Health care: truths and struggles

In September 2004, this newspaper issued a pamphlet called “Medicare For All! A Guide to Single Payer National Health Insurance.” It explained what “single-payer” is and why so many organizations, health professionals and politicians see it as a necessary program to fulfill the critical health care needs of millions of Americans.

The pamphlet shows why the drive for profit is a fundamental roadblock in the path to health care for all.

But not everybody sees it that way. Most state and national proposals to solve the crisis are some kind of hybrid — programs that include both government and the private sector in providing universal, affordable health insurance.

So how do progressives bridge this divide? How can forward-thinking people play a role in winning health care for all?

Taking a page out of the labor movement’s approach is one possibility. While supporting a single-payer system, the labor movement is also keeping options open and putting forward basic principles that must be part of any health care plan, like high quality, comprehensive, affordable care for all and a strong role for government in curbing abuses and ensuring fairness and efficiency. Any plan that guarantees more people access to affordable, quality health care is a step forward and would open up more political space to win further gains.

There are lots of ways to conduct a mass political action and education campaign for fundamental health care reform. These include electing candidates to Congress who pledge to work for passage of HR 676 and initiating a mass petition campaign to get a companion bill introduced in the Senate, thereby winning over millions more to the cause of a single-payer system.

Focusing only on those who will take up the banner for single-payer health care has limited reach. A mass movement is necessary to wrest power from the giant corporations and the extremist right-wing politicians who do their bidding.