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Medicare for All supporters: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

December 17, 2009
I do not have the answer; but the question is a necessary beginning.
Barack Obama is launching [or his he continuing?] a mammoth effort to move the political center of the U.S. to the right. It is a stunning ambition far beyond the reach of Reagan, Clinton, or the Bush dynasty. His extraordinary Oslo speech, referencing Martin Luther King Jr. to declare that “war is peace”; was nothing short of wizardry on the world stage. Now we have the possibility of the doctrine of perpetual war prosecuted by the U.S.  rising to a universal norm of humane conduct. In addition to the triumphalist new vision of the U.S. on issues of war and peace, the U.S. fervently ignores the most urgent threat to human survival that is presented by global climate destruction. Both of these issues profoundly impact human health.
We as healthcare activists must now forge a political strategy within the political terrain of a powerful and ultra-modern nation-state that is systemically defying, through deliberate deceptions, norms of civil conduct that once offered some buffer to the decent of the modern world into barbarism and unprecedented human suffering. So what do the political and economic elites of the U.S. really care about the guarantee of comprehensive healthcare to those within their borders?
The answer is clear. They are perfectly comfortable convincing us that they are helping us while they systematically attempt an historic transfer of enormous resources from us to an industry that perpetuates the healthcare crisis by denying access to healthcare for its own self-aggrandizement. At the same time, these elites have the temerity to lie about their intention by declaring that universal healthcare access has now been achieved through legislation that is being hatched in the White House. This is moral depravity at a scale that many of us find impossible to internalize because it is far too painful to bear.
So what do we do? We must internalize it because when we do, we give rise to the seeds for our renewed activism and courage. We must become stronger to withstand what is at hand.
We need to appreciate that we are far from being alone. Folks across this nation, ordinary folks like you and me who have become active on these issues, are now far less naive than they were just 18 months ago. Indeed, there has been (and it is still ongoing) a sea change in consciousness among ordinary grassroots human rights organizers that is preventing them  from being as gullible to charismatic pied piper political leaders of this recent period who have depended on our ignorance and need to feel good and to be reassured.
This is a sign of hope.
If I had one recommendation, it is this: we must build and sustain larger and more diverse mass high profile direct actions in the streets across the country for Medicare for All. We must forever end inordinate deference to elected officials. We must push them to represent us. We can not expect them to lead us to victory. We must lead ourselves to victory.
Lastly, Obama blinded sided us once already, but it must never happen again. In the future, we should only have ourselves to blame. Toto has pulled back the curtain.
Now is the time for us to go back to our base, to go home. There is no place like it.

PHIMG (Private Health Insurance Must Go! coalition) will be planning its series of next direct actions in NYC. Go to

Ajamu Sankofa
a co-founder of PHIMG

[Kill the bill! No to President Rahm’s healthcare sell out / insurance Co. bailout. Medicare for All! Now is the time to take the movement to the next level.]

Democrats Lash Out At Obama Over Health Care Disappointments

The Huffington Post   |  Rachel Weiner
First Posted: 12-16-09 01:40 PM   |   Updated: 12-16-09 01:48 PM

Congressional Democrats are starting to voice their anger at President Obama over the way health care legislation has been compromised, blaming him for not fighting harder.

“The president keeps listening to Rahm Emanuel,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). “No public option, no extending Medicare to 55, no nothing, an excise tax, God!” he exclaimed about the Senate health care bill to Roll Call. “The insurance lobby is taking over.”

“The White House has been useless,” Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.), the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, told Politico. Referencing Senate delays, he said, “It’s ridiculous, and the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines. That’s nonsense.”

While many House Democrats have expressed anger with the Senate for the watered-down bill, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) argued that it was really Obama who let centrists take control. “Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge?” he said. “It’s time for the president to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the president to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate.”

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) similarly suggested that blaming Lieberman was ignoring the real culprit — Obama.

“This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don’t think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth,” said Feingold. “I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect.”

As Politico’s Craig Gordon noted about the president’s health care maneuvering, “Time and again, [Obama] rebuffed Democrats’ requests to speak up more forcefully about what he wanted — a strategy that allowed Obama to preserve maximum flexibility to declare victory at the end of the process, no matter what the final bill looked like.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), pointed to polling that suggests Democrats will face trouble with their base if they don’t deliver a strong bill. “Thirty percent of Democrats will not come out and vote if there is no public option in the health care bill,” she said. “What does that tell you?”

Medicare For All Amendment Needs Debate and a Vote In the Senate

December 14, 2009
Update from Donna Smith, California Nurses Association, on Sen. Sanders Single-Payer Amendment
Single-Payer Amendment Needs Debate and a Vote In the Senate

Time to let Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid know that the American people want a debate and a vote on Medicare for all, single-payer healthcare during this Congressional effort.  And it’s crunch time for the Sanders/Brown/Burris Medicare for all, single-payer amendment in the Senate.

In the effort to move something quickly, some amendments may not be considered unless the Leader perceives the importance of such consideration or the consequences of not hearing amendments that are critical to various Senators and constituencies.

Amendment No. 2837 would extend healthcare as a basic human right to all.  The three original sponsors of the amendment understand that the American people need access to care that is not dependent on wealth or level of private insurance coverage.

Call Senator Reid today.  Tell him you want Senator Sanders’ amendment number 2837 to be debated and you want a vote to be taken.  Phone in DC at 202-224-3542 or the Capitol Switchboard at 866-220-0044 or 202-224-3121, or Senator Reid’s Las Vegas office at 702-388-5020

Medicare Buy-In?
from Don McCanne’s Quote of the Day
December 9, 2009
Harry Reid: Democrats reach ‘broad agreement’
By Carrie Budoff Brown & Patrick O’Connor

Senate Democrats have reached a “broad agreement” on a health reform bill,
Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday night ? a plan that would replace
the public option in the current Senate bill with a new national insurance
plan offered by private insurers, and a chance for older Americans to ?buy
in? to Medicare.

To win over liberals disappointed at losing the public option, Democrats
would allow older Americans starting at age 55 to buy into Medicare, the
popular program for the aged. The Medicare expansion would be a significant
victory for Democrats, who spent years pushing for it. The proposal would in
effect create a public health insurance option for older Americans, since
Medicare is government-funded and government-run.

Comment:  The most efficient, most effective, and least expensive method of
providing reasonably comprehensive health care for everyone would be to
replace all current public and private financing programs with a single,
improved Medicare program that covered absolutely everyone. Some have
suggested that we can do this incrementally, with the first step being to
allow individuals 55 and over to buy into Medicare. Is this a good idea?

Harvard professor Steffie Woolhandler provides us with some insight:
“Lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 55 only works if it is
mandatory.  Otherwise it becomes the place where all the sickest patients
get dumped.  That might be okay for the sick people since Medicare is often
better and more secure than private coverage, but it would drive total
health care costs (and premiums) up, not down.”

The current Medicare risk pool is composed of seniors with a high rate of
chronic disease and with the expenses of end-of-life care, plus younger
individuals with long-term disabilities. Since this is a very high cost
population, the prorated premiums would be unaffordable for most individuals
55 thru 64. A separate risk pool would have to be established that would be
limited to this age bracket. Unfortunately, 55 thru 64 is still the most
expensive age sector of all individuals under 65 and so premiums would still
be unaffordable for most, especially after you add in the impact of adverse
selection as Steffie Woolhandler has described.

Suppose that a Medicare buy-in for those over 55 were to be established, and
that higher government subsidies were provided to cover the higher costs,
then what do you have? You have created a public option. Yet the reason
being given for the Medicare buy-in is that it is a trade-off to get the
progressives to agree to abandoning the public option.

So the agreement seems to be to eliminate the public option from
consideration by establishing a public option. But is the proposal a public
option that would allow everyone the opportunity to buy into Medicare?
Apparently not. After all, this is Congress at work.

Although details have not been released, it appears that this Medicare
buy-in would be limited by the same rules already proposed for the public
option. Individuals who already are eligible for employer-sponsored
coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid would not be eligible to participate in the
insurance exchange, yet the Medicare buy-in would not be available outside
of the exchange (except perhaps during a transition before the exchange is
established). Thus the net effect of this buy-in is to further limit the
public option only to those 55 and over who meet all other qualifications
for the exchange – a ratcheted-down version of the public option.

An elective buy-in for Medicare will only add to the perpetuation of
inequities, fragmentation, administrative inefficiencies, inadequate fiscal
supervision and other deficiencies that plague our health care financing
system. Adding to our dysfunctional system only compounds the dysfunction.
We need to replace the system with an efficient single payer model.

Could we do that in incremental steps by first moving absolutely everyone
over 55 into our existing Medicare program? Yes, but why would we do that?
There would be complex transitional issues in changing this sector from a
revenue source for Medicare into both a revenue source and an expense as
they become beneficiaries of the program. Another increment could be
MediKids for all children, though that would involve other transitional
issues. Then how soon would we phase in everyone else, with yet still more
transitional issues?

Incremental steps increase the complexities and costs of the transition
while delaying access for many who already have impaired access and
financial burdens caused  by our dysfunctional system.

A single, disruptive transition would actually be more efficient
administratively, while lowering transitional costs. Much more important, a
single transition would ensure that no person would have to wait any longer
to access the care that he or she needs merely because of an inability to
pay for that care.

If we advocate for less than we need, we’ll end up with cheap chits that
will eventually be traded away, and then what are we left with?

– Jean (forwarded from Healthcare-NOW!)

“I refuse to live in a country like this, and IÔÇÖm not leaving.” -Michael Moore

History in a Number: Senate Amendment 2837 Call Your Senators!

December 3, 2009

from Progressive Democrats of America [a rather meaningless name, but that’s what they call themselves]:

The idea of a Medicare for All type, single-payer healthcare system will be heard on the Senate floor. Late last evening, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont filed Senate Amendment No. 2837, and there are two additional original co-sponsors of this amendment, Senator Roland Burris of Illinois and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The idea that healthcare is a basic human right that could and should be delivered to each and every person in this nation is not a new one. Our President knows that; our Congress knows that. But this struggle to reform the broken, profit-driven system has carried us a very long way from finally extending that basic human right to all.

We’ve drifted off to talking about excise taxes and insurance exchanges and bending the cost curves. Amendment 2837 brings us back to the basics.

What’s in a number? 45,000 people die every year in this nation without access to healthcare.

Medicare has its flaws, but overall it has provided seniors and the disabled with the best access to care that this nation could offer since the 1960s.

What’s in a number? Poverty among seniors has dropped more than 60 percent since the adoption of Medicare.

The healthcare reform effort has largely ignored the single-payer solution because the powerful profit-based insurance and health industry interests that stand to gain so very much by expanding and entrenching their hold over the U.S. healthcare system have muted the discussion.

What’s in a number? Millions of Americans file for personal bankruptcy–one every 12 seconds–because medical crisis hit them too hard. And of those bankrupt folks, two-thirds had health insurance.

We will not get to the point of granting healthcare to all during this legislative cycle. We just won’t. Our elected officials were less powerful than the profit-takers this time around. And we did not make our demands loud enough and clear enough. But we will find out in the Senate who stands for all of us and who stands for those who would profit from our continued suffering. And we will find that out by watching and listening as Senate Amendment 2837 is considered and debated–and voted upon.

We know Congress will not get to the point of passing a single-payer system this time around. But we also know they can begin setting the benchmarks for what we should do going forward. And with a yes vote on this amendment, Senators send us the message that they heard us, that they will keep fighting with us until the day when this nation no longer leaves the weak, the sick and the poor behind in the delivery of its most basic human rights.

The time draws short to weigh in clearly with your Senators. Call your Senators. Tell them you want them to vote for Senators Sanders, Burris and Brown’s amendment number 2837. Call today. Call now. Insist on a vote for moral and fiscal sanity. Find their contact info here.

What’s in a number? Everything. Senate Amendment No. 2837. Everyone in, nobody out.

P.S. The text of Sanders single-payer amendment is not yet available online. Check here for the text. The floor debate could happen as early as tomorrow—please start making your calls immediately.

Tell your u.s. senators to vote for Medicare For All!

November 24, 2009

from Healthcare-NOW!:

Those millions of us who support a Medicare for All, single-payer, reform for the healthcare crisis in this nation have some work to do over the next few days. Senators are on their way to their home states for the one-week Thanksgiving recess – and they need a little up close and personal constituent attention before dinnertime on Thursday.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is a stalwart supporter of doing the right thing for his state, our healthcare system and this nation – and he has said repeatedly that moving toward a just and economically sound system is possible through Medicare for All, single-payer. In the purest sense of giving patients control over their own healthcare, single-payer gives us all control over our choice of providers – and it gives our healthcare professionals the freedom they need to advise us on the basis of health rather than payment source.

So, even though the current Senate bill is not what we want – Senator Sanders will offer an amendment that would be a substitute for that bill and is mirrored on S. 703, The American Health Security Act.

We need to make it clear before our Senators are immersed in their own holiday events and then in traveling back to Washington, DC, that we want them to support Senator Sanders’ amendment.

Call today, call tomorrow and keep calling until the home offices of the Senators close for the holidays – many will stay open until Wednesday at noon. Tell the staff you want to talk turkey about the Senate effort.

Time is drawing short for our Senators to hear from us. Debate will begin on November 30 on the current Senate bill. Senator Sanders needs support. He has already told us that he does not expect a win on his amendment. But we are all laying groundwork for this nation to move in the right direction before long – we know that the current bills do not “bend the cost curve” enough and we know they certainly do not bend the death or bankruptcy curve nearly enough to make the bills what this nation needs.

Additionally, we want the legislation to contain language that will allow states that opt in to a single-payer system to be able to do so with the appropriate waivers from federal legal provisions which might otherwise present obstacles to doing so.

So, the ask of our Senators – each and every one, liberal, centrist or conservative – is two-fold and urgent:

1. Vote with and for Sanders’ S. 703 substitute amendment; and
2. Support state Medicare for All/single-payer enabling language in the final bill.

Calls to DC won’t be effective this week. We can all return to that effort next week. Thanksgiving week calls must go to your Senators’ offices in your state. Look them up here, using your zip code.

Tell friends, neighbors and relatives. This year, talk a little turkey about healthcare. Ask folks how thankful they would be to have healthcare as a basic human right for their neighbors and for themselves. And then help them look up their Senators’ contact information and tell them how easy it really is to call and log your concerns and your expectations for an affirmative vote for the Sanders’ amendment.

Oh, and don’t forget to thank one another for caring enough to join in the struggle. It matters. Everybody in, nobody out. Thank you all for believing that together we can change this, because we can.

Finally, we are working to build actions to create awareness of Human Rights Day on December 10th. We will be helping to organize actions at Senators offices in support of S 703 and the state ability to move to single-payer. Please contact if you would like to organize an action near you.

Thanks for all that you do,
Healthcare-NOW! National Staff

Healthcare-NOW! survives on the ge

Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians

November 23, 2009

[from  If there’s anything to be grateful for on u.s. “thanksgiving,” it’s that the Indigenous People of both u.s.-occupied Turtle Island (“north america”) and the rest of the “americas” continue to remind us of the true history of not only “thanksgiving,” but the entirety of the history of the “americas” far too often ignored by too many of us who are not Indigenous to the “americas.”]


Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians

by Moonanum James and Mahtowin Munro




Every year since 1970, United American Indians of New England have organized the National Day of Mourning observance in Plymouth at noon on Thanksgiving Day. Every year, hundreds of Native people and our supporters from all four directions join us. Every year, including this year, Native people from throughout the Americas will speak the truth about our history and about current issues and struggles we are involved in.


Why do hundreds of people stand out in the cold rather than sit home eating turkey and watching football? Do we have something against a harvest festival?


Of course not. But Thanksgiving in this country — and in particular in Plymouth –is much more than a harvest home festival. It is a celebration of the pilgrim mythology.


According to this mythology, the pilgrims arrived, the Native people fed them and welcomed them, the Indians promptly faded into the background, and everyone lived happily ever after.


The truth is a sharp contrast to that mythology.


The pilgrims are glorified and mythologized because the circumstances of the first English-speaking colony in Jamestown were frankly too ugly (for example, they turned to cannibalism to survive) to hold up as an effective national myth. The pilgrims did not find an empty land any more than Columbus “discovered” anything. Every inch of this land is Indian land. The pilgrims (who did not even call themselves pilgrims) did not come here seeking religious freedom; they already had that in Holland. They came here as part of a commercial venture. They introduced sexism, racism, anti-lesbian and gay bigotry, jails, and the class system to these shores. One of the very first things they did when they arrived on Cape Cod — before they even made it to Plymouth — was to rob Wampanoag graves at Corn Hill and steal as much of the Indians’ winter provisions of corn and beans as they were able to carry. They were no better than any other group of Europeans when it came to their treatment of the Indigenous peoples here. And no, they did not even land at that sacred shrine called Plymouth Rock, a monument to racism and oppression which we are proud to say we buried in 1995.


The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of men from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.


About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of our lands, and never-ending repression. We are treated either as quaint relics from the past, or are, to most people, virtually invisible.


When we dare to stand up for our rights, we are considered unreasonable. When we speak the truth about the history of the European invasion, we are often told to “go back where we came from.” Our roots are right here. They do not extend across any ocean.


National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when a Wampanoag man, Wamsutta Frank James, was asked to speak at a state dinner celebrating the 350th anniversary of the pilgrim landing. He refused to speak false words in praise of the white man for bringing civilization to us poor heathens. Native people from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth, where they mourned their forebears who had been sold into slavery, burned alive, massacred, cheated, and mistreated since the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.


But the commemoration of National Day of Mourning goes far beyond the circumstances of 1970.


Can we give thanks as we remember Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who was framed up by the FBI and has been falsely imprisoned since 1976? Despite mountains of evidence exonerating Peltier and the proven misconduct of federal prosecutors and the FBI, Peltier has been denied a new trial. Bill Clinton apparently does not feel that particular pain and has refused to grant clemency to this innocent man.


To Native people, the case of Peltier is one more ordeal in a litany of wrongdoings committed by the U.S. government against us. While the media in New England present images of the “Pequot miracle” in Connecticut, the vast majority of Native people continue to live in the most abysmal poverty.


Can we give thanks for the fact that, on many reservations, unemployment rates surpass fifty percent? Our life expectancies are much lower, our infant mortality and teen suicide rates much higher, than those of white Americans. Racist stereotypes of Native people, such as those perpetuated by the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves, and countless local and national sports teams, persist. Every single one of the more than 350 treaties that Native nations signed has been broken by the U.S. government. The bipartisan budget cuts have severely reduced educational opportunities for Native youth and the development of new housing on reservations, and have caused cause deadly cutbacks in health-care and other necessary services.


Are we to give thanks for being treated as unwelcome in our own country?


Or perhaps we are expected to give thanks for the war that is being waged by the Mexican government against Indigenous peoples there, with the military aid of the U.S. in the form of helicopters and other equipment? When the descendants of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca flee to the U.S., the descendants of the wash-ashore pilgrims term them ‘illegal aliens” and hunt them down.


We object to the “Pilgrim Progress” parade and to what goes on in Plymouth because they are making millions of tourist dollars every year from the false pilgrim mythology. That money is being made off the backs of our slaughtered indigenous ancestors.


Increasing numbers of people are seeking alternatives to such holidays as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving. They are coming to the conclusion that, if we are ever to achieve some sense of community, we must first face the truth about the history of this country and the toll that history has taken on the lives of millions of Indigenous, Black, Latino, Asian, and poor and working class white people.


The myth of Thanksgiving, served up with dollops of European superiority and manifest destiny, just does not work for many people in this country. As Malcolm X once said about the African-American experience in America, “We did not land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.” Exactly.



[Mahtowin Munro (Lakota) and Moonanum James (Wampanoag)

are co-leaders of

United American Indians of New England.]

Call congress ASAP at 800-828-0498! The House healthcare “reform” package is all bad!

October 30, 2009

We’ve just learned that the two single-payer amendments to the House healthcare bill that were promised a vote this fall, one introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich allowing states to implement single-payer systems on the state level, the other by Rep. Anthony Weiner to have a vote on national single-payer legislation, are in jeopardy.

We need your voice to get these amendments back on the table.

Let’s get calls into the democratic leadership that is calling the shots and make sure they know that we expect the vote on single-payer this fall.

-Speaker Nancy Pelosi: DC (202) 225.4965 – SF (415) 556.4862
-Rep. George Miller: DC (202) 225.2095 – Concord (925) 602.1880
-Rep. Henry Waxman: DC (202) 225.3976 – LA (323) 651.1040

The message is simple: Keep the Kucinich Amendment to allow states to pass single-payer, and to allow Rep. Anthony Weiner introduce his single-payer amendment!

Thanks for all that you do,
Healthcare-NOW! National Staff

Call congress at 800-828-0498. the House healthcare “reform” package is all bad!

October 29, 2009

Today the House unveiled its healthcare reform package. And the news is all bad.

The Kucinich Amendment, which would give the states a clear path for enacting their own single-payer legislation, was stripped from the bill.

The Weiner Amendment, which would substitute the clean, clear language of HR 676 for the behemoth of a introduced, may not be given its vote in the House—in spite of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s promise.

While single payer hangs in the balance, PDA will continue to fight for single payer at the state level. Meanwhile, we have a small window of opportunity to get the Kucinich Amendment back in the bill and to make sure that Speaker Pelosi follows through on her promise to allow a vote on single-payer—the first ever in the House.

Democratic House leaders can insert what is called a “Manager’s Amendment” into legislation, even when it is closed to any other amendments. The managers are the majority and minority members who “manage” debate for the bill on each side.

Today, tomorrow, and beyond, we need to call these “managers” and insist that the Kucinich Amendment is restored into the healthcare bill. We also need to urge these leaders to exert pressure on Speaker Pelosi—and exert it on her ourselves—to follow through on her promise to put the Weiner Amendment to a vote.

The “gang” that holds our future in their hands includes:

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Washington, DC, office (202) 225-4965; San Francisco office (415) 556-4862
  • Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: Washington, DC, office (202) 225-4131; Greenbelt office (301) 474-0119; Waldorf office (301) 843-1577
  • Rep. Henry Waxman: Washington, DC, office (202) 225-3976; Los Angeles office (323) 651-1040
  • Rep. Charles Rangel: Washington, DC, office (202) 225-4365; New York office (212) 663-3900
  • Rep. George Miller: Washington, DC, office (202) 225-2095; Concord office (925) 602-1880; Richmond office (510) 262-6500; Vallejo office (707) 645-1888

It’s crucial for everyone to make these calls, to make them more than once, and to tell others to make these calls. Act NOW!