Blog

June 22, 2018

So, You Want to Pass a Medicare for All City Council Resolution...

by Philly DSA

What does a city council resolution accomplish?

Philly DSA in the council chambers.

In March, Philadelphia DSA members showed up in droves with healthcare workers, community members, and elected leaders to pass a Philadelphia city-wide resolution supporting the Medicare for All Act of 2017 and affirming universal access to healthcare as a human right. This victory showed that in a city where the poverty rate is over 26%, city council leaders learned where to stand when it comes to universal healthcare. To move a national campaign to win Medicare for All, we need to build support from a broad range of cities and municipalities across the country. With some research, planning, and lobbying, you could work with city council members to pass a resolution of support in your city too!

What does a City Council Resolution Accomplish?

  • Moves Public Opinion: Successful resolutions can move public support in favor of universal healthcare. When you are canvassing, talking to community members, or recruiting people to the campaign, you can point to this resolution to build credibility towards your campaign.
  • Builds Momentum: Since single-payer healthcare is a long-term goal, it is important to build tangible benchmarks along the way! If we can move more elected leaders to... (read more)
June 10, 2018

Seniors, Long-Term Care, and Medicare for All

by Christine Riddiough

A while back I was talking with an accountant who said that actuaries were suggesting that people should plan for their retirement assuming that they would live to 105. Most people can’t plan past the next month—if you’re a waitress in the local diner, you may make less than the minimum wage. Your plan for retirement is to work until you drop.

This has implications for our Medicare for All program—we need to think about what this program should look like for an aging US population. For example, a friend of mine was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when she was in her 50s. She died 20 years later, having spent a good part of those 20 years in a nursing home. Then there was my mother-in-law—after my father-in-law died she couldn’t live on her own, but not needing a high level of medical care, she was in an assisted living home for about 10 years. Another friend’s husband had another form of dementia; she retired to take care of him at home.

These stories are not unusual; more and more people are living longer and, in the process, need more help and often those living longer and those providing the... (read more)

June 7, 2018

In Conversation with Adam Gaffney, M.D.

by DSA M4A

Adam Gaffney; photo from The Progressive Physician.

Adam Gaffney is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a pulmonologist and critical care doctor at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He is Secretary of the advocacy organization Physicians for a National Health Program and blogs at The Progressive Physician. We recently chatted with Adam about the current movement for Medicare for All, and DSA’s place in it.

A two-parter to begin: You’ve written that you believe Medicare for All should become a litmus test for Democratic politicians; do you worry that this can be misconstrued as a call for supporting a Medicare buy-in as was originally proposed in the ACA? Are we making a mistake by framing this as a fight for Medicare expansion as opposed to socialized medicine?

There are pros and cons to the phrase “Medicare for All.” The obvious advantage is that Medicare is a familiar and popular program that enjoys substantial bipartisan support: if it is so great for older adults, why not give it to everyone? But its primary drawback is that we’re fighting for something much bigger, and better, than Medicare. Medicare includes cost-sharing (copays and deductibles), and excludes important benefits like... (read more)

June 3, 2018

Rallying for Medicare for All in NY's Hudson Valley

by Dan Lutz and Cori Madrid

Last week DSA Medicare for All Steering Committee member Dustin Guastella and DSA M4A Northeast regional organizer Christie Offenbacher visited our chapter to talk about DSA's M4A campaign. And—not to brag— but our event was awesome!

Our chapter started Medicare for All outreach in February 2017, and we've spoken to more than 1,000 of our neighbors about M4A and the New York Health Act. But this was our first public Medicare for All event, and since we didn't want to disappoint our out-of-town guests, we really sweated the details: we phone banked our entire chapter membership two weeks before the event. The day of, 10 comrades showed up an hour early to get everything set up. And after Dino and Christie spoke, we had our canvassing sign-up forms (and lots of pens!) ready.

DSA Medicare for All Northeast Regional Organizer Christie Offenbach. Photo by Casey Brescia

We wanted attendees to leave the forum with a better understanding of what Medicare for All is, and what the five principles of DSA's campaign mean. But we asked Dustin to focus his talk on how we will win Medicare for All. We want all of our members to know that no clever... (read more)

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)