Maryland Coalition Urges Democrats to 'Stand With Majority of Americans' by Supporting Medicare for All in 2020 Platform

"In the middle of a global pandemic, it's a winning electoral strategy for the Democratic Party," one organizer said of supporting Medicare for All.


Published on Monday, August 10, 2020 by 

Medicare for All supporters hold a rally outside PhRMA headquarters on April 29, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

With the Democratic National Convention just a week away, a grassroots coalition of Maryland healthcare activists and providers on Monday joined the national campaign calling for inclusion of a Medicare for All plank in the Democratic Party's 2020 platform.

"In the middle of a global pandemic, it's a winning electoral strategy for the Democratic Party to stand with the majority of Americans in supporting Medicare for All," Kristy Fogle, founder of the Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition (MPHC), said in a statement.

MPHC is calling on Maryland voters to sign a petition urging the state's convention delegates to "pledge to only vote for a 2020 platform that includes a universal, single-payer, Medicare for All platform plank."

"We believe that healthcare is a basic human right, not a privilege or a luxury," the petition reads.

As Common Dreams reported last month, more than 700 DNC delegates have already vowed to vote against the Democratic platform if it excludes Medicare for All, arguing that the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic collapse have spotlighted "the need to separate healthcare from employment." The four national co-chairs of Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign have endorsed the delegates' effort.

Chrissy Holt, co-chair of Our Revolution Maryland, said in a statement Monday that fighting for the inclusion of a single-payer plank in the Democratic platform would put Maryland delegates in "alignment with the majority of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who have co-sponsored the Medicare For All Act of 2019." MPHC pointed to a Hill-HarrisX survey from April showing that 69% of registered voters—including 88% of registered Democrats—support Medicare for All.

Despite the policy's popularity among Democratic lawmakers and voters, members of the DNC Platform Committee last month overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would have inserted a Medicare for All plank into the party platform. In its current form (pdf), the platform contains a nod to "those who support a Medicare for All approach" but does not endorse a single-payer system.

"Democrats who understand the profound need for Medicare for All don't want a pat on the head," Norman Solomon, national director of progressive advocacy group, told Politico. "We want a genuine political commitment to healthcare as a human right."

We Should Be Fighting For Healthcare For Everyone, Not Taking It Away

As a nation, we will only be healthy if everyone has access to healthcare.

Published on Monday, July 27, 2020 by 
The only comprehensive solution is Medicare for All. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The only comprehensive solution is Medicare for All. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A deadly virus has infected millions of people worldwide. Our President refuses to acknowledge this and refuses to take aggressive action to control the situation. Millions of people lack adequate healthcare coverage and can’t afford a trip to the doctor. Hospital systems are overwhelmed with patients and essential workers are risking their lives and their families across the country, without access to proper PPE or hazard pay. Instead of protecting us, the Trump Administration is trying to strip health coverage from millions of its citizens.

It sounds like a dystopian movie plot, but this is our reality. In the midst of a pandemic and some federal and state officials are trying to slash healthcare coverage exactly when it is most needed.

Despite Trump's false statement that the virus just “...snuck up on us,” epidemiologists warned of the coming disaster months ago. As other countries are on their way to containing the virus and carefully reopening their economies, the U.S. hit another record day of coronavirus cases. Despite Trump’s claim that we would run 5 million tests a day in late April, we’re still only testing about 500,000 people a day. Because of the administration’s failure to implement basic public health tools and its lies about the pandemic, we are falling further and further behind other countries in testing, tracing, and ensuring that all our people have the healthcare and financial safety net needed to weather the storm.

The pandemic is exposing the true cost of our for-profit healthcare system.

As COVID-19 disproportionately impacts communities of color, overwhelms our hospital systems, and shuts down businesses leading to an all time high unemployment rate, one thing remains clear: our ramshackle healthcare system is failing in the face of the pandemic. At the start of this pandemic, 87 million people were already uninsured or underinsured. That number has continued to grow as 5.4 million people and their families have lost their employer-sponsored insurance amid the crisis, which is more than in any other single year.

Additionally, immigrants were excluded from coronavirus relief enacted into law thus far and nearly 202,500 DACA recipients and approximately 131,000 TPS holders serve on the frontline of this crisis and lack access to healthcare.   

To make matters worse, Republicans from 20 states and the Trump administration are challenging the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in court and working to strip health insurance from millions of people, during a pandemic. President Trump asked the Supreme Court to strike down the entire ACA since “the individual mandate penalty has been set to $0." The Supreme Court already dealt a serious blow to the ACA’s protections this term by ruling that allows employers to refuse to include contraceptives in their health plans.

We should be working to ensure healthcare coverage for everyone, not taking away people’s health insurance or access to basic health care like contraceptives. Instead of trying to dismantle health care protections during a pandemic, Congressional Democrats are fighting to strengthen the ACA through H.R. 1425, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, which passed in the House on June 29, 2020 with some key additional positive amendments. This legislation would significantly increase the ACA’s affordability subsidies, negotiate for lower prescription drug prices, expand coverage, and strengthen protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It’s a step in the right direction, but we must go further.

Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan and other progressive champions successfully added positive provisions from Reps. Jayapal and Haaland’s Health Equity and Access under the Law (HEAL) for Immigrant Women and Families Act that would expand access to healthcare for DACA recipients. DACA recipients, especially the 27,000 DACA healthcare workers, often struggle to obtain healthcare coverage and have been excluded from other relief packages. Although the Supreme Court overturned Trump’s termination of DACA, hundreds of thousands of Dreamers still face a number of challenges including accessing healthcare. The HEAL Act is crucial and would provide immigrants with some of the relief and protections they deserve, including removing the restrictive 5-year waiting period to enroll in health coverage.

In June, Democrats in the House passed the Heroes Act, a $3 trillion dollar relief package that will provide people with continued unemployment benefits, direct cash assistance, housing protections, relief for immigrants, voting rights, and more. Instead of taking up the Heroes Act or the HEAL Act, the Republican-led Senate is pushing for more corporate bailouts, resisting continuing expanded unemployment insurance, and trying to give corporations immunity from lawsuits if they recklessly endanger their workers and customers.

The pandemic is exposing the true cost of our for-profit healthcare system. As a nation, we will only be healthy if everyone has access to healthcare. The only comprehensive solution is Medicare for All. People of color are dying at disproportionate rates due to COVID-19 and although the virus does not discriminate, our healthcare system does. Dreamers and immigrants are left behind, people are unable to afford testing and treatment, and the pandemic is only getting worse. With the expiration of expanded unemployment insurance, millions facing evictions as layoffs continue, and cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surging nationwide, we need to do more, not less. Congress must take immediate action to help those in need during this crisis, and then we must build a system that could have prevented many of the issues we face today. That means fighting to achieve Medicare for All.

Hebah Kassem, MPH, is the organizing associate at the Progressive Caucus Action Fund where she leads the organization's advocacy efforts on Medicare for All. She is a long-time organizer and advocate for communities of color to achieve racial and health equity.

COVID-19 Does Not Discriminate; America's Health Care Does

Photo credit: Sara Eshleman, DOD / cc

From alarming death rates for Black, Latinx and Indigenous people to the fact that women of color make up an astonishing percentage of the essential workers putting their health on the line, the coronavirus pandemic is hitting communities of color hard. We are all facing this virus together, but we are not all at equal risk. 

The coronavirus pandemic is exposing a long-standing truth: people of color face deadly health disparities in the U.S. Enduring structural factors such as long term pollution exposure, living in communities with less hospital beds, the inability to afford health coverage, high rates of chronic illnesses and high maternal mortality rates have contributed to worse health outcomes for people of color in nearly every measurable way. 

Communities of color, especially Black and Latinx people, are dying at staggering rates in this pandemic. In Michigan for instance, Black people are 14 percent of the population but 31 percent of the confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 40 percent of the deaths in the state. As of late April in Chicago, Black people make up 30 percent of the population but account for over 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths - 70 percent! In New York city, latinx have a death rate of 22.8 per 1000, higher than any other group.

A recent survey found half of all Latinx people reported losing a job or income related to COVID-19, compared to 33 percent of all people surveyed. Native American and Alaska Native populations face a number of risksunsafe water at home; higher rates of diabetes and hypertension than any other racial group in America; and an underfunded healthcare system. Adding insult to injury, tribal communities still haven't received the $8 billion they were allocated in the CARES Act. People of Asian descent are subject to racist attacks on top of concerns about the virus, as the President continues to label COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and exacerbate anti-Asian hatred. 

The All Means All campaign has found 59 percent of America’s uninsured are people of color. Taking a closer look at some of the states where disproportionate levels of people of color account for higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths, we see that 37 percent of Michigan’s uninsured are minorities, but people of color make up only a quarter of the general population. In Louisiana, more than half of the uninsured population -- 55 percent -- are people of color. Of the uninsured in Louisiana, 78 percent are from working families. The approximately 10.5 million undocumented people in the U.S. are less likely to have any health coverage and are often hesitant to seek medical attention for fear of deportation. When people are left out of any relief packages and cannot seek treatment when needed, we are all at risk. 

Despite the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, there has been a decline in access to healthcare for people of color, especially for nonelderly Black and Latinx communities. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that for these communities, post-ACA coverage, access, and use of care are worse compared to white Americans. Nonelderly immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are significantly more likely to be uninsured than citizens. Because of these barriers, and economic and social circumstances, minority groups are already more likely to have the underlying chronic health conditions that leave people vulnerable to COVID-19.  

Despite the clear impact on communities of color, much of our government’s response has left our communities behind and explicitly excluded immigrants from much of the CARES Act relief package. Black and Latinx small businesses got shut out of small business loans. Community health centers, which often serve communities of color, didn’t get the funding they need to serve their patients. Essential workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color, haven’t gotten the hazard pay or protections they deserve. The Heroes Act takes steps towards a more inclusive relief package, but the Republican-controlled Senate has so far not agreed to vote on the bill. We can and must do better. 

COVID-19 shows us just how much we need Medicare for All, especially for communities of color. Medicare for All would ensure everyone in this country has full health coverage without any copays or deductibles regardless of income, immigration status, or race. Medicare for All would mean that less people would be vulnerable to the virus because of untreated chronic health conditions. Medicare for All would mean everyone can afford a trip to the doctor and seek testing and treatment for a potentially deadly virus. Medicare for All would make it possible for our health system to respond quickly to a deadly pandemic and, in the case of COVID-19, slow its spread. The current healthcare system is built to protect profits, not people, especially not people of color. COVID-19 is exposing the truth: a for-profit healthcare system costs us lives, especially for anyone already dealing with the impact of structural racism. 

As we face this pandemic, we can’t just let our broken healthcare system return to “normal.”  The old “normal” left millions of our families struggling to survive, let alone thrive. Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal end this discrimination in their new bill -- the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act. This emergency legislation covers immediate no-cost healthcare for all medically necessary health services for everyone, including undocumented immigrants for the duration of the pandemic. This bill must be signed into law to save lives and we must continue the fight to guarantee health coverage for all through Medicare for All. Now is the time to rewrite the rules and unrig our system so that it works for everyone, no matter where we were born, how we look, or how much money we make. 

Alan Barber is the policy director at the Progressive Caucus Action Fund where he leads the policy team and the organization’s Policy and Research Council, a coalition of think tanks, advocates and experts strengthening the progressive movement.

Hebah Kassem, MPH is the organizing associate at the Progressive Caucus Action Fund where she leads the organization's advocacy efforts on Medicare for All. She has served as an organizer and advocate for communities of color to achieve racial and health equity.

Sanjeev K. Sriram, MD, MPH is a Senior Advisor for Social Security Works. He leads the All Means All campaign to make racial equity a cornerstone of Medicare For All. Dr. Sriram is also “Dr. America,” a Health Justice Correspondent for We Act Radio. He currently practices general pediatrics in southeast Washington, D.C.

Want to actually solve America’s health care crisis? Invest in Medicare for all | READER COMMENTARY


Vincent DeMarco’s commentary (“Pandemic exposed weaknesses in the US health care system,” July 8) highlights shortcomings of U.S. health care, but the solutions offered fall short. Mr. DeMarco notes that Maryland “brought down our rate of uninsured from 13% to 6%.” But that still left 360,000 of our fellow Marylanders without health insurance before the massive layoffs and loss of employer-based insurance that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, at least 450,000 Marylanders were underinsured before the pandemic, meaning that they had insurance but could not afford to see a doctor because of the high cost of co-payments and deductibles.Maryland has done better than most states at reducing barriers to health care access, and protecting the existing benefits that people depend on. But to ensure that all of us have the health care we need, action is needed at the federal level. An improved version of Medicare, called Medicare for All, would provide comprehensive health care coverage including vision, dental and long-term care, without copays, premiums or deductibles, and it would cost less than we are paying now.

People without reliable health care coverage are represented disproportionately among the essential workers who are risking their lives to provide the rest of us with needed goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. If “we’re all in this together,” as we keep hearing, we should all have the same great, health care coverage that Medicare for All would provide.

Jackie MacMillan, Baltimore

Medicare for all can begin to chip away at health care disparities | READER COMMENTARY

Bridgeport, CT - 6/23/20 - Optimus Healthcare professionals conduct COVID-19 testing at Mount Aery Baptist Church Tuesday morning. Photo by Brad Horrigan |
Bridgeport, CT - 6/23/20 - Optimus Healthcare professionals conduct COVID-19 testing at Mount Aery Baptist Church Tuesday morning. Photo by Brad Horrigan | [email protected] (Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant)

Vincent DeMarco’s commentary (“Pandemic exposed weaknesses in the US health care system,” July 7) detailed the shortcomings of America’s health care system. It also buttresses the argument for a national solution: Medicare for All.

The Medicare for All legislation before Congress would provide comprehensive health care coverage for everyone in the United States from birth to death. Coverage would not be linked to employment status or income. If someone became unemployed, had their hours cut or changed jobs, they would still be insured. Just this week, 66,000 Marylanders filed for unemployment benefits. Nationally, an estimated 27 million people could lose their employer-sponsored health care coverage, and for many of them that loss might be permanent. Medicare for All also eliminates deductibles and co-payments which have been a financial barrier to obtaining needed services.

The coronavirus has starkly revealed the racial inequalities of the current health care system. People of color have historically had higher rates of uninsurance and underinsurance and have been denied access to needed care. Medicare for All should be the next step toward addressing these inequalities.

Maryland has made real efforts to improve health care coverage, but only a comprehensive national program like Medicare for All can guarantee all Marylanders the health care they deserve.

Richard Bruning, Baltimore

Bernie Sanders Medicare for All plan debated at Annapolis town hall

The Medicare for All debate came to Annapolis Sunday with a tour of town halls making its fourth stop to discuss Medicare for All, a national health insurance plan that’s one of the pivotal aspects of the 2020 presidential election.

Around 70 people came to the Stanton Community Center for the town hall hosted by Maryland Progressive Healthcare Coalition Sunday where physicians, nurses, politicians and activists discussed and pitched support for the government-run single-payer health plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. Sanders is an independent and front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president. Jayapal is a Democrat.

The town hall also acted as a stop on state Sen. Jill Carter’s, D-Baltimore, campaign trail. Carter is running for Congress to fill the late Rep. Elijah Cumming’s seat in a special election on Feb. 4.

“We have a for-profit health care system, and it is completely broken both in the state of Maryland and in the country,” Carter said.

Maryland spends $54 billion, or 30% of its budget, on health care expenditures, but continues to have 355,000 uninsured residents, Carter said. Maryland is perfectly poised to transition into a single-payer system, Carter said, because the state already works to reduce medical expenditures through the Healthy Maryland Act.

Carter announced Sunday she is introducing a Medicare for All bill in the state Senate this session. Co-sponsored by delegate Gabriel Acevero, the bill is in the drafting stage.

Annapolis resident Phil Ateto, 41, shared his health care story of battling multiple myeloma cancer for nine years. Ateto’s journey fighting an incurable cancer is like “a game of Frogger,” he said, hopping from one drug to the next when a drug stops showing promising results.

Ateto’s insurance initially denied covering a drug called Venetoclax because it was not approved by the FDA for myeloma cancer and therefore considered experimental. Ateto was told his insurance determined covering the drug was “not medically necessary.” At the end of December, Ateto was denied again and started declining physically. In an emotional speech, Ateto described how he prepared to experience his last holiday before he died.

The drug was eventually approved by the Vice President Chief Office of CareFirst who made the decision to approve the medication. Ateto has been on the drug for three weeks and his cancer cell counts have been cut in half from what they were a month ago.

“I feel the journey to get to this point in the last couple of months is a further indictment of our health care system,” Ateto said.

There are several proposals for how to transition the United States into a single-payer program for all citizens, but Sander’s bill, HR 1384, was the focus of Sunday’s town hall. Sander’s Medicare for All plan promises it would improve public health by having the Department of Health and Human Services cover every person in the United States in a single, national health insurance program. The proposal would cover services like long-term care, surgery, routine doctor checkups as well as vision, hearing and dental insurance.

Sander’s goal is to implement universal coverage at an affordable price. There would be no deductibles or copay for patients under the plan, with exceptions for some prescription drugs and some long-term care, according to the bill.

The plan is estimated to cost $32 trillion over ten years. Sanders has proposed a variety of ways to pay for the plan including payroll taxes for employees, and a broadly applied income tax and further taxes on the wealthy, arguing those costs would be cheaper than what individuals pay for health care now even on private insurance. The government would not allow private insurance companies to cover the same care as Medicare for All. Private insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare would dissolve and Medicare for All would take its place.

Medicare for All skeptics questioned how the single-payer payer plan would fix flaws in the country’s current Medicare system.

“A lot of folks are missing that Medicare, in terms of reimbursement model, what Medicare pays hospitals is not sustainable if everyone is paid on that level,” said Larry Ulvila, founder of Insurance Solutions, an employee benefit consulting firm in Annapolis. “Third-party payers, like United Health Care, Cigna, make up the shortfall that Medicare doesn’t cover,” Ulvila said.

A common narrative in the Medicare for All debate, and a frequent topic of discussion at the town hall, is the United State’s inadequacy in handling public health compared to other industrialized European countries. Or the fact that others come to the U.S. to seek treatment despite having single-payer programs in their country.

The public doesn’t have to settle for the status quo on that front, said Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who also attended the town hall.

“Europeans do public health so much better, because the government, the public, the people are the ones paying for health care in a way that is not profit-motivated but motivated by improving the health of those in our jurisdiction,” Pittman said.

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