Newsletter: Is Health Care A Commodity Or Right?

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. With just a week left before Congress’ budget reconciliation process ends, the Senate is once again peddling a poorly-thought out plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And once again, people are rising up in opposition to the plan, making it unpopular and unlikely to pass. At the same time, support for a National Improved Medicare for All single payer healthcare system is increasing and there are bills in both the House and Senate with record numbers of co-sponsors. Will the United States finally join the long list of countries that provide healthcare to everyone? Overall, it is a time to be optimistic.

Sanders Health Bill: Cover For Democratic Party Deals With Trump

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By Patrick Martin for WSWS. Senator Bernie Sanders took his campaign to whitewash the right-wing character of the Democratic Party to a new level Wednesday, introducing single-payer, “Medicare for all” legislation, co-sponsored by 15 Democratic senators, on the same day that House and Senate Democratic leaders were to visit the White House for cozy talks with President Trump on corporate tax cuts. The bill was given full-scale media promotion, including an op-ed column by Sanders in the New York Times, lengthy articles in all the major daily newspapers, and reports on the network and cable television news programs. This for a bill which has not the slightest chance of passage by the Republican-controlled Congress, which will never even hold a committee hearing, let alone bring it to a vote. This makes co-sponsorship an opportunity to strike a left pose without actually incurring the wrath of the insurance companies and other giant corporations that control the provision of health care in the United States. Accordingly, a half dozen Democratic senators who are beginning to promote themselves as potential 2020 presidential contenders signed on as co-sponsors—up from zero co-sponsors the last time Sanders introduced such a bill.

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!

‘We’re Figuring Out How We Can Mount A National Campaign’ For Single Payer

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By Staff of Common Dreams – I’m ‘absolutely’ introducing single-payer healthcare bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that he will “absolutely” introduce legislation on single-payer healthcare now that the Senate GOP’s bill to repeal ObamaCare has failed. “If people don’t like the private insurance that they’re getting, they should have a Medicare-type public option available in every state in this country,” Sanders said. Asked if he would follow through on his pledge to submit single-payer legislation, Sanders said, “Of course we are, we’re tweaking the final points of the bill and we’re figuring out how we can mount a national campaign to bring people together” “We are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people,” Sanders said, “We should … move in the direction of every other major country.” “I believe at the end of the day, the American people will conclude that Medicare for all — Medicare is working now for people 65 or older — let’s expand it to everyone.”

Trumpcare Is Dead. 'Single Payer Is The Only Real Answer'

AP.  President John F. Kennedy gestures during his speech before a rally on medical care for the aged at New York’s Madison Square Garden on May 20, 1962.

By Zaid Jilani for The Intercept – THANKS TO A PAIR of defections from more GOP senators late yesterday, the Republican plan to repeal and replace or simply repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead — for now. But the health care status quo is far from popular, with 57 percent of Americans telling Gallup pollsters in March that they “personally worry” a “great deal” about health care costs. Many health care activists are now pushing to adopt what is called a “single payer” health care system, where one public health insurance program would cover everyone. The U.S. currently has one federal program like that: Medicare. Expanding it polls very well. One of the activists pushing for such an expansion is Max Fine, someone who is intimately familiar with the program — because he helped create it. Fine is the last surviving member of President Kennedy’s Medicare Task Force, and he was also President Johnson’s designated debunker against the health insurance industry. Fine, now 91, wrote to The Intercept recently to explain that Medicare was never intended to cover only the elderly population, and that expanding it to everyone was a goal that its architects long campaigned for. “Three years after the enactment of Medicare, in Dec. 1968, a Committee of 100 leading Americans was formed to campaign for single payer National Heath Insurance.

Democratic 'Resistance Summer' Becomes Protest Against Democrats

Screen shot from Robust Opposition, Rep. Keith Ellison denying he threatened to arrest single payer advocate

By Lauren Steiner for the Robust Opposition. The Democratic Party has called for a “Resistance Summer” to protest against Donald Trump. They are planning to hold events all over the country. This DNC video promotes “Resistance Summer” and features Rep. Keith Ellison pushing people to participate. Ellison is also featured in the Lauren Steiner “Robust Opposition” video below, where he is shown threatening to arrest an activist calling for single payer (at 7:29). At “Resistance Summer” event in southern California, the resistance turned from Donald Trump to the Democratic Party. People attending the event called for single payer, improved Medicare for all. This is a hot issue in California because healthcare activists are mobilized around a single payer bill that passed the senate but has been stalled by Assembly leader Anthony Rendon. The bill, SB 562, the Healthy California Act seeks to put in place single payer at the state level.

The Battles Ahead: Meet The Biggest Opponents Of Single-Payer

Health care activists gather outside Trump Tower to "declare healthcare a human right," January 13, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

By Michael Corcoran for Truthout – It has become fashionable to write premature obituaries of the Senate bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, using hyperbolic and misleading language. The Senate bill, according to varying headlines, is “in peril,” on “life support” and “dead on arrival.” These stories should be of little comfort given that the exact same headlines were published prior to the House passing its version of the repeal. That bill was also reportedly “on the verge of collapse,” “in tatters,” “flailing” and even “dead.” Such sentiment could give Americans a false sense of complacency. There is still a real danger that this contemptible bill, which according to the Congressional Budget Office would lead to 22 million Americans becoming uninsured, will still become law. Considering this, stopping this legislation — which repeals Medicaid as much as it does the ACA — should remain the top short-term priority for advocates of health care justice. But the fight to stop Trumpcare must also be part of a wider struggle for health care justice. The threat of this shameful legislation alone has demonstrated that it is morally indefensible to leave anyone without coverage. As a result, the argument for single-payer health care is starting to make sense to a lot of people…

Sen. Sanders Has His Health Priorities Backwards

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By Margaret Flowers for Health Over Profit. We thought that Senator Sanders was on track to introduce and advocate for a national improved Medicare for All bill, but Tuesday he stated publicly at a Planned Parenthood rally that his priorities are to first defeat the Republican health plan, then to improve the Affordable Care Act with a public option or allowing people to buy-in to Medicare, and then we can work for single payer.

We Need A Senate Version Of Improved Medicare For All

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By Margaret Flowers. It’s time to fight for a solution to the ongoing healthcare crisis in the United States. We are spending twice as much per person each year on health care than most other industrialized nations, enough to provide comprehensive high quality health care to everyone. HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act has 112 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, a record number since it was first introduced in 2003. HR 676 is a gold standard framework for a national health insurance. A Senate version of the bill is needed in order to put us in a strong position to achieve a high quality healthcare system. Although Senator Sanders campaigned heavily on Medicare for All, he back-tracked last fall after the election and said that he would not introduce a single payer bill. Activists urged him to change his mind and Senator Sanders did agree to introduce a Medicare for All bill, but it falls short of HR 676 in critical areas

Why Fight For Single-Payer Is More Important Than Ever

Adam Gaffney is a physician and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. (Physicians for a National Health Program)

By Sarah Jaffe for In These Times – Just from the big picture perspective, what are some of the things it is doing? Well, on the one hand, it is cutting programs. There is a major cut in Medicaid. Over 10 years, we are talking about greater than $800 billion dollars in Medicaid cuts. That is about a quarter of federal spending. That is going to throw millions of people off of Medicaid. As you know, Medicaid is a program for lower income people that covers a lot of Americans. More than 70 million. That is one thing. The second thing is it is going to weaken the subsidies that people use to buy health plans on the marketplaces, the so-called “Obamacare” plans. Those are still going to be around—the private insurance industry will still be subsidized—but those subsidies are going to be worse, they are going to be more regressive, and they are going to be less adequate for many folks. That is one side of the ledger. On the other side of the ledger there’s just a huge redistribution of wealth upwards. Essentially, it gets rid of a variety of taxes that the Affordable Care Act put in place, and that is almost entirely going to benefit the very wealthy.

Nader Rips Sanders Democrats For Putting Single Payer On Back Burner

Single payer protest in NYC by Occupy

By Staff of Single Payer Action – Last month, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) promised single payer activists that he would introduce his single payer bill in the Senate within the next couple of weeks. Now, according to Sanders’ staff, it’s not going to happen. In putting single payer on the back burner, Sanders has reverted to his November 2016 position when his staff told activists that no single payer bill would be introduced in the Senate because the Democrats wanted to focus on defeating the Republicans. “It’s one thing for Bernie Sanders to lead his followers back into the established Democratic Party,” consumer advocate Ralph Nader said. “But why can’t he pull the Democratic Party to adopt his highly popular agenda, led by single payer, which garnered many millions of voters last year? Those voters must be starting to wonder.” Kevin Zeese of Health Over Profit said that Sanders decision not to introduce the single payer bill “shows what Sanders’ priorities are.” “He has always said saving the Affordable Care Act comes before creating single payer,” Zeese said. “But it’s a mistake. Sanders says he wants to fix the problems of the ACA. How do you fix problems like 30,000 people dying every year? Single payer Medicare for all.”

Sen. Feinstein Booed For Not Supporting Single Payer Healthcare

Protesters outside the town hall said they were "absolutely pissed off at Dianne Feinstein" for insufficient resistance against the Trump administration. (Photo: @scottshafer/Twitter)

By Deirdre Fulton for Common Dreams – “I am not there,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein says of single-payer healthcare, a concept garnering big applause around the country. It’s not only Republicans that are feeling the heat in their hometowns during this congressional recess. Democrats who aren’t on board with increasingly popular progressive proposals are being held to account as well. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was a case-in-point on Monday, when she faced angry and vocal constituents at a midday town hall meeting in her hometown of San Francisco. It was her stance on single-payer healthcare—an idea that’s picking up momentum in the wake of last month’s TrumpCare debacle, especially in California—that drew the most vociferous response. When asked about her position on such a system, Feinstein responded: “If single-payer healthcare is going to mean the complete takeover by the government of all healthcare, I am not there.” According to the Los Angeles Times, one audience member called Feinstein a “sellout” as others joined in chants of “single-payer now!”

The Nation Rallies For Medicare For All

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By Margaret Flowers for Health Over Profit. The national demand for Medicare for All continues to gain momentum. The Republican’s attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with even crappier private health insurance before the spring recess failed, and instead people organized to create what every other industrialized nation has – a publicly-financed universal healthcare system. Eighteen members of Congress signed on last week to HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act after citizen lobby days, phone calls from constituents and pressure at local town halls. The bill currently has 94 co-sponsors in the House, more than ever in its 14-year history. More are expected to sign on after the spring recess where they will continue to hear from constituents on this issue. And Senator Sanders is expected to introduce a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate in May.

International Day Of Action For Public Health Care

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By Margaret Flowers for Health Over Profit. On April 7, people around the world took action to celebrate World Health Day by declaring that health care is not a commodity and should not be privatized. The theme of the day was “Our health is not for sale. In the more than 80 cities in the European Union that participated, the demands were to provide full public funding for their health systems and to end privatization. In the United States, the demand was to create a universal publicly-funded health system, as every other industrialized nation has done. In Washington, DC, health advocates gathered in front of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is close to Capitol Hill, with a large banner that said, “Our health is not for sale” to speak out about the failures of the United States’ market experiment in health care.

April 3 - 7: Week Of Action For Medicare For All

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By Health Over Profit for Everyone. This is an exciting time because support for HR 676: “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act” is growing. Five new co-sponsors signed on last week. And, thanks to pressure from grassroots activists, Senator Sanders announced that he will introduce a companion bill to HR 676 in the Senate. We expect it in mid-May. From April 3 to 7, actions such as teach-ins, marches and speak outs are taking place across the country. Friday, April 7, is the international day of action against the privatization of health: “Our Health is NOT for Sale!”.