Monday, July 2, 2012

Still Fighting for Single Payer: National Nurses United Press Release

Obama can't beat me in a debate arguing single payer on health care. But he never seemed interested in trying.

In my blog last night (Why Is Being Mandated to Pay Auto Insurance Not a Tax?) I mentioned that I had 2 debates in the gym with anti-Obamacare(ites) (one of them a para in the UFT) and left them thinking. In fact just about anytime I have this debate I feel points in favor of single payer win out. [Check out this web site for the full SP case].

So people on the left are pissed at Obama for not using his bully pulpit to argue more strongly the benefits of SP, instead using his pulpit to go after teachers. How ironic that the US ranks 37th in the world in health care but all we hear from Obama/Duncan is how low we supposedly rank in education.

I do understand the political realities -- as expressed in the NY Times Week Review section yesterday by Ross Douthat arguing that Obama had to make deals with the insurance and drug industries to keep them from throwing their power against Obamacare -- and it worked. Both got their pound of flesh. Douthat argued that both FDR and LBJ did the same thing.

I beg to differ. Yes, LBJ and FDR ultimately did deals but they did use their bully pulpit to argue the strong case and then used that as a starting point rather than surrendering at the first sight of opposition. Obama could have made powerful arguments (certainly more than me) for single payer and then offer compromises off that.

And where are the unions on this? Here, National Nurses United makes a strong statement for single payer and calls on labor to keep up the fight. Don't forget that the long-term effects of Obamacare will reduce the Cadillac plans many union members have to dust and reduce medicare too. So as you will read below, the fight is just beginning.

Court Ruling Does Not End Healthcare Crisis Or the Need to Continue the
Campaign for Reform

The Supreme Court decision should not be seen as the end of the efforts by health care activists for a permanent fix of our broken healthcare system, said the nation’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses today.

To achieve that end, the 175,000-member National Nurses United pledged to step up a campaign for a reform that is not based on extending the grip of a failed private insurance system, but “on a universal program based on patient need, not on profits or ability to pay. That’s Medicare for all,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN. “It is not time to stop, but a reminder to begin that effort anew.”

“Nurses experience the crisis our patients continue to endure every day. That’s the reason we will continue to work for reform that is universal, that doesn’t bankrupt families or leave patients in the often cruel hands of merciless insurance companies,” said NNU Co-president Karen Higgins, RN. Stepping up the fight for Medicare for all is even more critical in the
midst of the still persistent economic crisis,” added NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN, noting that nurses have seen broad declines in health status among patients related to loss of jobs, homes, and health coverage. NNU has been holding free health screenings and hosting town halls on the ongoing healthcare crisis over the past two weeks – and hearing daily
reminders of the ongoing plight of many patients.

In addition, NNU will be joining with Michael Moore to host a national town hall later this summer. “The continuing fiscal crisis at all levels of government and the anemic economic recovery remind us that rising healthcare costs and shifting costs to workers burden our society, cause much of these fiscal problems, and limit the opportunities for working people. Only real cost control through a national health program can solve this crisis. Improved Medicare meets that challenge,” said Ross.

“Medicare is far more effective than the broken private system in controlling costs and the waste that goes to insurance paperwork and profits, and it is universally popular, even among those who bitterly opposed the Obama law,” said Higgins. “Let’s open it up to everyone, no one should have to wait to be 65 to be guaranteed healthcare.”

The Affordable Care Act still leaves some 27 million people without health coverage, does little to constrain rising out of pocket health care costs, or to stop the all too routine denials of needed medical care by insurance companies because they don’t want to pay for it.
* * * * *
Excerpts from Paul Krugman's "The Real Winners"
New York Times
Published: June 28, 2012

So the law that the Supreme Court upheld is an act of human decency that is also fiscally responsible. It’s not perfect, by a long shot — it is, after all, originally a Republican plan, devised long ago as a way to forestall the obvious alternative of extending _Medicare_
( to cover everyone. As a result, it’s an awkward hybrid
of public and private insurance that isn’t the way anyone would have designed a system from scratch. And there will be a long struggle to make it better, just as there was for _Social Security_
( . (Bring back the public option!) But it’s still a big step
toward a better — and by that I mean morally better — society.

The full Krugman piece is here.
* * * * *


(reprinted from Campaign's website)

The jury is still out on what effect this decision will have on the actual healthcare that Americans will receive under the ACA as well as its effects on the long-term prospects of the fight to make healthcare a right for everyone in America. Certainly, a more sober assessment of the healthcare realities faced by most working Americans and their families would show that we are a long way from President Obama’s aspirational vision.

Coming at the end of a Supreme Court session that was especially cruel to the labor movement, it is perhaps to be expected that there would be some celebration at what was widely seen as a defeat of labor's worst enemies. But this must not detract us from the urgency to prepare for a renewed assault on employer-provided healthcare benefits.

At a recent strategy meeting of the LCSP Steering Committee and Advisory Board, we heard from union leaders from around the country who are seeing the writing on the wall. Public employee benefits are under the gun in nearly every jurisdiction. Union Benefit Funds, often the gold standard in employer-funded healthcare, are facing threats to their very survival as ACA regulations impose new mandates while new state insurance exchanges potentially draw off their youngest and healthiest participants. And the 2018
"Cadillac Tax" is beginning to look more and more like a "Chevy Tax" as continued
healthcare inflation will trigger this penalty on the hard won benefits of millions more union members than originally predicted.

What Happens Next?

The Affordable Care Act is now indisputably the law of the land. This will create new conditions and new challenges. Many millions will undoubtedly benefit from increased access to healthcare and regulation of the private insurance industry.

Many millions more will find out that the right to buy health insurance is not the same thing as the right to healthcare. States will be required to set up healthcare exchanges by 2014 and state-level innovation—including state single-payer reforms—will be barred until at least 2017 (although President Obama did re-affirm his support for efforts to move that date up to

Certain things won't change, however. Healthcare will still be treated as a commodity and a profit center rather than as a human right. Millions will continue to be denied access to basic healthcare. Costs will continue to rise two, three, even four times faster than our wages while quality deteriorates. Employer provided healthcare will continue to go the way of defined benefit pensions and healthcare fights will continue to be the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts and union busting.

The labor movement has no choice but to fight on for healthcare justice. And we in the Labor Campaign for Single Payer vow to re-dedicate ourselves to this fight to remove healthcare from the bargaining table and make it a right for everyone in America. We believe that it is labor's historic responsibility to lead this effort and we will not rest until it fulfills this mission.
* * * * *

The Price of Health Care

“IT is not our job,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote in Thursday’s health care ruling, “to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.” He might just as easily have written, “to protect politicians from the consequences of their political choices.” And now, with the Supreme Court parenthesis out of the way, we can get back to finding out exactly what those consequences will be.

For President Obama, the consequences of health care may still be fatal to his re-election hopes. The choice to go all-in on reform was the most important call of the Obama presidency, and from a purely political perspective it has proved the most disastrous one. Thursday’s decision won’t change this reality: Victory at the Supreme Court was obviously preferable to defeat, but the chief justice’s grudging imprimatur is unlikely to make a deeply unpopular piece of legislation suddenly popular instead.

Liberals have persuaded themselves that this unpopularity is largely the product of conservative misinformation and voter ignorance. But it’s really a result of the gulf that opened in 2009 between the public’s priorities and the president’s agenda. By turning from economic crisis management to sweeping social legislation before the crisis had actually abated, Obama made himself look more ideological than practical and more liberal than pragmatic. By continuing to push for the largest possible bill even after the public backlash had elected a Republican senator in Massachusetts, he made himself look wildly out of touch as well.

This was not a mistake the icons of the liberal past made. Franklin Delano Roosevelt spent two years defining himself as a Depression-fighter before he set out to establish Social Security; Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Great Society amid an economic boom.

Had Obama followed Roosevelt’s first-term example, the initial stimulus bill might have been broken up into smaller (and perhaps more popular) components, financial reform and perhaps tax reform would have preceded health care reform, and the kinds of jobs bills the White House demanded of a recalcitrant Republican Congress in 2011 might have been sought from a Democratic Congress in 2009 and 2010 instead. Even if this policy approach didn’t dramatically accelerate the recovery, it would have given independent voters more confidence that the president had their economic interests rather than his history-making ambitions uppermost in mind.

But the Obama White House was convinced that it could fight the recession and rewrite the social compact all at once. And when the administration’s economic policies didn’t deliver as promised, it was almost inevitable that the focus on health care would cost Obama approval ratings, cost his party House seats — and perhaps help cost him a second term as well.

Obama is not the only politician whose health care choices have been potentially damaging to his cause, however. Among Congressional Republicans, the decision was made early not only to oppose the White House’s health care push, but to offer almost nothing in the way of policy alternatives. There was no meaningful Republican plan for reform during the heat of the original debate, and for all the notional talk about repealing and replacing, much the same void exists today. Individual conservative politicians and policy wonks have plans, but the party leadership has deemed it too risky to counter the Democratic legislation with anything save boilerplate. Paul Ryan has personally proposed a health care alternative, but his House budgets have conspicuously lacked one.

This “just say no” approach made a certain amount of political sense, for many of the same reasons the White House’s “all in” approach turned out to be so politically risky. But it left the Republicans with no leverage on policy: they had nothing to offer wavering Congressional Democrats (from Ben Nelson to Bart Stupak) who had problems with the legislation but wanted to vote for some kind of reform, and they had nothing substantial to put forward when Scott Brown’s victory seemed as if it might force the White House back to the negotiating table.

As a result, now that the bill has been passed and the Supreme Court has declined to do their work for them, the Republicans are left to thread a very narrow needle. First they need to take the Senate as well as the White House, and then they need to find a way to pass a party-line repeal bill while lacking any clear consensus on a replacement. Otherwise they will have combined a political victory with a once-in-a-generation policy defeat.

Neither the victory nor the defeat is inevitable: there’s still time for Mitt Romney to lead his party to some kind of consensus on a health care alternative, just as there’s still time for President Obama to pull out his re-election bid.

But for now, our leaders’ health care moves seem as if they could easily produce the following endgame: The Democratic president is vanquished at the polls, but his Republican opponents are ultimately defeated on the policy.


  1. I know you just stated that at 65, UFT members must give up their private coverage for Medicare?

    Am I understanding that correctly? Also, is this a different situation than what 65 year olds encounter now? Did you get to keep your private coverage provided by UFT once you hit 65 and beyond? Thanks in advance...!

  2. Anotherwords, under the existing plan, are 65 and older allowed to keep their Blue Cross, etc.?

    1. What I mean is that the ghi becomes supplemental which you pay for. Your main plan goes from GHI to Medicare and you have no choice in that. You get new cards, etc. It has worked out ok but who knows with a serious illness?
      My dad had an AARP supplemental plan which he paid around $3000 a year for. Now he didn't have a lot of bills but whatever he had to deal with was covered including visits to home afew times for a portable xray and some other stuff.


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