August 11, 2019

Time For Unions To Step Up On Medicare For All

by Mark Dudzic

Originally appeared at Jacobin on June 1, 2018.

Members of National Nurses United (Labor Campaign for Single Payer/Twitter).

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 health care is deeply embedded in the employment relationship. More than 150 million people in the United States receive employer-provided health care insurance. This accident of history is a result of the post–WWII defeat of the Left in the US 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 health care 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. Health care became a benefit rather than a right.

Today, bargaining for health care has become unsustainable. Rather than being a positive perk of union membership, health care has become the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts, and concession bargaining as the costs continue to rise much faster than wages and the general... (read more)

August 1, 2019

Stop Trying to Redefine Medicare for All

by Michael Lighty

Originally appeared in Jacobin on Jan. 8, 2019.

Sen. Kamala Harris speaks at the introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2017 on Sept. 13, 2017. (Public Citizen/Flickr)

A strange phenomenon has appeared in the US debate over universal health care: a big majority favors a well-known reform—Medicare for All — as the pundits, insurance and pharma lobbyists, and political insiders denied it (since 1992!), then since 2016 opposed it and all of sudden want to redefine it.

The appearance of Medicare for All in the New York Times just before the New Year — as the subject of an in-depth Robert Pear story on December 29, the type of work he consistently devotes to the hottest health care issues in Washington, but rarely has done so about MfA — and in a letters to the editor special on December 30, featuring readers’ remedies for the health care system, “not surprisingly,” said the Times, Medicare for All “topped the list.”

The Pear story presented the first mainstream journalist examination of Medicare for All in relation to Medicare Advantage, the commercial insurance plans sold as Part C of Medicare, which are the latest hugely profitable windfall carve out of traditional Medicare for insurers, who market them to healthy seniors to fuel their double-digit growth projections for these products. In return for an additional payment from the Medicare... (read more)

July 22, 2019

The 5 Biggest Lies Joe Biden Is Telling About Medicare for All

by Tim Higginbotham

Originally appeared at Jacobin, on July 18, 2019.

Vice President Joseph Biden, Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi and President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev in 2011.

Ever since Joe Biden kicked off his 2020 presidential campaign by attending a big-dollar fundraiser with a major health insurance CEO, it was clear that he would define his health care platform in direct opposition to Medicare for All. The release of his underwhelming BidenCare plan brings no surprises on that front.

Rather than highlighting his plan’s policy specifics, Biden is spending the week of its launch attacking Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill. Parroting insurance industry talking points, Biden told a number of lies about the single-payer proposal in a campaign speech and in his BidenCare announcement video: he claimed Medicare for All will throw millions off of their insurance, scrap Obamacare, end Medicare as we know it, cause a hiatus in coverage, and cost more than his own plan.

In response, Sanders’s campaign added a short quiz to their website asking visitors to attribute lies about Medicare for All to either Biden, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, or United Health CEO David Wichmann. (It’s a tough quiz. I follow these things closely and only scored four out of six.)

With their shared lies, Biden, Trump, and McConnell are operating directly out of the insurance industry’s playbook. Remarkably, over... (read more)

July 20, 2019

Report of the Medicare for All Campaign Committee to the 2019 Convention of the Democratic Socialists of America

by DSA M4A

Submitted to the National Political Committee of DSA by the Medicare for All Campaign Steering Committee on July 14, 2019.

The purpose of this report is (1) to provide the membership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) with an overview of campaign objectives, organization, and activities; (2) to provide the Convention with a report of how campaign committees and volunteers carried out the tasks committed to them; and (3) to inform the assembled membership of the successes and shortcomings of our campaign in a way that allows them to plan more effectively in the future.

To that end we have included key recommendations throughout the report and in the report’s conclusion.

Click here to read the full report.

July 18, 2019

"KEEP IT OPEN;" Hahnemann University Hospital, Bernie and Medicare for All

by Philly DSA for M4A
Bernie Sanders at the Hahnemann University Hospital rally, July 15, 2019, in Philadelphia, PA. (Flickr/MIchael Stokes)

In 2018, investment banker Joel Freedman bought Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital in 2018, stripped it for parts and ran the hospital into the ground in just 18 months. Now he plans to close the facility, a literal lifeline in that it serves patients that are low-income and, therefore, disproportionately people of color. This would mean 3,000 jobs lost, around 2,000 of which are union jobs. Hahnemann's emergency room sees around 56,000 patients per year, a number no other hospital in the area can absorb, and because Hahnemann's patients are poor, most wouldn't want to absorb the population if they could.

Why did an investment banker buy a safety-net hospital to begin with? These hospitals never make money (standard operating procedure is "doing more with less"). It seems that Freedman was never interested in the health care side of the hospital business but very interested in its real estate. If he succeeds in his plan, he is set to make an enormous profit off of shuttering the hospital, causing a public health emergency and destroying a few thousand good union jobs.

On Monday, July 15, Senator Bernie Sanders came to Philadelphia, and together with the area labor movement, pulled... (read more)

July 15, 2019

What’s So Confusing About Medicare for All?

by Rian Bosse

From the Arizona for Bernie 2020 weekly newsletter.

Senator Bernie Sanders in Arizona in 2016. (Gage Skidmore)

The following is from the Arizona for Bernie 2020 weekly newsletter: sign up for updates like this here!

As the Late Show’s “Just One Question” bit with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed, Medicare for All is a pretty simple idea. You know Medicare? Well, expand it to cover everyone.

Which is why it might come as some surprise to find a number of media organizations reporting recently that the public is confused when it comes to Medicare for All. New York magazine claims that recent polls from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Navigator Research show voters say they want Medicare for All, but don’t really know what it is.

As this response from ThinkProgress argues, however, there are a variety of reasons why that might appear to be so. Many Democratic lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates have sent mixed messages on their support for universal health care and, of course, the for-profit health care industry is spending a lot of money to misinform the public. 

As we learned from an Intercept article last November, confusion about what Medicare for All really is was the industry’s plan all along. Leaked organizing documents of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, an alliance... (read more)

July 8, 2019

ALL IN - JULY: Recapping Another Weekend of Action

by DSA M4A

Since Austin DSA and others pushed Rep. Lloyd Doggett to cosponsor H.R. 1384, Medicare for All Act of 2019, we’ve seen a domino effect in Congress.The latest legislators to sign on to single-payer are Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA 30th District) and Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA 24th District). That brings the number of cosponsors of Rep. Jayapal’s H.R.1384 to 114! To capitalize on this momentum and keep the energy going, we held our third national Weekend of Action on June 15-16, with dozens of DSA chapters participating across the country (check out the photos on Facebook!).

Our movement’s pressure has also led to the first ever hearing on Medicare for All in the House Ways and Means Committee. Unlike the Budget hearing, this committee has the authority to legislate the bill’s primary policy and funding structure. Sanders Institute Fellow Michael Lighty explained the significance of this on camera, and went further in Jacobin: “The Ways and Means Committee must be used as a platform today and a focus for organizing based on our program... We cannot stop our outside agitation.”

Beyond Congress, Democratic primary candidates are also feeling the pressure. Joe Biden has been making absurd arguments against Medicare for... (read more)

June 21, 2019

Nothing Less Than Improved Medicare for All

by Michael Lighty

Originally appeared in Common Dreams on April 15, 2019.

A supporter at the single-payer rally held in Washington, D.C. on July 30, 2009. Over 1,000 people gathered in Upper Senate Park to show Congress and President Barack Obama the support for a single-payer health care system. (Joe Newman/Flickr)

Isn’t this a “radical transformation” of the US healthcare system?

No. Medicare for All expands the role of public financing in healthcare- 60% of healthcare is already paid for by our taxes. It does so through an existing “single-payer” called the Medicare Trust Fund that already pays virtually every provider in the US but just for seniors. Under Medicare for All it will cover everybody and reimburse providers who remain mostly private. The new financing replaces all premiums, co-pays and deductibles –Medicare for All is the only reform program to do so.

Besides the government, the primary payers in the current system are the commercial insurance companies, funded by employer contributions, taxes, and individuals (those premiums, co-pays, and deductibles). These insurance companies are “middle men.” For prescription drugs, the insurance companies often pay Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) who set the limits on coverage and pay pharmacies. The Medicare program in part currently uses insurance companies and PBMs. The new Medicare for All will directly pay for prescriptions, services and providers, cutting out all “middle men.”

How can we afford Medicare For All? 

  • Overall spending to cover everybody with comprehensive benefits goes DOWN by 9.6%;
  • Middle-income families save an average 9%... (read more)
June 15, 2019

It's the Healthcare, Stupid

by Dave Anderson

Originally appeared in the Boulder Weekly on June 13, 2019.

(M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons)

The United States currently has the highest per-capita health care expenditures in the world, yet we rank last among 11 developed countries for health outcomes, equity and quality, according to a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund. They also found that more Americans die from poor quality care than do people in any of the other countries.

One in four Americans said they didn’t go to the doctor about a health issue over the last year because they were worried that the solution would cost too much, according to a new survey released in March by Gallup and West Health, a health care nonprofit.

Some 45 percent of Americans worry that a major health issue could send them into bankruptcy, and 19 percent have delayed purchasing medicine due to its cost.

The Republicans are determined to make things much worse. U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department, along with several state GOP attorneys general, are pushing a lawsuit to abolish the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) altogether. That would mean that people could again be blocked from getting insurance due to pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. That would mean that insurance... (read more)

June 11, 2019

What Medicare for All Means for Abortion Rights

by LIllian Cicerchia

Originally appeared at Jacobin on January 18, 2019.

Mary Whitehouse demonstration and rally, Sydney, New South Wales, October 1978 (Flickr).

In 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Medicare for All Act in the United States Senate. Medicare for All is what many refer to as single-payer, where citizens pay for publicly funded health insurance through taxes rather than paying for private insurance.

In the midst of Democratic Party backtracking on abortion rights, the bill came as a breath of fresh air to the reproductive justice movement.

Sanders’s Medicare for All bill mandates “comprehensive reproductive care,” including abortion. Mandated equal access to abortion care in federal legislation would mean nullifying the Hyde Amendment, which is the legislation that gets passed yearly preventing Medicaid programs from providing federal funds for abortions except in dire circumstances. There would then be no basis for Hyde’s annual passage, since preventing federally mandated abortion access is the reason Hyde exists.

Defeating Hyde means abandoning the defensive, legalistic way of interpreting reproductive justice solely through the lens of privacy, which mainstream nonprofits and reproductive rights advocates have clung to under Roe v WadeRoe is the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause. It affirmed that the state cannot interfere in a person’s decision to... (read more)