neurosurgeon-turned-HUD-director Ben Carson warns against making public housing too livable because “a comfortable setting” would “make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

In order to get poor people off their asses — ass-sitting being the number one cause of poverty — the state needs to restrict handouts and pare down cushy social benefits, like providing people with housing that doesn’t resemble prison, or giving them health insurance even when they can’t afford the exorbitant and arbitrary costs imposed by the private insurance industry.

It was in this spirit that the Republican Party floated the idea of mandatory work requirements for beneficiaries of Medicaid. They made a weak attempt to frame it as a positive incentive rather than a negative one. “We don’t want to throw people out... (read more)

August 30, 2019

Chapter Spotlight: BuxMont Pushes Norristown Council to Demand M4A

by BuxMont DSA

BuxMont DSA and Norristown Municipal Council made history on Tuesday, August 20. Through the organizing efforts of the suburban branch of Philly DSA, Norristown has become the first municipality in Montgomery County, only the second in Pennsylvania, and one of just over a dozen cities and towns in the United States to pass a resolution in support of Medicare for All. 

By a unanimous vote, the council recognized what the language of the resolution articulated: that enacting Medicare for All legislation is a vital step in establishing healthcare as a human right in this country. And it’s no wonder. Norristown is a working class town with large communities of Black residents and Latinx immigrants, a town where 15% of its residents (over 5,000 people) have no health insurance at all, let alone the many who are underinsured in expensive, inadequate plans. As council member Hakim Jones said before voting, Norristown isn’t “interested in waiting until the next election cycle to see what the people at the top believe in, and [we’re] not interested in following a trend[...]We are a community that suffers from not having access to healthcare.” Norristown’s enthusiastic embrace of single-payer, universal health care comes from a deep-seated... (read more)

August 26, 2019

The US Health System Is a Nightmare Where 50 Million Go Uninsured Every Single Year

by Matt Bruenig

Originally appeared at Jacobin on July 2, 2019.

A dentist cleans an uninsured patient's teeth pro bono at a free clinic. (Neon Tommy/Flickr)

Everyone knows the American health-care system is a disaster, but surprisingly few realize just how much of a disaster it really is. One reason for this is that the statistics we use to measure it completely miss how much anguish is caused by people constantly cycling in and out of insurance plans. In prior posts, I have tried to produce some figures that help illuminate the immense degree of “churn” in our system. In this post, I do the same thing, but with a new data source. What this source reveals is that, in a given twelve-month period, one in four adults between the ages of eighteen and sixty-four — 50 million people — face a spell of uninsurance.

Normal estimates of uninsurance miss this fact because those estimates are either annual surveys that ask individuals if they were uninsured for the entire year (Census) or point-in-time surveys that ask people if they are currently uninsured (Gallup). These are useful statistics to have, but they do not really capture how prevalent uninsurance is. To capture that, you... (read more)