“Whatever the outcome of the current debate over healthcare reform in the 111th Congress, the task of establishing healthcare as a human right, not a privilege, will still lay before us.”
– “The Social Insurance Model for Healthcare Reform,” AFL-CIO Convention, September, 2009.
To all Supporters of the Labor Campaign for Single Payer:
The passage of the health insurance reform and reconciliation bills has prompted a number of commentaries ranging from the overly exuberant comparisons of the bills to Social Security (which might be true had President Roosevelt turned over the Social Security Administration to Goldman Sachs) and Medicare (which also might be true had President Johnson deliberately designed a plan that excluded millions of senior citizens from coverage) to the downright apocalyptic (“It’s armageddon. The Health Care Reform Bill will ruin our country.”–House Minority Leader John Boehner 3/20/10).
Among supporters of single payer Medicare-for-All, a more sober mood prevails. Initial responses range from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ claim that it is “an important step forward” to the Physicians for a National Health Program who call it a “false promise of reform” and Health Care Now’s charge that the bill “fails to meet the needs of the people.”
Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the National Nurses Union, has written a well-balanced critique from a single payer perspective. And Donna Smith, whose family’s plight was featured in the Michael Moore film Sicko, went back to look at how the legislation would have affected the patients depicted in the movie, while National Organization for Women (NOW) President Terry O’Neil points out that the bill’s passage came at the expense of a “tragic setback for women’s rights.”
At the Labor Campaign for Single Payer’s National Meeting in early March, we came to the conclusion that, in the end, the debate between those who maintain that the current legislation is “better than nothing” versus those who believe it will “make things worse” will lead us nowhere. What is important now is to make sure that this incredible movement that has arisen to fight for the right to healthcare for all in America continues beyond this moment.
While it will take some time to sort out all of the meanings and consequences of the passage of this legislation, certain things are already quite clear:
- Real reform is possible. As many predicted, opposition to the moderate package of legislative reforms was just as implacable, vicious and ideological as opposition to Medicare-for-All. Compromise gained no new ground for the compromisers. In the end, firm presidential and congressional leadership, bucked up by the labor movement and other allies, prevailed. We can also prevail against the same enemies.
- We’ve already won the battle of ideas. During the two-year debate preceding this week’s votes, single payer Medicare-for-All emerged as the gold standard against which all other reforms were measured. There is no longer any credible dispute over the fact that Medicare-for-All is the most cost-effective and just way to provide quality healthcare for all in America.
- The expectation that healthcare should be a basic right has been established as has the principle that it must be progressively financed.
- The healthcare system that will emerge from this legislation is unstable and financially unsustainable. It is headed for crisis, perhaps even before it is fully implemented in 2017.
We in the Labor Campaign will join with our allies to help blaze a path forward. We will embrace opportunities to move our issue at a national level while evaluating and coordinating efforts to institute single payer reforms in the various states. We will look to open up new fronts in the fight and bring in new allies as the forces of privatization begin to use the looming fight over “entitlement reform” to attack Social Security and Medicare.
We will explore the impact of the new legislation on collective bargaining and will act in solidarity with workers everywhere who stand up and fight for healthcare. We will work to ensure that the labor movement fulfills its historic mission to lead the fight to establish healthcare as a fundamental right for all in America.
All across the country, activists continue to organize and strategize for healthcare for all. We want to hear from you. How does this legislation affect our movement? What are you doing to continue the fight for Medicare-for-All in your union and your community?
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