Introduction by Mark Vorpahl
The statement below from Labor for Single Payer Healthcare is evidence that a significant segment of the union movement continues to put workers’ health care needs above political maneuvers to gain influence within the Obama administration. It recognizes that even if the Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, nothing essentially changes in regards to the predatory behavior of the insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations or the continuing struggle to make health care a right for all. The appeal to Labor to “…not circle the wagons around the defense of a flawed PPACA” could not be more timely. Its steadfast support for building a campaign advocating a Single Payer system is as dead on now as it was before Obama’s health care scheme.
As the article notes, the California Nurse’s Association (CNA) has been engaged in an admirable grass roots effort to popularize the call “Medicare for All.” However, it will take an active mass social movement that unites all of Labor with the needs of the entire working class in order to promote such policies that are opposed by the top 1 percent who own both the Republicans and Democrats.
Currently, the issues that are most affecting workers is a lack of well paying full time jobs, the austerity attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as the need to raise taxes on the top 1 percent to pay for viable solutions. These are the issues that the largest number of American workers are willing to take action on if a serious fight back were to be organized. Within such a campaign that would culminate in mass mobilizations, the popularity of the demand “Medicare for All” would quickly become an issue of undeniable importance that politicians would dismiss at their own peril.
Waiting for SCOTUS*
Washington is abuzz with anticipation of the pending Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) signed by President Obama in 2010. We are now past the mid-June window that many observers predicted as the most likely date that they would release their decision. Perhaps the Justices are bogged down in the fine points of healthcare policy deliberations.
More likely, however, is that the Justices are engaged in a boldfaced political calculation and are trying to shape a decision that conforms to their desired political outcome. This is, after all, the Court that proclaimed George Bush president. These are the judges who have decreed that corporations are people and money is speech.
In fact, much of the turmoil about this pending decision is more about who gets elected this November than whether the American people will receive decent, affordable healthcare. On one side of the street we have the Republicans denouncing a healthcare bill that was modeled on the Massachusetts law that their candidate championed when he was governor of that state. On the other side, you have Democrats leading the cheers for the individual mandate—an idea developed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation as a “free market” alternative to a Medicare-for-All single-payer system.
While we can’t predict how the Supremes will rule on PPACA, there are certain realities that we know will be there regardless of how they decide:
- On the day after the decision, there will still be over 50 million Americans without health insurance. Even if PPACA is upheld in its entirety, the most optimistic estimates predict that, by 2018, nearly 25 million will still be without any insurance.
- Medical profiteers will still be gaming the system and healthcare costs will continue to go up two, three and four times faster than our wages. Regardless of how the Court rules, insurance companies and other for-profit medical organizations are already coming up with ways to bypass the modest regulations in PPACA. A system based on profit-taking and massive administrative waste will assure that Americans continue to have the world’s most expensive healthcare.
- Healthcare will still be on the bargaining table as the biggest cause of strikes, lockouts and attacks on public worker bargaining. If the Court overturns PPACA, millions of low-wage workers will be denied promised access to Medicaid and private health insurance. If the court upholds PPACA, new pressures will be felt at the bargaining table as union/management benefit funds are undermined and over 60% of employer-provided insurance plans will be subject to a “Cadillac Tax” by 2018.
The Labor Campaign for Single-Payer has urged that the labor movement resist the temptation to circle the wagons around the defense of a flawed PPACA. Rather, we support the call of Progressive Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), to use this moment to fight on towards healthcare justice.
On June 19, the California Nurses Association launched a three-week Healthcare Express bus tour which will bring the Medicare for All message to communities throughout the state. Unions everywhere need to follow this mobilization model so that, however and whenever SCOTUS rules, we will be in a position to continue the fight to make healthcare a right for everyone in America.
* Supreme Court of the United States