PNHP California Achieves Significant Incremental Changes in Health Care

By Dr. Stephen F. Tarzynski

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Two years ago the board of Physicians for a National Health Program-California (PNHP-CA) decided to reposition itself and come out publicly in support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite its flaws, while continuing our commitment to Medicare For All. This repositioning has opened important doors for us both in terms of constituencies and very modest foundation support. 

We also believe that the contours of the political terrain and alignment of forces in our state have shifted significantly to permit movement in the direction of single payer. Evidence for this can be found in the tectonic shifts in race and age in California that have made the state even bluer and permitted important electoral victories. Two notable examples are the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012, which raised taxes on the wealthy to prevent cuts in the education budget, and Proposition 47 in 2014, which significantly altered the state’s criminal justice system in a more progressive direction by recategorizing some nonviolent offenses as misdemeanors. In addition, California has gone farther than any other state under the ACA in providing more coverage and benefits in the state health exchange and in covering all undocumented children.

PNHP-CA has also been busy developing a track record as a small but highly effective organization with a reputation for getting things done on a shoestring budget and two staff people.

In 2015 PNHP-CA achieved some victories and advances:

  • Along with the Health4All Coalition, organized a big Lobby Day pre-conference (four hundred attendees) in Sacramento on the Lara bill that would cover all undocumented immigrants and on single payer.

  • Played a leading role in getting coverage for undocumented children.

  • Got the California Medical Association to pass a resolution that will study alternate financing models including single payer.

  • Got the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD-AFSCME) to endorse single payer.

  • Rolled out our Project White Coat, where bilingual CAHPSA students enroll individuals in underserved communities into Covered California (the state exchange) and talk about single payer. CAHPSA is our student affiliate, California Health Professional Student Alliance, with several thousand members across the state. The project is financed by a grant funded again for three years by Covered California.

  • Developed a five-year plan to win single payer in California (“Six Steps To Win”) and designed a fundraising plan to accomplish that goal.

Again, all on a shoestring budget with only two staff people. We’ve also built up an excellent and engaged board of directors and rebuilt a statewide single payer coalition, the Allcare Alliance, that has over 150 organizations so far, including the state public health associations. I would like to see 1,500 organizations, so we still have ways to go.

These are all baby steps on the road. We have reached a ceiling in our capacity and are hoping to significantly increase our funding base in 2016 in order to expand our capability and presence. Far more needs to be done before the single payer movement in California will become a force that can achieve its goal. PNHP-CA is a small but important part in that campaign.

A member since DSA’s founding, pediatrician Steve Tarzynski is on the board of directors of PNHP and serves as president of the California chapter.

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DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
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May 30, 2017
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If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
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Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
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Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
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Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

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September 10, 2017
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Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

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September 24, 2017
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Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.