Democrats

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and more than 100 co-sponsors introduce Medicare for All Act of 2019, HR 1384 on Feb. 27, 2019. This is from the hour-long livestream video by National Nurses United posted to Facebook.com/HealthcareNow.


by Barry Hermanson

In May of last year, I wrote an article entitled. “Nancy Pelosi opposes universal healthcare,” at https://sfbayview.com/2018/05/nancy-pelosi-opposes-universal-healthcare/.

Democratic Party leaders in Washington and Sacramento prioritize profit in healthcare over the needs of patients. Campaign donations from the for-profit industry keep us tied to a healthcare system that is rationed on your ability to pay for private insurance, co-pays and deductibles. After many years, I’ve come to believe that the leadership of the Democratic Party is the obstacle to achieving universal healthcare.

Nancy Pelosi favors incremental improvements to the Unaffordable Care Act (UCA) instead of advocating for an Improved Medicare for All.

I didn’t sleep well Thursday night, Feb. 21. Friday, the 22nd, was the last day for legislation to be introduced in the California legislature.

I am a member of a statewide coalition formed to advocate for an Improved Medicare for All, HealthyCA.org. “Healthy California is a campaign comprised of organizations representing over 6 million Californians committed to guaranteeing healthcare for the residents of our state. Our goal is to win Improved Medicare for All in California.”

I am not a spokesperson for the HealthyCA.org campaign. The views expressed in this column are mine.  

Throughout the fall and winter of last year, a key coalition partner worked to craft legislation and find an author. We were repeatedly told: “There will be a bill.”

“Healthy California is a campaign comprised of organizations representing over 6 million Californians committed to guaranteeing healthcare for the residents of our state. Our goal is to win Improved Medicare for All in California.”

I was encouraged by the number of candidates running across the nation on a platform of an Improved Medicare for All last fall. A recent poll showed almost 85 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of everyone in the country support it. Our new California governor, Gavin Newsom, claimed to be an advocate in his campaign. San Francisco’s two state assemblymen and our state senator all claim to be advocates.

No one introduced a bill. Apparently, it isn’t a priority. Only incremental improvements to the Unaffordable Care Act will be debated. Sacramento Democrats are toeing the party line.

In 2018, while Jerry Brown was still governor, Sacramento Democrats established a Council on Healthcare Delivery Systems with a mandate to report back with their suggestions for achieving better healthcare by 2021. With $5 million in funding, they will study an issue that has been studied numerous times. The committee has no power to create legislation. Establishing the Council instead of having an open legislative debate punts the issue until after the 2020 election.

Incremental improvements to the Unaffordable Care Act (UCA) will not lead us towards the goal of universal healthcare. With the UCA, insurance companies continue to stand between doctors and patients. Return on investment to shareholders is their No. 1 responsibility, not good healthcare for you or me. Profit inflates healthcare costs by billions, is the source of suffering for millions and for far too many leads to shorter lives. Unlike other developed countries, accessing healthcare in the U.S. can drive you to bankruptcy.

Healthcare is a human right, not something to be rationed based on your ability to pay. Citizens of the United States pay on average twice as much for healthcare and get far fewer benefits than in other developed countries.  Healthcare in the U.S. ranks 37th in the world.  

Legislators in Sacramento don’t believe we can mobilize enough voters to win better healthcare at a lower cost. They don’t believe the Coalition’s 6 million members in California will turn out to vote. I think they are wrong.

Coalition organizations should reach out to their members to guarantee their support and recruit them for this fight. Only by showing our strength by organizing our members will we win.

Legislators in Sacramento don’t believe we can mobilize enough voters to win better healthcare at a lower cost. They don’t believe the Coalition’s 6 million members in California will turn out to vote. I think they are wrong.

Helping more Coalition members become healthcare advocates will amplify our voices. Knowing the Coalition has the votes might cause politicians in Sacramento to become advocates for us instead of for-profit healthcare. Better healthcare at a lower cost for everyone can be achieved by organizing the members in our organizations and recruiting others to join us.

There are super majorities of Democratic Party politicians in the California Legislature and a Democrat as governor. Republican votes are not needed to pass legislation. Democrats are using this opportunity to promote incremental improvements to a healthcare “system” that enriches investors and makes us less healthy.

On Feb. 27, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and more than 100 co-sponsors introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019, HR 1384. The video of this rally is inspiring: https://www.facebook.com/HealthcareNow/videos/1371062296379057/.

Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Healthcare Program, writes:

“This bill is a strong and comprehensive piece of single-payer legislation. Rep. Jayapal has spent months in dialogue with key voices from the single-payer movement – including PNHP – to design this bill. And this bill is the real deal: Amid the noise of incremental ‘faux’ Medicare-for-All plans (mostly variations on a public option), the Medicare for All Act stands out for achieving both universal coverage and long-term cost control.”

“This bill is a strong and comprehensive piece of single-payer legislation. Rep. Jayapal has spent months in dialogue with key voices from the single-payer movement – including PNHP – to design this bill. And this bill is the real deal.”

It is good to hear passionate healthcare speeches from legislators. I can only hope that when a Democrat is president and when Democrats control a majority in both the House and Senate, their voices do not become as silent as the voices of legislators in California.

As always, I encourage you to register and vote for Green Party candidates when you see them on the ballot. Support for an Improved Medicare for All is in our Party platform. Greens do not take donations from corporations or PACs where donor identities can be hidden. When you vote for a Green, you can trust you are voting for a candidate that will fight for you, not the profits of investors.

Register and vote Green.

Barry Hermanson is a member of the San Francisco Green Party County Council and is a former small business owner. He can be reached by writing to this paper or by e-mail: barry@hermansons.com.

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