Attempts by Republicans to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to give tax cuts to the rich have so far been defeated — in large part due to strong protests in the streets, at congressional offices, and at town hall meetings. These attacks have actually backfired, resulting in increased enthusiasm for a universal single-payer system (also known as Medicare for All).
Even prior to these most recent attacks, dozens of states under right-wing control opted out of the Medicaid expansion provisions of the ACA — refusing to take money from the federal government that would have provided healthcare for 2.5 million of their poorest residents. There are also increasing attempts to completely defund Planned Parenthood, which delivers essential healthcare services to 2.4 million people, especially low income families.
The U.S. employer-based private health insurance system is a disaster. It treats healthcare as a profit making enterprise rather than a fundamental human right. Despite spending more on per-capita annual medical costs ($9,200) than any other country and twice as much of its gross domestic product (17.9 percent) than any other industrialized nation, the U.S. infant mortality rate remains among the highest of all prosperous countries.
Employers decrease their healthcare bill by shifting costs onto workers. Healthcare costs take away other economic gains union members negotiate at the bargaining table. The ACA did not address containing costs for workers, leaving most Americans vulnerable to financial disaster. Economists estimate that over 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical expenses and nearly 80 percent of these people are insured.
The public now recognizes the U.S. healthcare system needs a complete overhaul. Polling now shows that a majority of the public — and a majority of doctors — now support single payer. This type of system has been used successfully in Canada for decades, where polls show over 85 percent of the public approves. This has also taken health insurance off the bargaining table.
Bernie Sanders made Medicare for All a key part of his 2016 presidential run, putting it on the national agenda. Support for H.R. 676, the Medicare-for-All legislation first introduced by Congressman John Conyers in 2003, has now grown to a record 113 congressional cosponsors, along with having the endorsement of 22 national unions and over 600 local and regional unions. Serious efforts to enact state single-payer systems have gained traction in legislatures in recent years, including in Vermont and California, where UE members have been involved.
While we fight to enact the single-payer system this country needs, we must also resist any attempts to roll back beneficial provisions of the ACA, slash Medicaid, or defund Planned Parenthood. We need to mobilize to claim the basic human right to healthcare for all.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 75th UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on state legislatures and Congress to enact single-payer health insurance for all;
- Opposes all efforts to dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or defund Planned Parenthood;
- Encourages the union to participate in coalitions for universal healthcare, including Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Physicians for a National Healthcare Program (PNHP), and Healthcare NOW!;
- Directs locals to fight for the best possible employer-paid healthcare plan, including:
- No changes in plan design, provider groups, or exclusions or limitations unless mutually agreed;
- Oppose “consumer-driven healthcare” scams such as health savings accounts (HSAs) and other devices that are designed to financially penalize those who need healthcare;
- Paperwork for healthcare or insurance should be done during work time;
- Consider union-appointed navigator(s) to assist bargaining unit members with health insurance issues during working hours;
- Oppose and prevent cost shifting to workers;
- No denial or restriction of healthcare or health insurance based on employment, economic, immigration status, or disability (physical or mental);
- Refuse attempts by employers to require any member to pay any portion of the ACA excise tax in 2020;
- Adopt a healthcare benefit cost structure which is progressive in nature, based on income, doesn’t unfairly burden lower income workers, and ensures that higher salaried employees and executives pay their fair share;
- Commits UE to continue our defense of Medicare and Medicaid;
- Opposes any cuts to Veterans’ Administration (VA) health benefits;
- Urges locals to contact the local VA to learn what medical benefits are available to our veteran members, and to lobby for restoration of fully funded medical benefits for veterans and their families and preventive testing and screening of all veterans potentially exposed to depleted uranium or other toxins;
- Encourages locals to support the growing campaign for paid sick days in cities and states across the country;
- Opposes any effort by employers to replace full-time jobs with part time (under 30-hour) jobs in an effort to avoid the mandate under the ACA for employers to provide health insurance for full-time workers.