August 2023 Events and Newsletter

Join Us in Our Regular Monthly Meetings

In the spirit of making positive change and moving forward, National Single Payer will be changing our meeting format to encourage more attendance. We will monitor the success of this new format and reassess after four months.

Going forward, the first Wednesday of the month will be dedicated to National Single Payer Educational Sessions. We expect these sessions to be motivating, optimistic, and offer participants a sense of belonging to a larger movement for National Single Payer. We hope these sessions will expand the scope of work with new allies and help broaden the movement. Educational Sessions, which last 90 minutes, will include a presentation by a content expert, break-out sessions to encourage action and fostering enthusiasm for the movement.

The last Wednesday of the month will be Working Group Meetings where NSP activists discuss and review organizing activities. You are encouraged to participate. See the link below.

We are happy to announce that Dr. Margaret Flowers will inaugurate the first NSP Educational Session on Wednesday, August 9 at 5 pm PST / 8 pm EST. 

How would a national health care system impact your physical and mental health, job, personal wealth, relations with your boss, sense of worth and safety, and practically every aspect of your life? 

Find out August 9, when NSP and Dr. Flowers present “The Impact of National Single Payer Health Care on American Life.”

Dr. Flowers is a pediatrician, public health advocate, and nationally renowned activist. She practiced medicine for 17 years, first as the director of pediatrics at a rural hospital in Maryland, and then in private practice. After witnessing the corporatization of her profession, she became an advocate for NIMA, National Improved Medicare for All. She joined Physicians for a National Health Program, serving as a Congressional Fellow, where she advocated for single payer health care. In 2009, she was arrested at a Senate Roundtable on Health Insurance by Senator Baucus for standing and speaking up on behalf of single payer, as no representative for that kind of system was invited to the roundtable discussion. On being arrested, she said, “Our first goal was to have a seat at the table… If we couldn’t get a seat, at least we could expose the insincerity of the current attempt at health care reform and show that single payer was actively being excluded.”

In 2011, Dr. Flowers organized with the Occupy Movement in Washington, DC, which evolved into her work at Popular Resistance in 2013, which she co-founded with Kevin Zeese. In 2016, Dr. Flowers ran for U.S. Senate in Maryland under the Green Party and garnered 3% of the vote. She continues to be a passionate and articulate activist for a national, single payer health care system and the battle for social justice.

You must register in advance for the meeting on August 9 with Dr. Margaret Flowers.

And join us Wednesday, August 23 for the Working Group meeting, where we will follow up on actions recommended by the Educational Session and organizational business. Agenda will be sent out prior to the meeting for registered participants.

You must register in advance for the Working Group meeting on August 23.

Movement for National Single Payer Healthcare: The Need For Clarity    

Why has the progress in building a national SP movement stalled?

With the public support for a national single payer system remaining strong and the need greater than ever, why is the movement stalled? What are the key sources of our power? Who are our allies?  What can we do and how do we focus our energies to build the power necessary to end profiteering and make health care free at the point of service?

More than a decade after the misnamed Affordable Care Act, (ACA) we still have tens of millions without any coverage while millions more are saddled with high deductible, narrow network “junk health insurance” plans. The pandemic exposed the US’s bankrupt for-profit privatized “healthcare system.” The industry and bipartisan political response continues to prioritize profits over public health, resulting in more than a million deaths – including hundreds of thousands who died due to the lack of basic health care. Rather than expose this system of corporatized healthcare fiefdoms and push for national single payer, both Democrats and Republicans continue to support billions in tax subsidies to prop up the alleged “market based” plans that would collapse without them.

A Society in Crisis: Profits First, Not People’s Needs

This healthcare catastrophe is but one of the systemic social, economic, and political crises now unfolding in the US. Clarity is required. Root causes must be identified, and we must unite around real solutions. 

Income inequality is rising, almost fifty-eight percent of Americans livepaycheck to paycheck, medical debt is the largest form of consumer debt, plaguing nearly two-in-ten, of which 60% are covered with health insurance. Student and credit card debts are literally killing the working class. Poverty is now the fourth leading cause of death. As Biden, Democrats, and Republicans united to cut 15 million poor from Medicaid health benefits and millions more from Food Stamps (including new “work requirements” added for those aged 50-54 in the “debt ceiling” deal), liberals, labor, and NGOs remained silent.

Despite the fact that traditional Medicare was created because insurance companies could not make enough profit covering seniors, the decades-long privatization of traditional Medicare continues under Biden as with Trump and all previous Presidents and Congresses. The ACA has even immortalized a Fraud and Abuse Waiver that voids prosecution and literally encourages corporations and private equity to privatize Medicare under the guise of “innovation.” It has no Congressional oversight. 

The US has the highest maternal and infant mortality rateamongany other high income countries despite spending the most on health care. Lifespans are down, food pantries are overwhelmed. Corporate profits from the world’s top 722 companies were more than 1 billion in 2021 and 2022, 89% higher than their average over the previous four years. While profits are sky high, real wages remain stagnant and homelessness is growing, but there is always billions and billions of dollars for war. And all these crises have a much greater impact on the poor, minorities, women, seniors and children. 

Weak Ineffective Insider Strategy is Not The Solution

As RalphNaderrecently stated, many have succumbed to “the satiety of exposing and denouncing, without moving to action.” Is describing the evils of privatization, war spending and corporate profiteering enough? There is a need for new and bold initiatives exposing not just the “bad actors” and their enablers, but the wholesale corporate takeover of America as the source of our dilemma. 

Instead of organizing a realfight, we have the siren song of incrementalism pushed by the Democrat Party and aligned nonprofit groups who are now openly discouraging the fight for national single payer because the ”political climate” is just not right. 

It undermines, demoralizes, and weakens the movement’s principles and makes it incapable of providing the necessary practical and bold program the country needs and wants. It reduces the fight for healthcare as a human right to the whims of opportunistic politicians and political horse trading. It shows a total lack of confidence in the necessary strategy of winning people over to support single payer when the “political climate” of public opinion is in fact receptive to our message. As if the corporate monster and their political enablers are receptive to piecemeal legislation when every social and labor gain won through mass struggle in the US is now under attack. We must have the courage and endurance to understand and fight back.

Instead, the unions, the top leaders are following a similar Democrat Party line that falsely merges labor and the public interest with corporatism. Going backwards from over 600 union endorsements for John Conyers’s HR 676 more than a decade ago, labor leaders parrot the corporate line of privatization which includes selling tax-subsidized for-profit Medicare Advantage plans and ignoring the ongoing privatization of traditional Medicare. Rather than raising the demand to take healthcare “off the table,” they continue the approach that pigeonholes each union into making health coverage an individual “bargaining item,” extracted at the expense of improved wages and working conditions. This strategy has already proven it can not lower costs or provide secure benefits to union members, retirees or the public. 

Similarly many Democrat and labor operatives attribute the privatization of traditional Medicare to Donald Trump – when in fact the program has been under constant attack by corporate interests supported by both parties since its inception. Trump picked up and used the program created by the ACA under Obama to accelerate the corporatization of Medicare which Biden continues. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation was originally given a ten year billion dollar budget to privatize under the guise of innovation. 

Not surprisingly, the AFL-CIO refuses to issue any statement against Medicare privatization since they too are selling the “product.”

How Can We Make A Difference?

National Single Payer welcomes and encourages a vigorous debate to help shift the direction of our struggle to create a nonpartisan independent popular movement, connecting healthcare to the broader issues of inequality. 

We need labor unions that will initiate rank and file and public education programs that explain and expose the for profit healthcare system and how national single payer can change people’s lives for the better. 

In the late 1990’s the local Central Labor Council in Pennsylvania where I was President held a public Town Hall on the threat of Social Security privatization. Hundreds attended, including union members and the public. Many remarked that you could see and feel the untapped potential to change the political discourse if hundreds of similar town halls were organized by labor in conjunction with allies. A good example of the kind of independent politics that is both possible and incredibly necessary today. 

Let’s use this understanding to reach out and explain, build relationships with everyday people and the organizations they are involved in to help push them into action. We need to garner popular support by encouraging grassroots organizing activities like town halls, rallies, teach-ins, voter referendums, petition drives, mass meetings with public officials that encourage citizen involvement and the building of coalitions of like minded people. Do we have the clarity to understand the necessity of a people’s solution as the only way out?

Ed Grystar, Steering Committee, National Single Payer 

Ten Billion Dollar Budget to Privatize Medicare 

There is no better example of the bipartisan complicity of Congress then the set up of a special program called Fraud and Abuse Waivers instituted under the guise of innovation. Established under the Affordable Care Act, with an initial ten billion dollar budget, the Center for Medicare Medicaid Innovation has no oversight, and it appears that everyone in Congress is happy with funding these privatization schemes. Ask your member of Congress what’s going on and demand this be ended. Thanks to NSP Steering Committee member Kay Tillow for her article, linked here.

Pennsylvania State Democrat Committee Tables Resolution Against Medicare Privatization

resolution asking the Biden Administration to end the ongoing privatization of Medicare via the ACO / REACH program was “tabled” by the PA State Democrat Committee on June 2, 2023. The resolution was submitted by Lou Hancherick of Butler County, PA and member of the Western PA Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare. The resolution was adapted from similar ones passed in West Virginia and Texas. Judy Albert, MD, and NSP Steering Committee member also assisted in the writing of the resolution. 

This resolution was circulated for months and passed the rules committee. It appeared to have wide support until the day of the vote where it was scuttled by top leaders who claimed committee members didn’t understand it, while others said it was going “against” President Biden’s policy. A few days after this measure was tabled, a member of the committee contacted Lou Hancherick and said that she contacted her Medicare plan and found that her physician was in a ACO without her knowledge – exactly what the resolution was trying to stop. This effort shows why a real people’s movement will be required to achieve our goals. Should there be new information, we will let you know. Linked here is a copy of the resolution. Please use it for your efforts where possible.

Justice for East Palestine Ohio and the Need for Medicare for All

Remember the Affordable Care Act? Inserted into the ACA was a provision that permitted the implementation of Medicare coverage to the town of Libby, Montana due to environmental poisoning from mining. This was the work of Montana Senator Democrat Max Baucus who ordered the arrest of SP activists during Congressional hearings on the ACA. This provision is still available and could be used in East Palestine, Ohio to help the people counter the effects of the massive environmental harm due to the train derailment.

Update on Single Payer Supporters in Western Pennsylvania Organizing for Town Hall on Healthcare Crisis

Activists from the Western PA Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare and the Physicians for National Health Program are making progress working with members of  the Allegheny County Council to hold a Town Hall on the healthcare crisis. The single payer solution will be highlighted. Tentative plan is for the first hearing on the problem of Medical Debt to be in September 2023. Allegheny County has a population of over one million, including the city of Pittsburgh. National Single Payer will keep you updated on how this effort develops in the weeks ahead.