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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)

March 4, 2018

West Virginia Teachers Are Showing How Unions Can Win Power Even If They Lose Janus

by Lois Weiner
This article is reprinted from In These Times magazine, © 2018, and is available at inthesetimes.com.

Today’s Worker's Day of Action, organized by AFL-CIO affiliates and labor groups, aimed to show the labor movement’s opposition to a verdict for the plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME, which begins oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Monday. Unions fear their power will be diminished if the Court rules against AFSCME, as it is expected to do, and restricts public-sector unions from collecting fees from non-members to pay for collective bargaining. The Right intends to use Janus to gut public employee unions, weakening what is the strongest constituency in organized labor. This in turn will greatly diminish labor’s strength as a progressive force.

Public employee unions are right to be worried, and yet, as today’s demonstrations evidenced, on the eve of oral arguments labor is still grappling with how to protect workers’ rights. The protest’s slogan, “It’s about freedom,” mimics the Right’s own language when it argues that unions shouldn’t be able to collect fees from workers who don’t want to pay. In fact, it's about social justice: The struggle to protect collective bargaining is a fight for the dignity of work and working people.

How then can public employee unions and the labor movement transition from defense... (read more)

March 3, 2018

Blue Cross Pressures Employees to Donate to Opponent of Single-Payer Candidates

by Michael Corcoran
Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission. Originally published on TruthOut.org.

Often, the structural problems that keep Democrats from embracing Medicare for All are hidden beneath the political surface. This week, however, Democratic candidate for governor in Michigan Gretchen Whitmer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offered no such subtlety. Their very public collaboration is a case study in how industry money influences campaigns and elections.

Whitmer does not support single-payer health care. She is, however, being challenged by two candidates who do: Abdul El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar. This appears to have Blue Cross (the state's largest insurer) nervous enough to request that its 8,100 employees support Whitmer for Governor. In a letter signed by Blue Cross executives but paid for by the Whitmer campaign, Blue Cross employees were invited to a fundraiser on March 7 and were given suggested donation amounts based on job title. Significantly, the candidate's father, Richard Whitmer, was president of Blue Cross of Michigan for 18 years and even has a building named after him on Blue Cross's campus.

"This is a perfect example of how corporate politicians hold Democrats back, even as other party leaders, like Senators Cory Booker and [Kristen] Gillibrand, are calling for Medicare for All and no corporate money corrupting our... (read more)

March 2, 2018

From Demand to Reality: YDSA Workshop on Medicare for All

by Dustin Guastella

The following remarks were delivered at the 2018 YDSA Winter Conference.

I want to open with a brief explanation of what Medicare for All actually is. Medicare for All is simple –– it means socializing health insurance –– making the Federal Government the insurer of all residents.

It means the establishment of a single, public, universal health insurance system where everyone, regardless of their employment or immigration status will have insurance. It means comprehensive care: all services provided by a medical professional will be covered. It means free, on-demand, unlimited care at the point of service paid for not on the backs of the sick but through taxes on the rich. That means no fees, no co-pays and no deductibles. And it means the establishment of a jobs program to provide jobs for those who currently work in the health insurance industry and would lose their jobs if the private health insurance system were abolished.

And while all of this is attractive to workers, it’s worrisome for our political and economic elite.

Of course insurance companies directly benefit from the high costs of health care, but other major employers will stomach rising premiums so long as it gives... (read more)

March 1, 2018

The Very Bad Politics of 'Putting Health Care Over Politics'

by Tim Faust
Originally published on SplinterNews.com.

On Tuesday, former CMS administrator under Obama Andy Slavitt announced United States of Care, a “non-partisan non-profit” with undisclosed funding that plans on “building and mobilizing a movement to achieve long-lasting solutions that make health care better for everyone.”

“We can’t just wait for politicians in DC to come together solve our health care challenges,” it declared in its inaugural tweet. “Let’s put #health careoverpolitics and build a movement for quality, affordable health care for every American.”

I will admit I was quick to scoff at what I consider toothless mushmouthed nothingspeak. After all, what’s the point of a health care initiative that claims to recognize the massive inequality in American health but is unable to demand even “universal coverage,” a figurative watermelon on a tee-ball-tee among American policy goals, as a desired outcome?

Scrolling through United States of Care’s list of members, it’s easy to feel that kneejerk reaction: that USC is by and large a collaboration of insurance executives, superpowerful health care providers, Republican lawmakers, and figures included mainly to lend it some veneer of credibility, like chronicler of American health Atul Gawande, led by ostensibly well-meaning Democrats who had banked on positions in a Clinton administration and... (read more)

February 28, 2018

Amazon’s Health Care Plans Are Driven By Its Bottom Line, Not Its People

by Benjamin Y. Fong
Originally published on Huffington Post.

DSA member Benjamin Fong wrote for Huffington Post about the corporate powerhouses Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway exploring a “disruptive” health care strategy for its own US-based employees, which would provide (ostensibly low-quality) care at a low cost, supposedly free of profit motives. Fong isn’t having it.

And indeed, in spite of the seemingly progressive rhetoric (“improving employee satisfaction,” “free from profit-making incentives,” etc.), every commentator on this proposal saw it quite clearly as a business decision. The New York Times even compared it to “classic disruption,” where a company enters “a market with a product that is lower in value than that of market incumbents, but much lower in cost.” That a proposed nonprofit health care company would be immediately and so easily compared to “classic disrupters, like Southwest Airlines, MP3s or Japanese carmakers,” is a good indication that most people doubt that health is really the goal here.

Read the rest at Huffington Post.