Two weeks out from the midterm elections it is important to remember that politicians often say one thing and do another. Nowhere is this hypocrisy more apparent than in the current flock of Republican candidates who swear that they will protect Americans against insurance company discrimination based on pre-existing conditions while spending much of the last two years trying to repeal the law that enforces those protections.
But Republican candidates aren’t the only ones who stretch the truth. Ever since polls began showing that support for Medicare for All is wildly popular, Democrats have been jumping on the bandwagon and declaring their backing. For some of these candidates, however, Medicare for All is little more than an empty campaign slogan.
A recent New York Times article reports that some who claim to support Medicare for All are pulling their punches in deference to the medical industrial complex and are actually in favor of “incremental approaches, like a public option, that maintains the current insurance structure while allowing people to buy into Medicare.” Because they continue to treat healthcare as a commodity rather than a public good, these “incremental” proposals reproduce many of the worst features of our current dysfunctional healthcare system.
Real Medicare for All
The unions who support the Labor Campaign for Single Payer have identified seven essential features of expanded and improved Medicare for All:
- Guaranteed lifetime coverage for all with no breaks in coverage or barriers to enrollment.
- Full and comprehensive coverage including dental, optical, hearing, mental health and addiction services, long term care that prioritizes community and home based care, and the full range of reproductive health services.
- No financial barriers to care.
- A single standard of care for all.
- Public financing through equitable and progressive taxation so that at least 95% of all Americans will pay less than what they are currently paying.
- Freedom to choose providers.
- Protection of the rights of healthcare and administrative workers including adequately funded just transition benefits for displaced workers and a prohibition on the use of public funds to pay for union busting or to subsidize habitual violators of fair labor standards.
Hold Their Feet to the Fire
Victory in this fight will require a powerful social movement that is active before, during and after elections. Now is the time to hold politicians accountable and to press them to take positive actions to advance the fight for Medicare for All if they are elected. If your union or community organization is supporting a candidate for the U.S. Congress or Senate who claims to be a friend to Medicare for All, here are five questions you could ask them to test the depth of their commitment (you might also want to adapt these questions for candidates for state and local offices):
- Will you co-sponsor HR 676 in the House or S 1804 in the Senate?
- Will you join and actively participate in the Medicare for All Caucus co-chaired by Reps. Jayapal and Dingell?
- Will you regularly meet and confer with healthcare justice advocates at both a national and district level?
- Will you use the public megaphone that your office provides you to forcefully advocate for expanded and improved Medicare for All?
- Will you oppose any effort to water down or compromise Medicare for All legislation in ways that do not abide by the seven essential features?
Remember: this is no time to settle for the old Okie-Doke. Our movement is gaining momentum throughout the country. We need to elect officials who will be true champions for expanded and improved Medicare for All and who will hold themselves accountable to the movement that will emerge to win it.
A list compiled by the National Nurses United of Congressional candidates who support Medicare for All is available here.