Statement of the DSA National Political Committee, September 15 2017
This week, Bernie Sanders — a democratic socialist and long-time universal health care advocate — filed the Medicare for All Act of 2017. DSA enthusiastically endorses this landmark bill, and will fight tirelessly for its passage.
The newfound support for Medicare for All among some Democrats represents a decisive shift in the national political landscape. Just four years ago, Sen. Sanders was alone when he introduced a previous version of the bill. Today, it has sixteen co-sponsors. This happened only because of sustained, grassroots organizing and pressure by DSA members and many other organizations across the country.
People are fed up with a system where workers’ wages and benefits shrivel while health insurance costs continue to soar. Our enormously wasteful insurance system sustains an obscene health insurance oligarchy — the top executives of private health insurance companies pull in tens of millions of dollars in compensation annually — while our health outcomes remain among the worst when compared to similar countries.
We demand a system that works for everyone. Medicare for All is the solution.
A growing number of people are seeking socialist answers to our health care crisis. Medicare for All is a demand that can catalyze an emergent working class base. It attracts broad support within and beyond the labor movement, finally establishes health care as a universal right, and eliminates the multi-billion dollar parasite known as the private health insurance industry.
However, the bill is still a long way from passage. Because it directly threatens some of the most powerful capitalist interests in the country, its passage will require an unprecedented level of mobilization and organization. Democratic socialists must set ourselves to the task of building the mass constituency for Medicare for All into an active, organized, and powerful political bloc.
Our organizing efforts will also be shaped by DSA’s 2017 national priorities resolution, which mandates us to engage disabled comrades; build coalitions with organizations representing nurses, health care workers, women, and people of color; and support state-level fights to protect the existing progressive aspects of our healthcare system, such as Medicaid.
What’s in the Bill?
The bill secures universal and comprehensive coverage for all U.S. residents regardless of immigration status. It includes coverage for primary and preventive care, mental health care, reproductive care, vision and dental care, and prescription drugs. It removes economic barriers to abortion services by eliminating the Hyde Amendment. It would create a single insurance system that is free at the point of service: no premiums, no co-pays, and no deductibles for all medical services, with the exception of some prescription drugs. It would be partially funded through an annual wealth tax on the richest 0.1%. Any new taxes levied on ordinary people would be much lower than what the average private health insurance plan now requires in co-pays, deductibles, and premiums. Finally, the bill has provisions for a transitional jobs initiative for those workers affected by the shift toward government-run insurance.
Sen. Sanders’ bill succeeds where every market-driven health plan fails.
Nonetheless, there are still ways the bill can be improved. Our job as socialists is to keep pushing the envelope and raise expectations of what’s possible under a Medicare for All system. Namely, we should to fight to eliminate co-payments on all medications, outlaw misleading pharmaceutical advertising, and drive out the profit motive in health care by banning all for-profit health facilities.
Socialists and progressives have been fighting for universal health coverage for decades. Thanks to their efforts and the political leadership of Bernie Sanders, that goal no longer feels like an impossible dream. It’s time to turn the dream into reality.