DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE DENIED
In May of 2009 the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Democratic Montana Senator Max Baucus, pressured by President Barack Obama, held hearings about healthcare reform in the U.S. Over the course of several weeks, only corporate health insurance lobbyists were allowed to give testimony.
On May 5th Dr. Margret Flowers rose to her feet from the spectator gallery and stated ; “ Will you allow an advocate for Single Payer Medicare for All testify ? “
The answer from Sen. Baucus was a loud “ Get more police in here “.
Over the course of the next several days over 100 Doctors, Nurses, and other Healthcare advocates were arrested while attempting to testify.
After the Senate hearings concluded and corporate healthcare industry lobbyists began working with the Obama administration in writing a healthcare bill, twenty-one unions led by the National Nurses Union and the Steel Workers campaigned for a Medicare for All provision in the developing healthcare bill. But the Obama administration and most members of the U.S. House and Senate ignored the Trade Unionist’s campaign as well as the will of 2/3 of the American people.
TO HELL WITH THE POLITICIANS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
When Barack Obama signed the “ Affordable Health Care Act “, also known as “Obamacare”, in March 2012, many thought the debate about healthcare reform was over. But while the country was consumed within an imposed limited debate by politicians in Washington D.C and the corporate media, which was dictated by drug and insurance corporate lobbyists, a REAL healthcare battle was happening in the State of Vermont.
In March 2012, the Vermont Workers Center was already four years into its successful HEALTHCARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT campaign.
James Haslam, the Director of The Vermont Workers Center considered the so-called debate in Washington D.C. And the corporate media about the Obamacare Bill a distraction because the Bill did absolutely nothing to solve the healthcare crisis in the U.S..
The U.S. Healthcare system is the most expensive in the world yet ranks only 38th in quality of care. Even Americans with health insurance are subjected to cost limit caps which if exceeded results in people losing their homes and having to declare bankruptcy.
While so called healthcare “ reform “ was bargained in closed door meetings between politicians and corporate healthcare industry lobbyists, in Vermont there was a drive for change that came from the bottom up.
The Vermont Workers Center activists made their way across the state of Vermont, passing out surveys and listening to stories from people who were victims of the current U.S. healthcare system. They held self-organized public hearings all over the state and heard horrible stories of needless deaths of loved ones who were uninsured. Women who stayed in abusive relationships so their children would not lose healthcare coverage, and families WITH health insurance who faced bankruptcy and home foreclosure because the insurance they paid for didn’t protect them.
While conducting the public hearings and getting more people to respond to the surveys, the Vermont Workers Center was able to get people involved and they began to take their campaign of healthcare is a human right directly to elected officials with ; parades, rallies, petitions and face to face encounters, including testimony at State committee hearings, often demanding to be heard.
Many Vermont politicians were running election campaigns that declared themselves in support for healthcare for all, but after getting elected they would abandon the issue because they said that it was not “ politically possible “.
In other words, the elected officials were unwilling to oppose the healthcare industry. Through their grassroots organizing, the Vermont Workers Center was able to convince every legislator in Vermont that the vast majority of their constituents supported healthcare for all and were willing to back up their demand.
They showed ambitious politicians that supporting healthcare for all was in their best interests and that ignoring Vermonters who elected them would be politically costly, regardless if they were Republicans or Democrats.
After four years of organizing and mobilizing the people of Vermont and putting extreme political pressure on Vermont legislators, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed ACT 48 into law which has set Vermont on course to become the first U.S. state to have a universal Medicare for All healthcare system. Currently the State of Vermont is fighting the Obama administration to get the necessary Medicare funds to implement their healthcare system. The Obamacare Bill prohibits states from enacting their own Medicare for All systems until 2017 ( originally 2014 ).
COULD VERMONT LEAD THE WAY ?
Politicians of both political parties in Washington D.C. Have proven they are unwilling to stand up to corporate special interests and an increasing number of Medicare for All activists believe that the way we as a nation will join the ranks of EVERY economically advanced country in the world that have universal medicare for All for it’s citizens, is to enact it State by State. This is what the citizens of Canada had to do in their tough battle during the early 1960’s to enact medicare for All. Hence the successful battle in Vermont should be seen as a first step in a national campaign. In fact, state-wide Medicare for All movements are forming in various States all over the country.
THE CHALLENGE AHEAD
It is a proven fact, based on the experiences of other countries going back 60 years and longer, that private for profit corporate healthcare is unsustainable.
Obamacare is NOT the solution to the U.S. Healthcare crisis because despite it’s helping a small number of people, it will fail because it does NOT help the vast majority of Americans with their healthcare needs and does nothing to contain healthcare costs because it’s primary goal is to preserve and protect the for profit corporate healthcare system. This should be of no surprise considering the Obamacare bill was written by corporate healthcare lobbyists.
According to James Haslam, the Director of the Vermont Workers Center ; “ In 2008 when we launched the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign, we were told by almost everyone that it couldn’t happen, but with a LOT of hard work and grassroots organizing it did happen ! “
Haslam also stated that ; “ What matters most is having the organized people power to convince politicians to act on the will of their constituents. We had to put INTENSE pressure on our elected officials with an active state-wide network of thousands of people. We formed organizing committees in every region of the state, whose members mobilized their; friends, neighbors, co-workers, and church members to make phone calls, send letters, and turn-out for rallies and events. Every single day we held our elected officials accountable.”
During the 2nd week of January 2013, a National Labor for Single Payer Healthcare conference occurred in Chicago, which began the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign in Illinois. The Vermont Workers Center activists are scheduled to come to Illinois this Summer 2013 to help begin the State-wide campaign.
David Johnson is host of the Labor Hour on WEFT 90.1.