Blog

May 31, 2018

Hospital Closings Threaten Survival of Rural Areas

by Travis Donoho

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

Michael Kötter

Rural hospital closings are killing rural America. A strong push by DSA to combat the trend through building support for single-payer healthcare could give rural Americans hope. According to a Huffington Post report on rural hospital closings in Georgia by Lauren Weber and Andy Miller, if you want to watch a rural community die, destroy its hospital. 

After the Lower Oconee Community [Georgia] Hospital shut down in June 2014, other mainstays of the community followed.The bank and the pharmacy in the small town of Glenwood shuttered. Then the only grocery store in all of Wheeler County closed in the middle of August this year. Opportunity has been dying in Wheeler County for the last 20 years. Agriculture was once the primary employer, but the Wheeler Correctional Facility, a privately run prison, is now the biggest source of jobs. —“A Hospital Crisis Is Killing America. This State is ‘Ground Zero.’” Huffington Post, September 27, 2017

Since 2010, nearby Tennessee has had the second highest number of hospital closures in the nation after Texas and the most hospital closings in the U.S. per capita. Help in the form of Medicaid expansion will not arrive anytime soon. The likely Democratic... (read more)

May 22, 2018

Winning Medicare for All Takes Mass Action

by Eric Blanc

This is a lightly edited speech delivered to Phoenix DSA during the Arizona teachers’ strike.



Red for Ed supporters at a protest hosted by the Arizona Education Association at the Arizona State Capitol complex in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Many of the big, strategic lessons from the teachers’ strikes aren't widely or universally accepted on the Left, or even among socialists. One is that the working class is still the most powerful social agent for progressive, radical change. It’s sometimes hard even for Marxists to believe this because many of us haven’t seen it demonstrated in our lifetimes. But now we’re seeing it in practice, and it should give us a lot of confidence about our strategy and our political priorities.

Workplace action and strikes remain our most powerful weapon—there’s no equivalent form of action that creates as deep a crisis for capital and the state. This used to be a commonplace notion on the Left until the 1960s in the U.S., and longer elsewhere, but it’s a fact that is either not accepted today or marginally accepted. The general idea today is that there are many different social struggles and it doesn’t really matter where you choose to focus. This leads many activists to just respond to what happens.

Socialists should have... (read more)

May 18, 2018

Labor’s Stake in Medicare for All

by Mark Dudzic

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

A union member at the Rally to Save the American Dream in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 15, 2011. Photo by Fibonacci Blue.

There are still those in the labor movement who believe that unionists should oppose single-payer Medicare for All because good union-negotiated benefits strengthen member loyalty and help to organize new members. This misunderstanding persists because the provision of healthcare is deeply embedded in the employment relationship. More than 150 million people in the United States receive employer-provided healthcare insurance. This accident of history is a result of the post–Second-World-War defeat of the left in this country and the subsequent constraints on militant trade unionism. Unions and their allies had to construct “second-best solutions” in the face of unchallenged corporate power.

While unions throughout the industrialized world led the fight to make healthcare a right for all, unions in the United States were instrumental in setting the terms for a “private welfare state” that organized the provision of public goods through private employers. Healthcare became a benefit rather than a right.

Today, bargaining for healthcare has become unsustainable. Rather than being a positive perk of union membership, healthcare has become the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession... (read more)

May 15, 2018

The Medicaid Patchwork

by Jamila Michener with Meagan Day

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

Demonstrators are led away by police during a protest against cuts to federal safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on November 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson / Getty

Medicaid is the nation’s primary source of health insurance for low-income people. The program has saved millions of lives, but it fails to fully realize its original promise of providing poor Americans across the nation with access to quality health care. Although we often talk about it as if it were a single social program, Medicaid is actually a constellation of discrete state programs, funded with federal money.

Because the federal government only standardizes state social Medicaid policies to a limited extent, some state programs are far more threadbare than others. As a result, a Medicaid enrollee in Georgia, for instance, might have diminished access to care simply because of where they live, and many beneficiaries are compelled to navigate under-resourced bureaucracies to claim their benefits, often to discover that the care they need isn’t covered in their state.

Jacobin staff writer Meagan Day spoke to Jamila Michener, author of Fragmented Democracy: Medicaid, Federalism and Unequal Politics about why geographic health inequality persists.

MD: What are some... (read more)

May 10, 2018

Devil in the Details: Disabilities and M4A

by Mark S. Alper

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

President Johnson signs into law the Social Security Act, establishing Medicare, in 1965.

Medicare for All (M4A) will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people. That is the highest stake in the campaign to win M4A. As a recipient of Medicare because I can no longer work, I write from frightening and painful experience.

But first, some background. Because Medicare as it now stands is often associated in the public mind with Social Security, there is an impression that it has a long and established history in the United States. In truth, Medicare has been in existence as a federal program only since 1965. It is a product of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” vision, which was to be totally subordinated to the escalation of the Vietnam War within a few years. And it was bitterly and viciously opposed by the medical establishment and still bears the scars of that fight in some of its deficiencies.

Medicare was originally offered only to people over age 65 who qualified and who selected it. It consisted of two parts: Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). In 1972, the program was expanded to include... (read more)

May 8, 2018

Register for June's National Single-Payer Strategy Conference in Minneapolis!

by DSA M4A

With the Center for American Progress floating their Medicare Extra for All plan and Senators Jeff Merkley and Chris Murphy introducing their Choose Medicare Act into the Senate, democratic socialists pushing for single-payer healthcare must remember not only the futility of making demands from a position of compromise, but also the incredible opportunity that's before us. Medicare for All has never been as popular with voters as it is now.

Democratic Socialists for Medicare for All coalition partner and Labor Campaign for Single-Payer national director Mark Dudzic writes:

Medicare for All has won the battle of ideas. Now we have to win the battle against entrenched economic and political power. This fight won’t be made any easier by harboring illusions that we can somehow compromise our way to victory. Every country in the world that recognizes healthcare as a right for all of its citizens did so in response to a powerful working class movement backed by unions and grassroots organizations. The time has come to construct such a movement in the U.S.
“A defensive posture and incremental demands have not worked. Let’s play offense instead,” says Michael Lighty of the National Nurses United, himself also a DSA
... (read more)
May 4, 2018

A Profound Break

by James Cole

In Austin, we recently worked to pass a law mandating that all employers provide their workers with earned paid sick days at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 30 hours worked. In some places in the country, this might not sound very impressive, but deep in the heart of Texas this counts as a significant leap forward for workers’ rights. In fact, we’re the first city in the south to guarantee workers paid time off when they’re sick. For Austin DSA, this was a really energizing win. But it’s not just the content of the reform that’s been so energizing.

Winning any reforms in a state like Texas, even in a city as ostensibly “progressive” as Austin, takes an enormous amount of organization and mobilization. In addition to a deeply reactionary state legislature, Texas’s version of the Democratic Party is even more corporate and business-friendly than the national Democratic Party, with many members of our city council openly connected to the local Chamber of Commerce and independent business association. Any kind of improvements in the conditions of working people in Austin, whether reformist or non-reformist, requires a high level of activity on the part of Austin workers... (read more)

May 1, 2018

What Single-Payer Means to an Alaskan Fisherman with Breast Cancer

by Malena Marvin

Originally published on Medium on April 17, 2017.

If you haven’t had a chronic illness while self-employed, the term “single-payer” might not mean much to you. Let me explain what it means to me. Grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up, this is going to take a few minutes.

My life under “Multiple-Payer”

Just before sitting down to do some marketing work for my fishing business today, I opened a letter from Moda Insurance letting me know they wouldn’t be paying my cancer-related medical bills from last December, when I started chemotherapy. The letter did not explain why, it just said I was “ineligible” for service and that an $1100 bill was headed my way.

This is the fourth time in my 18-month battle with cancer that Moda has sent a cryptic letter to tell me I was on the hook for thousands of dollars. The previous three times I was able to show the expensive “mistakes” were Moda’s, not mine. I accomplished this by spending many, many, many hours talking on the phone with hospital billing departments and with Moda while pacing around our house snorting like a wild horse. But trying to snort calmly. Because cancer patients are not supposed to stress... (read more)

April 28, 2018

45 DSA Locals Made it a Weekend of Action

by DSA M4A

On April 21st and April 22nd, 45 DSA chapters and organizing committees hit the streets of their respective communities to make connections with friends and neighbors and offering their vision of a health care system where their well-being and that of their loved ones would be safeguarded from the profit motive of private insurers.

In Philadelphia, the chapter canvassed for single-payer-supporting electoral candidates; New Orleans got some help from some Baton Rouge comrades in kicking off their M4A canvassing; Ventura County tabled at their weekend farmers' market and North Texas hosted an event with health justice advocate Tim Faust — just a handful of the canvasses, actions and fundraisers democratic socialist organizers took part in last weekend, shifting our national campaign into its next gear.

That's somewhere near 1,000 all-volunteer organizers in over 20 states setting their weekends aside to help power this movement — it's only just beginning and the nation is taking notice. Common Dreams covered the weekend in a piece entitled, "Democratic Socialists Aren't Just Demanding #Medicare for All, They're Organizing for It," and a certain US senator from Vermont and author of the Senate's Medicare for All bill tweeted his support:

We're... (read more)

April 26, 2018

M4A Organizing Resource! - Medicare for All: Women and Health Webinar

by Christine Riddiough

Women are the major users of health care, both for themselves and for their children, and often, their parents. Women are also the majority of health care providers, as nurses, home health care workers and often as unpaid providers for elderly relatives. What are the specific concerns for women related to health and how can we organize to address them? What does this mean for our Medicare for All campaign? Join panelists Natalie Shure, Medicare for All committee members Megan Svoboda and Amy Zachmeyer, and DSA National Director Maria Svart to discuss socialist feminist approaches to Medicare for All on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 9pm ET/8pm CT/ 7pm MT/ 6pm PT.

RSVP for the webinar: http://www.dsausa.org/medicare_for_all_women_and_health_webinar 

Read more about women and the for-profit healthcare system.

Christine Riddiough is a member of the DSA NPC, the DSA Medicare for All Steering Committee, and a long-time feminist activist.