Activists Mobilize For Universal Health Care As Republicans Propose Limiting Coverage
The Republican Party finally published its proposed replacement for Obamacare, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The overhaul would put countless Americans, especially those at and below the low income bracket, at risk of losing access to important benefits like Medicaid and insurance subsidies.
Activists and organizers across the United States are not sitting idle as politicians wrangle over the GOP’s bill. Instead, they’re mobilizing local communities in favor of a different health care model that benefits all Americans.
Jeremy Gong is the co-chair of the East Bay chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The chapter is part of the Campaign for a Healthy California (CHC), a statewide coalition spearheaded by the California Nurses Association (CNA), which fights for a single-payer healthcare system.
“It is essential that, as socialists, we fight to decommodify goods and services that address basic needs, like health insurance, housing, education, clean water, and food,” Gong said. “These should all be guaranteed to everybody as a human right, not traded on the market like any other commodity, or sliced up and means-tested as are Medicaid or food stamps.”
A single-payer health care model, on the other hand, would mean a nationalized system that is comprehensive and not for profit, thereby allowing people to receive care indiscriminately. The capitalist health care scheme, in which some are forced to start GoFundMe campaigns to pay for their medical treatment, will only lead to more suffering from issues people often don’t have control over.
Gong worked as an organizer for the Sierra Club and describes the fight for single-payer health care as an opportunity for the Left to “unify and bring millions of people newly politicized in the Trump era into militant organizations and coalitions.”
In California, Gong explains that Corporate Democrats control most of the state and they’re not going to answer to constituents in need “until we can build a big enough coalition that can either force the elected officials to the left on issues like healthcare, or replace them.”
The East Bay DSA is canvassing in support of SB 562, the Healthy California Act, which would replace the private insurance model with single-payer healthcare for all Californians. On February 25, they launched their official Single Payer CA campaign.
Frankenstein Monster-Like Bills
What GOP representatives have called “fiscally responsible legislation” is being denounced by numerous healthcare associations, including the American Medical Association (AMA).
The AMA released a letter, which stated that, while the organization agrees problems with Obamacare must be addressed, they cannot support the GOP’s bill due to the “expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations.”
Eugene Puryear is an author and activist, who was on the presidential ticket for the Party for Socialism and Liberation alongside Gloria La Riva. He said that what’s currently taking place in Congress over health care is a “charade,” which demonstrates what happens “when we treat healthcare like a commodity, not a basic right.”
The GOP’s health care plan includes a provision which bases the refundable tax credit a person receives not just on their income but also their age, which will directly impact low income households. High income earners are likely to benefit the most from it.
The tax cut for high income earners included in this bill would mean that, according to David Cutler, professor of applied economics at Harvard University, there would likely be “really, really drastic Medicaid cuts and [a reduction] to the subsidies for people to buy coverage”.
Another terrifying reversal found in the Republican healthcare plan is the end to prohibitions that keep insurance companies from charging older people more than young people, which would cause premiums to rise for some of the country’s sickest people.
While the GOP’s proposals for limiting insurance coverage have dominated news headlines, little attention has been paid to proposals to cover everyone, such as the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act introduced by Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan in January.
“Both the ACA and the AHCA are Frankenstein monster-like bills,” Eugene Puryear argues. “[They’re] contorting themselves every which way to ensure profits for insurance companies and other parts of the healthcare industry, while incidentally giving some people healthcare.”
Puryear argues coverage under single-payer is cheaper than in the private market, and it produces better health outcomes and satisfaction for the patient.
“The experience of essentially every other OECD nation bears this out,” he said. “Yet, the American political system is immune to good ideas that infringe on the rights of capitalist profit making, dooming millions to somewhere between no healthcare to limited and expensive care.”