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Medicare and Medicaid, a major gift of the Civil Rights movement

August 28, 2018

by Barry Hermanson

I recently finished reading David Barton Smith’s book, “The Power to Heal, Civil Rights, Medicare, and the Struggle to Transform America’s Health Care System.” It is an excellent history of healthcare in the United States, particularly in the 1950s and ‘60s. For me, as a longtime Medicare for All advocate, the book also provided insight about our continuing struggle to achieve better healthcare in the U.S. at a lower cost for everyone.

Healthcare in many other countries is based on the principal of shared risk. Of looking after each other. Everyone needs healthcare. In the United States, some call that socialism. Instead, we prefer the free market to determine the amount and quality of healthcare received.

Even the Veterans Administration’s hospitals were segregated until 1953, when President Eisenhower ordered them integrated, a year before Brown v. Board of Education ordered the integration of schools. – Photo: Library of Congress

In a free market system, when you can’t pay, you don’t get much. You don’t deserve it. The result: People in the U.S. do not live as long and pay twice as much for healthcare services as people in other developed countries.

For those of you who can’t pay for the cost of your healthcare, tell me about your experiences. I will incorporate your comments into future columns.

Starting in July of 1966, Medicare and Medicaid dollars were given only to hospitals with fully integrated facilities. Most hospitals integrated within four to six months of receiving notifications.

It remains today an astonishing accomplishment for the civil rights movement. Mary Ratcliff, editor of the Bay View newspaper, said: “I’d celebrate the integration of hospitals more enthusiastically if the health outcomes weren’t so much worse for Blacks than whites.” I agree. Equality in healthcare is the goal.

Towards the end of the book, Smith writes:

“(T)he number of hospital beds per one thousand population in the United States is now less than half the average of high-income Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development countries (page 185).”

Because of the mandate to integrate, many hospital rooms have been converted to serve single occupants.

In a free market system, when you can’t pay, you don’t get much. You don’t deserve it. The result: People in the U.S. do not live as long and pay twice as much for healthcare services as people in other developed countries.

The Green Party is the only national political party that supports an Expanded and Improved Medicare for All. It is a major reason I am registered to vote with the Green Party: better healthcare at a lower cost for everyone. Democratic and Republican Party platforms, because of their support for the current system of healthcare delivery, essentially support profit and unequal outcomes.

On Nov. 6, there may be a change in the balance of power in Washington, D.C. Democrats may gain a majority in the House and the Senate. Unfortunately, little will change in the healthcare debate. Democrats continue to push for incremental change that does little more than put bandages on gaping wounds. Republicans say we don’t need any bandages.

Mary Ratcliff, editor of the Bay View newspaper, said: “I’d celebrate the integration of hospitals more enthusiastically if the health outcomes weren’t so much worse for Blacks than whites.” I agree. Equality in healthcare is the goal.

In Oakland, California, Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s only opponent on the November ballot is a Green, Laura Wells. Lee is a longtime supporter of Medicare for All (HR 676) and is a member of the new Medicare for All caucus in the House.

In my 20 years of advocacy for better healthcare, I haven’t seen Barbara Lee helping to build a stronger voice to achieve better healthcare. The leadership of the Democratic Party supports for-profit medicine, not Medicare for All.

If I could vote in Oakland, I’d vote for Laura Wells for Congress. Registering and voting Green may be the strongest statement you can make to the leadership of the Democratic Party that you do not agree with their legislative agenda.

On Sept. 8, people from all over the world will be marching in San Francisco ahead of the International Climate Conference on Sept. 12-14. If you are in San Francisco that day, please look for and join the Green Party contingent in the march.

Barry Hermanson is a member of the San Francisco Green Party County Council and a former small business owner. You can reach him by sending a letter in care of this paper, to 4917 Third St., San Francisco CA 94124.

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