In the first part of this article, I wrote about the importance of healthcare, and how it is the issue of the moment. Now I will elaborate on a three-prong strategy to win healthcare and build the movement.
Part one: The Rationale
While the media and the establishment politicians continue to debate the merits of a single-payer program, in honest and informed minds the debate is over. The United States has among the worst outcomes in the developed world, including lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality rate, and high rate of untreated mental illness. Prescriptions routinely go unfilled. It is not uncommon to procrastinate on doctor’s visits until treatment becomes expensive or impossible. Millions of people are tied to jobs that they loathe because they do not want to lose healthcare for themselves and their families. Those who are sick must often rely on the goodwill of friends and strangers to fund their medical treatment, resigning their dignity to start a Go-Fund-Me and beg for help in their desperate hour.
Our healthcare system which covers fewer people, and offers worse quality, is also the most expensive. That makes little sense.
It makes even less sense when this happens in the richest nation in the world. All of the countries which offer healthcare as a right—like Mexico, Canada, Sweden, Portugal, Romania, Iceland, the UK, Tunisia, Taiwan, and the list goes on―are less wealthy than ours. Some of them, far less wealthy.
These are indisputable facts. It requires serious mental gymnastics to twist or ignore them. A not-for-profit healthcare program is economically and morally justified. It should no longer be a discussion.
The only question is how to get there, and this also has a simple answer. Medicare is liked by those who are enrolled. The infrastructure is already in place. Those who designed it originally intended for it to be a universal healthcare program.
Those who argue for “improving the Affordable Care Act,” on the other hand, often have hidden motives and covert allegiances. This is not a mere suggestion, or a “conspiracy theory,” it is a fact. Hillary Clinton once promoted the idea of universal healthcare, and even retorted in her presidential campaign against Barack Obama, “since when do other Democrats attack one another on universal healthcare?” Eight years later, however, Hillary Clinton passionately dictated on stage to her followers that single-payer will “never, ever come to pass.”
What Hillary Clinton did not announce on that day is that between her previous fight for universal healthcare and her newer, “pragmatic” position to “improve the ACA,” she had taken millions from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries—the groups who are most powerfully in opposition to Medicare-for-All, since it would kill their profiteering via healthcare.
Or consider Dianne Feinstein, heralded by some as a “fighter” of a politician, and who was recently suggested as a potential 2020 presidential candidate. At a town hall, Feinstein gave an incredible hoop-jumping, long-winded answer on why she does not support an expansion of Medicare to Medicare-for-all. Like many other politicians in the Democratic Party, she was lying to cover up a truth that she would not admit that day: she had taken money from the profiteering segment of the healthcare industry, and in return, would not fight against it.
Feinstein said that she does not support “a government takeover” of healthcare, and thus will not support Medicare-for-All. Surely, though, she must know that Medicare-for-All is not a government takeover of healthcare, but simply an expansion of an already existing, highly rated public insurance program, and an elimination of the profit motive in denying care. Coincidentally, just days after Feinstein’s refusing to support Medicare-for-All, she attended a fundraiser with lobbyists from the healthcare industry.
Recently, the California speaker of the house, Anthony Rendon, blocked a state bill for single-payer (SB 562) from being voted on. The California state legislature has a Democratic supermajority, but Rendon, like others who have denied Medicare-for-All, gave a string of weak excuses (better understood as “talking points”) on why he shelved the bill, thus protecting it from a vote and halting forward progress on funding solutions. Rendon, like the others—including some in the California legislature—has taken quite a bit of money from the people who do not want Medicare-for-All to become reality.
What we find is that over and over again, the opponents of Medicare-for-All are not so concerned with healthcare justice. This is why they are wrong. They are willing to take a slow and unclear path toward an undefined “universal care,” promising that it will come to pass at perhaps some mythical point in the future, when we already have a good option right in front of us. And consistent with their donors, you will not find these politicians renouncing the insurance and pharmaceutical companies in favor of a better system.
Republicans, also, of course, oppose Medicare-for-All, despite many of their officials’ likely awareness of the overwhelming evidence that it will cost less, treat more, and is a better system for the vast majority.
Again, follow the money. They are lying. The most vocal opponents of “socialized medicine,” using the condemnation of “big government,” have taken big money from the healthcare industry―which stands to lose profit upon the passage of Medicare-for-All. It’s not a coincidence. It is the reason. They are not interested in the best healthcare solution for the public―to them, that is not the point.
Our opponent’s case is weak, and ours is strong. We are in the right. The public is beginning to see this, with the majority supporting Medicare-for-All, and we will continue to shed light and deepen the support. We have won the ideological battle on healthcare. And we will continue to make sure it is won.
And since we know we are right, we fight our opponents without apology.
Part 2: Shut down the opposition
Our opponents stand on shaky ground, and thanks to the truly universal need for health care―its high value to all human beings―and thanks to the overwhelming evidence of a better way forward, the public is growing more aware of the flimsy case against Medicare-for-All. The politicians who question and confound what is now a basic issue of justice have seen their influence wane on public opinion, and now, as activists and intellectuals, it is our job to remove the opposition’s ground completely.
With the case for Medicare-for-All being nearly self-evident, we confront every political opponent of single-payer with the looming prospect of political defeat. You better listen, we say. Healthcare is important, we all need it, and we know you are wrong to keep it from us.
Your job is to serve us, the people, not to deny us care, especially not for the sake of your own political campaign’s funding. If you do not support healthcare justice―and fight for it―you will be replaced. That’s it, there will be no excuses.
We confront every single opponent of Medicare-for-All with this tactic. And we make good on the promise. We have candidates waiting in the wings to replace them. These are candidates whom we’ve made sure will do the right thing. “If you, sitting official, do not represent us―these people will.”
We also confront the media. The mainstream media is largely corporate-owned, and thus will primarily continue to serve corporate interests, but we are not powerless to affect change through this avenue. We continue to boycott and rally against any media that serves to defend the insurance and pharmaceutical industries from an urgent transition to Medicare-for-All. We let them know, in any non-violent way that we can, that being on the wrong side of this issue will make them increasingly irrelevant.
We bring more into our ranks by pointing out that the mainstream media is overwhelmingly being dishonest in their framing of the issue, and disingenuous in its lack of attention and legitimate discussion on healthcare solutions. Our growing army of angry people who need healthcare will press and press the mainstream media, until they bend or break.
Independent, progressive media is not exempt from our criticism, or withdrawing of support. Recently The Intercept published an article which called out the nurses and activists in California, who have been trying to pass single-payer at the state level, as if they are the ones lying and playing political games―simply to advance their personal careers. The backlash from the activist community was strong here―as it should be. While The Intercept may overall be a progressive, independent source of news and analysis, we will not stand for hit pieces on single-payer activists, or the prospects of universal care.
Remember, the healthcare debate is over. We know where we need to go; this is not a game. Anyone who stands against the obvious move to universal care will meet the wrath of our collective voice, and our unsubscription. We most certainly should threaten to unsubscribe. Just a short explanation will suffice: “We know that Medicare-for-All would cost less, treat more, and do it better. What do you have to gain by opposing it?”
Part 3: A world to win
We won the debate. Then we use our moral and economic high ground to shut down the opponents, by calling out their disingenuous arguments, and threatening to withdraw our support from them and ultimately replace them. The third prong, and this happens simultaneously as parts one and two, is to organize.
National Nurses United (NNU) has been doing great work in California, among their activist allies. Democratic Socialists of America have been ramping up a campaign for Medicare-for-All, and are working on a plan to take this national, to harness the power of their many autonomous chapters in winning healthcare and building the movement.
Every progressive organization should be doing this, and everyone who voted Sanders, at the least, should consider joining (or at least working with) one of these organizations. It doesn’t matter whether one is a “Bernie progressive,” or a Socialist of any stripe, this is the current issue to care about, and the critical action to take.
We don’t have to entirely forget about all the other important issues. In fact, we shouldn’t. But we should shift a large amount of our current focus and energy to healthcare. This is the critical battle that can and must be won, right now, and it has the most potential to build the current movement.
Medicare-for-All will be won by capturing and furthering the narrative on social media and independent media. It will be won by knocking on doors, phone banking, and holding rallies and sit-ins. It will be won by pressuring the officials, and the media, in creative and persistent ways. The battle for healthcare will be finally won when there is so much public awareness of the inevitability of Medicare-of-All―and so much pressure on the politicians to implement the program―that it will be impossible not to. This is how “the people” have won throughout history, and it is how we will win in the present.
Winning a single-payer system is only the beginning. The massive tidal wave of newly organized activists, and regular people who simply want their healthcare, could leave us more unified, and more powerful―than ever before in our nation’s history. It is entirely possible, and will depend on our action.
In any case, we’ll have protected the vulnerable, and found a common cause. We’ll have shown that a new world is possible―one that values people over profits―even in America.
And when we have that tidal wave, we’ll go from there.