ATLANTA, GA — In front of the mammoth Blue Cross and Blue Shield headquarters in downtown Chicago chants of, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho!—Blue Cross/Blue Shield has Got to Go!” and “What do we want—Single Payer! “ and “When do we want it—Now!” rang out. Led by dozens of energetic medical students from Physicians for a National Health Program, hundreds of healthcare activists and professionals rallied at the October 30 demonstration.
Marchers demanded the elimination of the private insurance industry to be replaced by a governmental publicly accountable ‘single’ insurer with “Everyone IN and No One Out!.” Healthcare-NOW, the Organization of Single Payer States, Physicians for a National Health Program, Labor Campaign for Single Payer and over 400 hundred organizers converged for a weekend of strategy conferences. It was one of the largest gatherings of its kind since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
Patient experiences five years after the Affordable Care Act has made it painfully clear that buying health insurance on the ACA ‘market place exchanges,’ or from shrinking choices at work or even Medicare Advantage or supplemental plans are no guarantee that the healthcare you need will be covered by the insurance purchased. Over 32 million in the U.S. remain uninsured today.
The overwhelming majority without health insurance live in the South ,including 90% of 4 million people caught in a ‘coverage gap’ due to those states’ refusal to expand Medicaid. This ‘coverage gap’ hits people with incomes below $16,242 for an individual and $27,724 for a family of three! The ‘state’s rights’ to refuse Medicaid expansion only serves to deepen poverty and its healthcare disparities. Further, all undocumented immigrants are locked out of any health insurance and ‘legal’ immigrants are forced to wait years for eligibility.
Healthcare insecurity has actually expanded, not diminished over the last decade, increasingly thumping the shrinking numbers of workers who have employment-based health insurance. On-the-job premiums increased over 61% with those costs falling directly on the worker. In the mid-1990’s, 74% of the health insurance was employment based. Today that number is less than 57% and falling. In the bull’s-eye of this decline is trade union negotiated healthcare benefits but any employment-based health insurance is targeted, especially when the so-called “Cadillac Tax” hits in 2018, a tax on decent (not Cadillac) on-the-job health insurance.
It’s a sign of the times: Healthcare in a capitalist system is held hostage to corporate interests. Increasing health disparities. No coverage for the undocumented. Widening erosion of on-the-job benefits.
To win, class unity that’s based in the interests of the most dispossessed, excluded, unemployed and underemployed is a strategic key. Single payer is a link in a broader struggle to totally transform the healthcare system from private to public; from unequal to universal; from absurdly fragmented to nationalized; from corporate to common and from money driven to need met. Everyone In and No One Out! Healthcare for All!