The Collapse Of Trumpcare And The Rise Of Single Payer

Kaytee Riek

By Adam Gaffney and Zackary D. Berger for The BMJ Opinion – Two major developments in September upended US healthcare politics. The month’s end saw the failure of a last-ditch blitz by Senate Republicans to dispatch the Affordable Care Act (ACA) via the Graham-Cassidy bill, a painful defeat for opponents of Obamacare, including President Trump. And on 13 September, Senator Bernie Sanders’ single-payer “Medicare-for-All” bill was released, galvanizing proponents of progressive healthcare reform. Among the notable aspects of Sanders’ bill was its co-sponsorship by 16 Senators (as opposed to zero for Sanders’ last bill), among whom were most of the potential Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. Rising support for single-payer in the Senate follows a similar shift in the House of Representatives, where a majority of Democratic lawmakers now support Representative John Conyers’ single-payer bill. The immediate impact of these single-payer bills—given that neither will pass in the current Congress—may seem modest. Yet in conjunction with the collapse of Republicans’ ACA repeal efforts, they could signal a new era in American healthcare politics.

“Worse Than Big Tobacco”: How Big Pharma Fuels Opioid Epidemic

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By Lynn Parramore for Institute for New Economic Thinking – Over a 40-year career, Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger has obtained millions in settlements for investors and consumers hurt by a rogues’ gallery of corporate wrongdoers, from Exxon to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. But when it comes to what America’s prescription drug makers have done to drive one of the ghastliest addiction crises in the country’s history, he confesses amazement. “I used to think that there was nothing more reprehensible than what the tobacco industry did in suppressing what it knew about the adverse effects of an addictive and dangerous product,” says Berger. “But I was wrong. The drug makers are worse than Big Tobacco.” The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, manipulating markets and deceptively marketing opioid drugs that are known to addict and even kill. It’s a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day. Berger lays much of the blame at the feet of companies that have played every dirty trick imaginable to convince doctors to overprescribe medication that can transform fresh-faced teens and mild-mannered adults into zombified junkies. So how have they gotten away with it?

Bosses Shouldn’t Get To Have ‘Religious’ Objections To Your Health Care

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By Martha Burk for Other Words – Expanding “corporate citizen” rights into health care could ultimately affect everybody, not just women. When Obamacare — aka, the Affordable Care Act — became law in 2010, it mandated coverage of birth control without co-payments. Some employers didn’t like the rule, and Hobby Lobby hated it so much that the company filed a lawsuit to stop it. Company owners said they didn’t believe in contraception and claimed that covering it for female employees violated their religious freedom. Understand, the Obama administration went to great lengths to exempt churches and church-related institutions from the rule, while still guaranteeing their female employees the right to birth control if they wanted it. Then the Supreme Court stepped in, siding with Hobby Lobby and ruling that “closely held” corporations with religious objections could join religious employers in excluding birth control from their insurance plans. Now the Trump administration has gone a giant step further. They’re now allowing any and all businesses, including publicly traded ones, to also cite “religious or moral objections” in denying their employees contraception coverage.

Activists Call On Colombia To Provide Healthcare, Infrastructure Improvements

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By Staff of Black Alliance for Peace – The undersigned gender, racial, social and environmental justice organizations and advocates from around the world applaud the inclusion of the Ethnic Chapter and other racial and gender rights measures in Colombia’s Final Agreement to End the Armed Conflict and Build a Stable and Lasting Peace. If implemented, these provisions will allow Colombia to set a global example of holistic peacebuilding—one that meaningfully addresses the social inequalities that help fuel conflict. We are, however, deeply concerned about the inadequate consultation with and recognition of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous authorities in peace implementation activities to date, and the ways in which this endangers the lives, security, and territorial and human rights of Afro-Descendant and Indigenous Peoples, including women and girls. We encourage the Government to act in good faith to ensure that Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples’ rights are maintained and furthered in peace implementation. It is crucial that the framework plan for implementing the Peace Accord contain indicators to measure the progress and outcomes of policies, programs and reforms in a manner that corresponds to the needs, values, and rights of Indigenous and Afro-Descendant Peoples, including their gender-based rights. These can only be developed with meaningful participation of their respective authorities and organizations.

Single Payer Movement Has Transformed The Healthcare Fight

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By Theo Anderson for In These Times. The grassroots fight for single payer, championed by Bernie Sanders, has thoroughly reframed the healthcare debate over the past year. That became clear during CNN’s Monday night healthcare debate between Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). The debate came as Republicans labor, Sisyphus-like, to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Graham said in his opening remarks that the debate was about “who we want to be as a nation.” Cassidy said that it was about who has power.

Newsletter - Greater Austerity Coming Unless We Act

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. As one of the world’s richest nations, the US stands out for having the greatest wealth divide and high levels of poverty. Over the past 40 years, wages have stagnated and, as Lynn points out, “the richest one percent took more than half of all income growth since 1979.” Currently, the top 0.1 percent have wealth equal to the bottom 90 percent. It isn’t a matter of whether the US has enough money to support basic necessities like health, education and housing, but who has the wealth in the US and where our tax dollars are being spent.

Protesters Rise Up To Block Health Care Repeal

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By Margaret Flowers for Popular Resistance. Washington, DC – With the September 30 deadline for the budget reconciliation process looming, Senate Republicans attempted once again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Dr. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana submitted legislation last week that would end the Medicaid expansion, cut federal funds for Medicaid and allow states to decide that insurers could deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. States would also no longer have to require that insurers cover essential benefits, as defined in the ACA. The bill seemed dead by the end of last week when Senator John McCain announced that he would vote against it. But Senators Graham and Cassidy went into high gear over the weekend to add extra funding for states like Alaska, Maine and Arizona to encourage their support. Activists throughout the country also geared up to fight back.

Abortion Must Be Protected With Universal Healthcare

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) began introducing Medicare for All bills in 2003—more than a decade before Democrats cast off Hyde as the cost of doing business on Capitol Hill and coalesced around the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act. 
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By Christine Grimaldi for Rewire – When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) partnered for an overflowing health-care town hall in Michigan over the August recess, they shared more than a stage. The veteran lawmakers are leading the charge in Washington for universal health coverage. More than 1,000 people packed the meeting that turned into a “rallying cry for progressives,” according to a Detroit Free Press report. Progressives recognize that health care is a human right. But do they recognize abortion care as health care, or will they sacrifice it for the sake of the quote-unquote greater good? On Capitol Hill, Democrats have increasingly signaled their support for single-payer proposals in which the federal government covers health-care costs, regardless of income, job status, or health status. The most popular ones propose expanding Medicare, the federal insurance program for people age 65 and older, to all. Conyers introduced his eighth iteration of a Medicare for All bill in the U.S. House of Representatives at the start of the current 115th Congress, and Sanders plans to unveil a U.S. Senate version after lawmakers return to Washington in early September, Rewire reported in July. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) recently sat down with Vox’s Sarah Kliff and Jeff Stein to discuss his forthcoming bill that would allow anyone to buy into Medicaid, the joint state-federal insurance program for people with low incomes, on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges.

Senate Republicans Aren’t Just Aiming To Destroy Obamacare And Medicaid

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By Steven Rosenfeld for AlterNet – The Senate Republicans’ latest anti-Obamacare bill has bigger goals than destroying the Affordable Care Act and dismantling Medicaid. This bill aims to blow up the very foundation upon which a national health care system could be built—even if it roils private insurance markets via massive premium hikes for 2018. This overarching goal—to destroy the health care system’s structural underpinnings that could be used to create a national health care system—was made clear in the opening boasts of the Senate bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, when he introduced the bill on the same day Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, introduced a Medicare for All bill. “If you want a single-payer health care system, this is your worst nightmare,” Graham boasted on September 13, referring to his own bill. “Hell no to Berniecare!” If that wasn’t clear enough, Graham doubled down on Tuesday, when in an appearance with Vice President Mick Pence, Graham said, “federalism versus socialism, you pick.” Then on Wednesday, a Pence aide told reporters the vice president was leaving a U.N. Security Council meeting on peacekeeper reforms “to speak with leader McConnell on continuing momentum behind Graham-Cassidy.”

Fool Me Twice: Trojan Horse Democrats Pile Into The House Of Single-Payer

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By Jim Kavanaugh for The Polemicist – It’s great that more than a third of Democratic senators have signed on to co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-All bill. It’s a potentially strong bill that’s been welcomed by single-payer activist organizations like Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and National Nurses United (NNU), and it represents a victory for the tireless work of single-payer activists and the popular pressure they stoked. It is also, we must recognize, only possible because of Bernie’s insistent promotion of healthcare as a right, in a campaign that widened the field of American political discourse. Above all, it is a result of continuing disgust with American for-profit health insurance system. It marks the exasperation with Obamacare’s half-assed attempt to patch up that system, and the rejection of the even crueler Republican schemes. At the very least, this bill puts single-payer “on the table” of legislative action and public discussion. The “public discussion” part is perhaps the most important. People will now hear about single-payer, and its advocates will not be completely shut out of media coverage from Fox to PBS, as they are now. Even the Democratic Party will have to talk about it. But please, please, do not be fooled. It does not mean that most, or any, of those co-sponsoring Democratic senators actually support single-payer. Most of those Democrats have signed on because they felt politically forced to, because they knew they could not face their constituents if they didn’t.

The Sickness Of American Healthcare

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By Yves Smith for Naked Capitalism – The recent collapse of Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act demonstrated that the GOP’s tireless obsessions—free market platitudes and tax cuts for the wealthy—contribute absolutely nothing to fixing the American healthcare system. Unfortunately, that was the only thing made clear by media coverage of the healthcare debate. Looking back, we are struck by the degree to which the media’s fixation on a narrative that mocks a small slice of American voters—pro-Trump voters who had new ACA coverage—deflected attention from the frustration of millions of American workers who have struggled with healthcare problems the ACA either failed to address or exacerbated. The truth is our healthcare system is sick, and the Affordable Care Act has been little more than a bandage on a compound fracture. The ACA cut the rate of the uninsured to an all-time low, and limited the health insurance industry’s most outrageous consumer abuses, both important steps forward. At the same time, 29 million people remain uninsured, most of the non-elderly population who have employer-paid coverage are increasingly underinsured, and costs continue to soar at 200–400 percent of inflation. (See sidebar.)

Single Payer Is On The National Agenda—And It’s Thanks To People’s Movements

Put People First! Pennsylvania rallies on November 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Penn. (Photo courtesy of Put People First! Pennsylvania)

By Ben Palmquist for In These Times – As Senator Bernie Sanders introduces a bill for universal, publicly financed healthcare on Wednesday, he has growing political momentum behind him. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are cosponsoring the bill, and even former Senator Max Baucus—who shut down consideration of single payer during the drafting of the Affordable Care Act—is now saying that universal healthcare is “going to happen.” These statements among leading Democratic Senators mark a potentially momentous shifting of the political winds, but most media coverage of the Senators’ statements is misplaced: It ignores the powerful corporate and ideological forces that have long driven both parties’ opposition to universal healthcare. It ignores widespread public frustration with both parties and the tectonic social and economic changes transforming American politics. It ignores how people all over the country are organizing to channel popular anger into people’s movements that are independent of both political parties. And it ignores how these movements are beginning to completely upend the politics of healthcare. Across the United States, communities are organizing for universal healthcare. One of the most innovative and dynamic campaigns is led by Put People First!

Insurance Industry Pays Senators To Not Support Improved Medicare For All

Supporters of the Medicare for All Act of 2017 hold signs at an event to introduce the bill in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images.

By Andrew Perez for MapLight – Democratic senators who haven’t signed on to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal have received twice as much cash from the insurance industry as the bill’s sponsors, MapLight has found. The insurance industry has donated an average of $23,600 since 2010 to senators who have co-sponsored Sanders’ bill, according to a MapLight review of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic senators who have not yet supported his legislation, including Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, have received an average of $55,500 from the industry. The independent senator from Vermont has been pitching a government-run, single-payer health care system since 1993. But the idea became popular among progressive voters during his 2016 primary campaign against eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and is picking up support. About one-thirdof American adults polled in June said they now support a single-payer health care system. Sanders, who formally proposed his “Medicare for All” plan on Wednesday, has picked up support from 16 of the Senate’s 46 Democrats. Supporters include potential 2020 presidential contenders, such as Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. A majority of House Democrats are backing a similar proposal introduced in January by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Ben Cardin, Free Speech, And The Art Of The Dodge

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin responding to criticism of his support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act during a town hall meeting on August 31, 2017.

By Kim Jensen for Mondoweiss – It’s 4:30 pm, and I’m driving from Baltimore down to Rockville, Maryland to join in a protest at Senator Ben Cardin’s Town Hall meeting on healthcare, but also to report on that protest for Mondoweiss. I turn on the radio. NPR is airing a segment on Hunter S. Thompson, which is entirely fitting, because I have already been planning to engage in a little gonzo journalism myself. In other words, I’ll be covering a story that I’m also part of, without the slightest pretense of neutrality. Unlike Hunter S. Thompson’s, my car isn’t stocked with cannabis, booze, and hallucinogens; I have, however, scored some McDonald’s. It’s a bad look, but believe me this is not for recreational use. I’m driving, digging into a pile of fries and guacamole burger on “artisanal bun,” and thinking about the impending encounter with our long-standing AIPAC representative, Senator Cardin, co-sponsor of the dangerous anti-BDS bill snaking its way through both houses of Congress. Under the current terms of the bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act—which the ACLU forcefully opposes—businesses, organizations, and even individuals who join in the international movement to boycott and divest from the state of Israel can potentially face astronomical fines and even jail time. As might be expected, my stomach begins to churn.

As Sanders Prepared Medicare Bill, Health Care Lobbyists Bankrolled Senate Democrats

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By David Sirota and Lydia O’Neal for IB Times – As Bernie Sanders worked to finalize his Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, corporate lobbyists representing the traditional opponents of single-payer health care — including the nation’s major private insurers and drug companies — poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Senate Democrats’ fundraising accounts. Now, many of those lawmakers have refused to sign on to the Medicare bill. Sanders has faced questions about whether or not the bill would garner solid support among Senate Democrats. So far, 16 Senate Democrats have said they will sponsor the legislation — which the insurance industry slammed after he announced it. A new study from campaign finance watchdog group MapLight found that since 2010, Democratic senators who have refused to sponsor the bill have, during their careers, raised twice as much insurance industry cash as those who support the legislation. As Republicans took over the White House earlier this year, significant campaign funding for Democratic senators has continued to come from lobbyists. According to federal campaign finance records reviewed by International Business Times, lobbyists, lobbying firms and one other corporate political action committee collectively delivered nearly $2 million in bundled campaign contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the first half of 2017.