Voters Are Fired Up For Single Payer Creating Dilemma For Democrats

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Above Photo: From healthoverprofit.org

On Sunday, June 4, the same day that Our Revolution, a Democratic Party group that arose from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, organized rallies and die-ins to highlight the number of people dying in the United States due to lack of access to health care, the New York Times published an article, “The Single Payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care“, prominently on the front page and above the fold.

The article quotes RoseAnn DeMoro, head of National Nurses United, saying, “There is a cultural shift. Health care is now seen as something everyone deserves. It’s like a national light went off.” Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan was also quoted, saying that rank and file Democrats “are energized in a way I have not witnessed in a long, long time.” Nolan is correct in stating that following the Democrat’s large loss in 2016, the party needs “a more boldly ‘aspirational’ health care platform.”

Democratic Party voters have been strong supporters of single payer health care for a long time. Polls have consistently shown that super-majorities of Democratic Party voters want single payer, but Democratic Party candidates keep telling them that they can’t have it. The Democratic Party has refused to add Medicare for All to its healthcare platform despite resolutions introduced by single payer advocates. Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus refuses to include single payer health care in their “People’s Budget.”

In 2009, with a Democratic President and majorities in the House and Senate, single payer health care was off the table. Instead, the “public option” was used to divide the Democratic Party voters and convince them that they were asking for too much. Democrats were toldthat the public option would be more politically feasible and would create a “back door” to single payer. Many were fooled. And the joke was on them because even the public option, which I call the “Profiteer’s Option,” was never meant to be in the final legislation.

While the New York Times wrongly blames the liberal and centrist Democrats for not supporting a public option, it was actually the White House and Democratic Party leadership that  kept it out of the final bill. In December of 2009, public pressure was working to convince the Senate to include a public option in its healthcare bill. That’s when leadership stepped in to stop them. Glenn Greenwald writes:

“I’ve argued since August that the evidence was clear that the White House had privately negotiated away the public option and didn’t want it, even as the President claimed publicly (and repeatedly) that he did.  … it is the excuse Democrats fraudulently invoke, using what I called the Rotating Villain tactic (it’s now Durbin’s turn), to refuse to pass what they claim they support but are politically afraid to pass, or which they actually oppose (sorry, we’d so love to do this, but gosh darn it, we just can’t get 60 votes).  If only 50 votes were required, they’d just find ways to ensure they lacked 50.  Both of those are merely theories insusceptible to conclusive proof, but if I had the power to create the most compelling evidence for those theories that I could dream up, it would be hard to surpass what Democrats are doing now with regard to the public option.  They’re actually whipping against the public option.  Could this sham be any more transparent?”

I was present at the Center for American Progress in March of 2009 when Senator Max Baucus stated that the public option was a bargaining chip being used to convince private health insurers to accept more regulations. It was Baucus’ staffer, Liz Fowler, a former senior vice president for one of the largest private insurance corporations, WellPoint, who wrote the framework for the Affordable Care Act and shepherded it through Congress. The scam was revealed early and though progressive groups knew it, they were complicit in the scam because they accepted being controlled and silenced by the White House.

Jim Messina, a former Baucus chief of staff, was hired by the White House to be “the enforcer” for President Obama’s agenda. Ari Berman described the situation in this enlightening article:

The administration deputized Messina as the top liaison to the Common Purpose Project. The coveted invite-only, off-the-record Tuesday meetings at the Capitol Hilton became the premier forum where the administration briefed leading progressive groups, including organizations like the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress, on its legislative and political strategy. Theoretically, the meetings were supposed to provide a candid back-and-forth between outside groups and administration officials, but Messina tightly controlled the discussions and dictated the terms of debate (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake memorably dubbed this the “veal pen”). “Common Purpose didn’t make a move without talking to Jim,” says one progressive strategist. During the healthcare fight, Messina used his influence to try to stifle any criticism of Baucus or lobbying by progressive groups that was out of sync with the administration’s agenda, according to Common Purpose participants. “Messina wouldn’t tolerate us trying to lobby to improve the bill,” says Richard Kirsch, former national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the major coalition of progressive groups backing reform. Kirsch recalled being told by a White House insider that when asked what the administration’s “inside/outside strategy” was for passing healthcare reform, Messina replied, “There is no outside strategy.”

The inside strategy pursued by Messina, relying on industry lobbyists and senior legislators to advance the bill, was directly counter to the promise of the 2008 Obama campaign, which talked endlessly about mobilizing grassroots support to bring fundamental change to Washington. But that wasn’t Messina’s style—instead, he spearheaded the administration’s deals with doctors, hospitals and drug companies, particularly the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most egregious aspects of the bill. “They cared more about their relationship with the healthcare industry than anyone else,” says one former HCAN staffer. “It was shocking to see. To me, that was the scariest part of it, because this White House had ridden in on a white horse and said, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’” When they were negotiating special deals with industry, Messina and Baucus chief of staff Jon Selib were also pushing major healthcare companies and trade associations to pour millions of dollars into TV ads defending the bill.

This was the Democratic Party’s deal with the devil. They rejected their voter base and went with the donor class to create and market a health law, the so-called Affordable Care Act, that protected the profits of the medical-industrial complex, and it backfired. In the 2010 election, 63 Democratic incumbents lost their seats in Congress and the party has been in decline ever since with a record low number of elected officials nationally. On issue after issue, the Democratic Party betrayed its base and voters finally gave up, choosing either to vote for other parties or not vote at all.

The question now is whether the Democrats will change.

So far, despite the title of the New York Times article, the answer is no. Although there is widespread voter support for single payer, Nancy Pelosi says the party is not going there and is funneling advocates’ energy to the state level, even though state single payer systems are not possible without federal legislation. At the national level, Democrats are paying lip service to Medicare for All: “We need to get there eventually but right now our task is to fix the ACA” is the current talking point.

The reality is that the political currents have shifted. The public is not going along with the con. People want solutions to the healthcare crisis, not more tinkering with the current failed healthcare system. Across the country, the message is clear that the public supports National Improved Medicare for All. And whichever political party in power embraces this will see a surge in popularity.

Our task as advocates for National Improved Medicare for All is to stay fired up – continue to speak out about Medicare for All, write about it in local papers, meet with members of Congress, organize in our communities and run for office. We must be clear and uncompromising in our demand for National Improved Medicare for All to create a visible tsunami of support that will wake our legislators up.

When the people lead, the legislators will follow.

  • As one of those who left the Democratic Party, I can only say, NIMFA or bust.

  • Steve1027

    Great work everyone! Even right-wing pundits are starting to say Medicare-for-all is becoming inevitable. We can do this!

  • Paul Mendoza

    Hillary campaigned on proposing her pushing for congress to introduce a Public Option so that for profit health care insurance companies who she envisioned are now abandoning states altogether leaving citizens with no private health care at all. This is nothing more than a political abuse and cruelty which leaves citizens in the U.S. with no health coverage at all. The greed and abuse suffered by this nation’s citizens because of a political machine that has been bought and corrupted so that all political parties are doing established rich donor’s bidding.

  • DHFabian

    When people talk about “single-payer,” they are thinking “universal health care,” translating into “free or low-cost medical care for me.” I think we need to figure out just what we’re talking about.

    Those in Congress know that universal health care is not possible. It would require a tax increase on the middle class. Further, it would defy logic, based on our social policies. We might consider “universal insurance coverage for the employed,” put into the context of the overall budget, factoring in our extreme military/war-related debts, and seeing what’s possible.

    On how universal health care would defy all logic: It would make no sense to provide anything more than emergency room services to our very poor, just to dump them back on the streets. Lack of adequate food and shelter take a heavy toll on human health. In fact, the overall life expectancy of the US poor already fell below that of every developed nation. Allowing anything more than emergency room services would be like trying to fill a sieve with water.

    We can’t shout that “healthcare is human right,” and assume that it has any relevance in America. The UN’s UDHR lists the most basic human rights as food, shelter, and medical care — even for the jobless poor. America disagrees. We try hard to avoid this discussing this, but ignoring the facts don’t make them go away.

  • DHFabian

    “Medicare for all” is coverage of some things for those who can afford the premiums. The low-income elderly and the disabled rely on dual-benefits, Medicare/Medicaid. Medicaid covers the costs of needed prescriptions, medical treatments, doctor visits, etc. We’ve seen virtually no liberal interest in protecting Medicaid.

  • DHFabian

    Many citizens have had no coverage all along. The middle class just didn’t notice. Did you know that Democrats ended actual welfare aid some 20 years ago? What do you think happens to the jobless (in a country that doesn’t have jobs for all), and many of those who can’t work (health, etc.)?

  • DHFabian

    What does that mean?

  • mwildfire

    You say NIMFA would require tax increases on the middle class. Not necessarily. The enormity of the “defense” budget, tax dodges for the wealthy and for corporations are all places the money could be found. But that’s in that hypothetical world in which the needs of the human people trump the profit motive of the donors, and to say that we don’t seem to be moving toward that world is an understatement.

  • mwildfire

    National Improved Medicare For All, the current unwieldy name for an imagined US system of universal healthcare.

  • mwildfire

    Two things stand out for me in this. One is the statement that state universal care systems aren’t possible without federal legislation. Margaret, is this true? I had thought this the likeliest avenue toward universal care, but if it requires a sign-off from the bought-and-paid-for, I guess it’s doomed.
    The other was the link to a “system of rotating villains”, which link didn’t work–I’d like to know what that was about. I suspect it’s this:when the Ds are in majority and there is an issue where there is strong public opinion on one side and the big donors are on the other, and they can’t get away with a voice vote in the dark, they pick out just enough Dems to vote with all the Republicans to give the donors what they want. Then the next time such a situation arises, the Dems who voted “wrong” from the public’s point of view are all allowed to vote “right” so their seats aren’t risked, and a different set are made to vote for the private interest. Each “villain” leaves this issue out of their mailings and bulletins to the voters at home, trumpeting their “right” voted and all the crap they do for PR purposes (I once watched the WV Legislature, in the last days of the Session when there was no time for amendments and aides were running between the Houses to get bills across in time for critical votes, waste an hour taking turns posing with and making statements in support of the National Guard which had helped out during a flood. And some Official Good Mother.)

  • kevinzeese

    It is paying taxes vs. paying premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Almost everyone in the US, except the wealthiest, would see the healthcare spending decline.

  • Steve1027

    I think a Medicare for all approach would probably combine Medicare with Medicaid. Maybe even the VA too? I’m not sure of the specifics, but with MFA, Medicaid and the VA would be redundancies that could probably have their resources funneled into an improved Medicare. Otherwise I guess it would still be a multi-payer system. Either way, we’re winning on this issue and I’m very thankful to all the people fighting for this day after day. People power works.

  • kevinzeese

    HR 676 merges Medicaid and Medicare. With regard to the VA it says the country must decide whether to merge it into the Improved Medicare for All system. In my view it would be best to merge them. Veterans would have access to all doctors and health facilities and VA hospitals could become center for excellence in specializing in war injuries. Vets would get the best of both worlds, but that is something to be decided separate from Improved Medicare for All.

  • Steve1027

    Hmmm…I see. Thanks for the info and your leadership on these issues.

  • Helga Fellay

    You say “state universal care systems aren’t possible without federal legislation” which may be incorrect. E.g., California has MediCal instead of Medicaid. It works like Medicaid, only it is streamlined, easier, more generous, and I assume it must be cheaper to administer because of it.

  • Helga Fellay

    You are wrong when you say “universal health care is not possible. It would require a tax increase on the middle class.” It works very well in every other nation, so would it be “not possible” here? Whatever tax increase you might see, would be just a small fraction compared to what you are paying now in insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays. In fact, it would work like Medicare works, where providers (including Big Pharma) are prevented from overcharging for medical care and drugs. This means in effect that there is a good chance it may not require any tax increases, because the program could be funded by monies saved by preventing providers and Big Pharma’s exorbitant and obscene profits.

  • Margaret Flowers

    Medicaid/Medical is not a universal system. To create a state-based universal healthcare system requires waivers from the federal government to be able to access federal dollars. And there are concerns about whether a state-based system would violate the federal ERISA law.

  • Helga Fellay

    I didn’t mean to imply that Medical is a universal system. It only applies in California to low income people, not all. But it differs from federal Medicaid which seems to indicate that that states seem to have SOME leeway in creating their own systems. How far those rights go, I have no idea. California probably asked for and received a waiver, as you indicate.

  • kevinzeese

    No state has received any waivers for single payer yet. Much of that must go through Congress and that is a heavy lift that will not be tried until the pass a law. Of course, the very likely next step will be for the insurance industry to put the issue on the ballot. It will take tens of millions to defend the law against their attack. The insurance industry knows if they lose California, they will lose a lot and it could lead to national single payer. It will be a big and expensive fight.

  • Helga Fellay

    you are right, of course. The insurance giants have endless cash and it will be no holds barred in their fight against single payer. One would think the people hurting from their exploitation would vote for single payer regardless of the brainwashing and endless fear mongering, but the past has not borne this out. The one who is most ruthless and shameless and has the most money tends to win, unfortunately.

  • Paul Mendoza

    Get a grip and stay in the present where we are trying to progress. If you don’t want health care for everyone and want only to continue making a profit off the sick and dying especially, the poor or minorities say it. Otherwise, have some compassion for others. The only thing you can change is your mind. You’re making little sense with your opinion of this nation being heartless to someone who grew up as a minority in this country.