The Affordable Care Act was a huge step forward, but finally compromised by its entanglement with for-profit medical care systems. What should be next? Beth Landry describes the growing surge for a single-payer, "Medicare for all" successor system.
/By Beth Landry,RN/ On January 15th, there were rallies all over the United States inspired by the imminent threat of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Here in Maryland, over a thousand people went to Bowie State University that day to defend healthcare. Shortly afterwards, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that “at least 18 million people would lose health insurance in the first year if Republicans move ahead with plans to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan.” Senator Bernie Sanders spoke near Detroit saying "Our job today is to defend the ACA. Our job tomorrow is to bring about a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.”
Timely enough, from January 13th to the 15th Healthcare-NOW!, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, and One Payer States hosted the Single Payer Strategy Conference in New York City. Approximately 500 organizers, activists and allies of healthcare for all from 26 states came together to network and strategize going forward for single payer. There has been some confusion as to what exactly the difference is between all of these terms. Physicians for a National Health Program, or PNHP (2016) concisely describe the distinction: “Single-payer national health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health care financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.” This is in stark contrast to the ACA, which is firmly planted in the for-profit insurance industry.
The weekend started off with a Single Payer Rally in front of Trump Tower and a welcome reception with speeches from organization leaders, elected officials and the keynote address from former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. On the second day, there were presentations on the “coming attacks on healthcare,” as well as workshops where participants divided into topic-based groups. Labor Campaign for Single Payer National Coordinator Mark Dudzic branded the fight for single payer as the “healthcare wing of the social justice movement.” Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy with the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United, fired up attendees when he declared that “profits off of human suffering must be challenged on moral grounds.”
Prior to departing on Sunday, the entire conference rolled up their sleeves on effective tangible solutions to take back home for guaranteeing healthcare for every person. Members of unions and groups such as Progressive Democrats of America, National Nurses United, the American Postal Workers Union, Campaign for a Healthy California, ACT UP, Social Security Works, Alliance for a Just Society, state affiliates of the AFL-CIO and many more were in attendance. Bookending the conference was a march of several hundred people from the conference hall to the Charging Bull, symbolic of Wall Street and corporate greed, which was joined by Our Revolution supporters.
Several from Maryland attended the Strategy Conference, including a Co-Chair of Maryland PNHP. More information can be found for our state’s initiative on single payer by visiting Healthcare is a Human Right Maryland, as well as the Maryland Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.
Beth Landry, RN, lives in Frederick and is a Progressive Maryland activist and a National Nurses United member.