Welcome to the fight for single payer in 2019! Things look very different now than they did before November of 2018. The midterm elections swept the Democrats into power in the House of Representatives with a 40 seat majority. Now with the chance to actually pass progressive legislation in the House, including Medicare for All, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington State has introduced HR 1384, the Improved and Expanded Medicare for All Act of 2019. This is the single most important single payer legislation ever introduced, surpassing even the Bernie Sanders Medicare for All bill of 2017.
HR 1384 is a much more expanded and comprehensive bill than the bill it replaced, John Conyers’ HR 676. Like that bill and Sanders’ bill, HR 1384 establishes a single-payer universal healthcare system in the US. (Click here to see Jayapal’s press conference, with Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12th), Jayapal’s co-chair of the Medicare for All Caucus. Click here to read the bill in its entirety, and here to read a summary of the bill! Click here to read a list of the proposed funding mechanisms for Medicare for All.)
In HR 1384, all US residents will be enrolled, and there will be no copays, premiums, or deductibles, period.
It includes the following benefits:
Inpatient and outpatient hospital services
Primary care and preventive services
Chronic disease management
Prescription drugs and medical devices
Mental health and substance abuse treatment
Laboratory and diagnostic services
Reproductive, maternity, and newborn services
Oral, hearing, and vision services
Short-term rehabilitative and habilitative services
Approved dietary and nutritional therapies.
Emergency services and transportation.
Early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services.
Necessary transportation for health care services for persons with disabilities or who may qualify as low income.
Most importantly, it includes comprehensive long-term elder and disability care.
Under the Sanders plan, that remains under Medicaid, but as many people know, this system is also just as broken as the overall US healthcare system. In order to qualify for Medicaid coverage of elder care, Americans must spend down almost all their assets, and then apply for eligibility. Aging and living with dignity, whether with a disability or in the final stages of life, is as much a human right as healthcare overall!! This is truly revolutionary, and Congresswoman Jayapal is to be commended.
Like the Sanders plan, Jayapal’s bill does not allow for private insurance to compete with the new improved Medicare. There may still be a role for private insurance, but it will be much smaller than it is now. This is controversial for some, but it is high past time to end the historically accidental practice of tying health insurance to employment. And as long as private insurance is allowed to compete with Medicare, it will undermine Medicare’s bargaining power, it will lead to a two-tiered system in which wealthy Americans get private health insurance and better doctors, and everyone else is “dumped” into the public option. It will also leave the private health insurance lobby well-funded and trying to chip away at Medicare, as it does today.
In future issues, we will consider the competing plans and bills to HR 1384, and explain why none of them come close to HR 1384, which is now the gold standard, and the banner under which we fight to end the commodification of our health, our families, and our lives!
Just as exciting is the fact that already, with the 2020 Democratic Primary underway, almost all the major contenders have declared their support for Medicare for All, including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Corey Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, and of course Bernie Sanders, who first popularized the notion of single payer healthcare in the 2016 primary! As the primary develops and heats up, we will be paying closer and closer attention to these candidates to make sure that Medicare for All stays at the very top of the conversation.
WHERE DO OUR LEGISLATORS STAND?
Either publicly, or privately, we now know that four of the seven Michigan Democrats in Congress support single payer:
Debbie Dingell, who represents Michigan’s 12th District (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Taylor, Ecorse), is the Co-Chair of the Medicare for All Caucus in the House (along with Pramila Jayapal from Washington State, who is authoring the new version of the Medicare for All Act of 2019)
Rashida Tlaib, newly elected to represent Michigan’s 13th district (Detroit), is a strong support of Medicare for All.
Andy Levin, newly elected to Michigan’s 9th district (Detroit and Oakland County) has confirmed in private that he is a supporter of Medicare for All.
Brenda Lawrence, representing Michigan’s 14th district (Detroit) is also a cosponsor and supporter of Medicare for All.
Haley Stevens, newly elected to Michigan’s 11th district (Oakland County) said several times on the campaign trail that she supported Medicare for All, but appears to have backed away from this and now it is unclear where she stands! If you are a constituent, please call her at (202) 225-8171
Dan Kildee (MI-5, Flint and Saginaw) has said on multiple occasions that he supports single payer, Medicare for all, but he won’t cosponsor the legislation. As the Chief Deputy Whip, he holds an important leadership position in congress. Please call him! 202-225-3611
Elissa Slotkin, newly elected to Michigan’s 8th district (Livingston and Ingham Counties) is not in favor of M4A, though she has said that health care is going to be her top issue. Call her! (202) 225-4872
As before, our two Democratic Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters continue to refuse to support Medicare for All. Feel free to call them too!
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN LANSING?
On the State level, we have, finally, a Democrat in the Governor’s Office in Lansing—Gretchen Whitmer! Though Democrats did not take control of the State House nor Senate, they did dramatically narrow the gap. Now, they are only outnumbered 21-18 in the State Senate (it had been 27-12) and 58-52 in the House (it had been 69-41). There are several newly arrived Representatives and Senators who ran on and won on support for single payer, including our endorsed candidate Laurie Pohutsky, who won a narrow victory (221 votes out of 45,000 cast) in Michigan’s 19th House District (Livonia), a solidly red district which she flipped while running a grassroots progressive campaign.
Michigan for Single Payer continues to meet with state representatives and senators to get them to sign on to MICare, Yousef Rabhi’s state single payer bill. We need folks to set up meetings with their own state representatives. Please contact us if you are willing to meet with your reps, and we will give you the info/training you need to have an effective meeting!
There is currently not a bill introduced in the State Senate. Senator Rebekah Warren was planning to last summer, but did not. We are hopeful that one will be introduced soon and will keep you updated!
GET ACTIVE—HOW YOU CAN HELP!
Michigan for Single Payer Healthcare is hosting events all over the state, including:
-postcard writing parties
-trainings on how to speak, lobby, and canvass on single payer
If you want to host any of these in your community, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Single payer postcard writing parties/phonebanks
One of the easiest, quickest, and most effective ways you can help is to come to a phone bank or a postcard party and make calls and/or write postcards for single payer! Here are two confirmed coming up, and more will be announced over the next month!
March 12, 6-8 pm Sault Ste. Marie
Join the folks from Healthcare for All Northern Michigan at the Superior Coffee Roasting Co. Cafe 107 E Portage Ave. Click here for the event page
March 12, 5 - 8 PM, Detroit
Join Our Revolution and Greater Detroit DSA for a phonebanking and postcard event at 16551 Warwick, Detroit. Click here for event page!
We hold organizing meetings on the third Thursday evening of each month. These are held in Ann Arbor, usually at 1202 Edgewood (near Michigan Stadium), but folks call in from all around the state. The call in number is: 712-451-1232 and the access code is: 218179.
This month, we meet Thursday, March 21 7-8 pm! Click here to view the Facebook event page!
Lansing Lobby Day
On lobby days, we meet in Lansing and speak with state lawmakers to get them to support HB 6285, MICare, Yousef Rabhi’s single payer bill for Michigan. We go usually every month, and have gone twice now, with great success! If we don’t talk to lawmakers about this, the only other people who will are insurance lobbyists. If not us, then who?
Our next lobby day is Tuesday April 2. We meet at Grand Traverse Pie Co., a block from the Capitol at 10 am. Click here for the Facebook event page, and make sure to RSVP here!
Medicare for All with the Northville Dems
If you are near Northville, come here us present to the Northville Democratic Club on single payer Monday, April 15 7 pm. The meeting is at the Cady Inn, 215 Griswold Street, Northville, MI.
Medicare for All Town Hall, Milford
Our work especially consists of educating the public about HR 1384, HB 6285 and single payer generally. If you are near Milford, come to the public library in Milford Tuesday April 23, 6:30-7:30 pm to have your questions answered and see how you can get involved! Click here for the event page.
WE NEED YOUR STORIES!
IF YOU HAVE A STORY TO TELL ABOUT HOW HIGH MEDICAL BILLS OR AN INABILITY TO PAY FOR HEALTHCARE HAS CAUSED YOU SUFFERING, LOSS, STRESS, ANXIETY, OR HARMED YOU OR YOUR FAMILY OR FRIENDS, PLEASE WRITE BACK TO US. WE NEED YOUR STORIES TO BEGIN PERSUADING LAWMAKERS IN THE FORM OF WRITTEN, RECORDED, AND IN PERSON TESTIMONY! We know that personal stories are the most influential, more than facts, so as we gear up for actually debating and passing Medicare for All, we need to be telling our healthcare stories as much as possible. It is our greatest weapon against the lies that the Insurance industry will spread to save their profits. Email us at email@example.com
DONATE! We run on a shoestring budget, but so every dollar really helps!! Please consider donating $10 today to help us afford basic supplies like postcards and other printing and transportation costs!
In the next issue: Adventures in Canvassing, or “what it’s like to talk to real Michiganders about single payer (as opposed to pundits and politicos)”