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. In 2018, twenty-eight percent of U.S. adults who have health insurance through their employer were underinsured, up from 20 percent just four years earlier. Despite spending more on per-capita annual medical costs ($11,212 in 2018) than any other country and twice as much of its gross domestic product (17.8 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 Affordable Care Act (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.
Healthcare reform is at the forefront of the 2020 Democratic primary. Bernie Sanders has made Medicare for All, a longtime demand of UE, a primary platform of his campaign, which has forced the other candidates to address the issue. The Medicare for All Act of 2019 has been introduced in the Senate by Sanders (S. 1129) and in the House by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (H.R. 1384), where it has garnered the support of the majority of the Democratic caucus.
The public now recognizes the U.S. healthcare system needs a complete overhaul. Polling shows that a majority of the public — and a majority of doctors — support Medicare for All. This type of system has been used successfully in Canada for decades, where polls show over 85 percent of the public approves.
While a propaganda campaign funded by health care corporations is trying to spread the myth that Americans love their private health insurance plans, the reality is that most workers are paying increasingly burdensome amounts for their coverage and are facing ever-greater limits on when and where they can use their benefits. This has been well-demonstrated by UE’s Healthcare Cost Calculator, available on the UE website, which has been used in conjunction with the UE workshop “How to Fix Healthcare.” Among those workers who have used it so far, the overwhelming majority are finding that they are spending over 15 percent of their income on health care and typically closer to 25 percent with some workers reporting more than 50 percent!
Workshop participants in many states have followed up by making calls urging their congresspeople to sign on to H.R. 1384. Members of Locals 1135 and 1172 in Milwaukee and Locals 1107, 1121 and 1161 in northern Wisconsin made in-person visits to the congressional offices of Gwen Moore and Ron Kind respectively, urging them to cosponsor the bill.
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 and slash Medicaid. We should push for further Medicaid expansion and restoring federal funding to Planned Parenthood. We need to mobilize to claim the basic human right to healthcare for all.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 76th UE CONVENTION:
- Demands Congress enact the Medicare for All Act (H.R. 1384/S. 1129);
- Supports efforts to institute similar programs at the state level;
- Encourages locals and regions make use of UE’s “How to Fix Healthcare” workshop and to follow the action steps outlined in the workshop, including:
- Use UE’s Healthcare Cost Calculator, including with members in the shop;
- Educate members about the real cost of their existing healthcare and organize members to call and visit their congresspeople in support of H.R. 1384;
- Collaborate with their employer on a mutually-agreed-upon public statement in support of Medicare for All;
- Opposes all efforts to undermine the ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans’ Administration (VA) health benefits;
- Demands the reversal of the Trump administration’s defunding of Planned Parenthood;
- Encourages the union at all levels to participate in coalitions for universal healthcare, including Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Physicians for a National Healthcare Program (PNHP), and Healthcare NOW!;
- Urges locals to contact their 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 and family leave in cities and states across the country.