June 2012, Week 5


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Sat, 30 Jun 2012 20:44:49 -0400
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Bernie Sanders, Nurses: We Still Need 'Medicare for

By John Nichols
The Nation
June 28, 2012


Supporters of the Affordable Healthcare Act
celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the
court upheld the legality of the law in Washington
June 28, 2012. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

There have been few steadier Congressional hands
throughout he debate over healthcare reform than
that of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Principled
in his support for the real reform of "Medicare for
All," yet pragmatic in his advocacy for Affordable
Care Act provisions that expand public health
programs and allow states to experiment with
single-payer options, Sanders has been in the thick
of every fight over President Obama's signature
reform. And the ensuing legislative and legal battles
over its implementation.

What Sanders says about Thursday's Supreme
Court decision upholding the ACA provides
important insights for progressives as they respond
to a complex decision that, in the words of the
National Nurses United union, "should not be seen
as the end of the efforts by health care activists for a
permanent fix of our broken health-care system."

So what does Sanders say?

On the ruling, his line is upbeat:

    Today is a good day for millions of Americans who
    have pre-existing conditions who can no longer
    be rejected by insurance companies. It is a good
    day for families with children under 26 who can
    keep their children on their health insurance
    policies. It is a good day for women who can no
    longer be charged far higher premiums than men.

    It is a good day for 30 million uninsured
    Americans who will have access to healthcare. It
    is a good day for seniors who will continue to see
    their prescription drug costs go down as the so-
    called doughnut hole goes away. It is a good day
    for small businesses who simply cannot continue
    to afford the escalating costs of providing
    insurance for their employees. It is a good day for
    20 million Americans who will soon be able to
    find access to community health centers.

But that does not mean that Sanders is satisfied.

"In my view, while the Affordable Care Act is an
important step in the right direction and I am glad
that the Supreme Court upheld it, we ultimately
need to do better," the independent senator says. "If
we are serious about providing high-quality,
affordable healthcare as a right, not a privilege, the
real solution to America's health care crisis is a
Medicare-for-all, single-payer system. Until then, we
will remain the only major nation that does not
provide health care for every man, woman and child
as a right of citizenship."

Sanders's Vermont is taking the lead in seeking to
implement a state-level single-payer system-much
as Canadian provinces too the lead in the 1940s
and 1950s in developing who would eventually be
that country's national healthcare system. The
court's ruling won't slow that push down, and it
could actually speed it up, as attention focuses on
fights over state-run Medicaid programs. Sanders
says, "I hope our state will be a model to show the
rest of the nation how to provide better care at less
cost to more people."

Agreed. Amid the celebration of the Supreme Court
ruling by those who did not want to go backward,
there is a need for a firm focus on going forward.
"Stepping up the fight for Medicare for All is even
more critical in the midst of the still persistent
economic crisis," notes National Nurses United co-
president Deborah Burger, RN, who noted that
nurses have seen deep declines in health status
among patients suffered the loss of jobs, homes and
insurance coverage.

NNU notes that "the Affordable Care Act still leaves
some 27 million people without health coverage,
does little to constrain rising out of pocket health
care costs, or to stop the all too routine denials of
needed medical care by insurance companies
because they don't want to pay for it."

It is for that reason that NNU co-president Jean
Ross, RN, echoes Sanders: "The continuing fiscal
crisis at all levels of government and the anemic
economic recovery remind us that rising healthcare
costs and shifting costs to workers burden our
society, cause much of these fiscal problems, and
limit the opportunities for working people. Only real
cost control through a national health program can
solve this crisis. Improved Medicare meets that

"Medicare is far more effective than the broken
private system in controlling costs and the waste
that goes to insurance paperwork and profits, and it
is universally popular, even among those who
bitterly opposed the Obama law," adds NNU co-
president Karen Higgins, RN. "Let's open it up to
everyone, no one should have to wait to be 65 to be
guaranteed healthcare."

That's correct.

The Supreme Court's ruling can be celebrated on
some levels, as Sanders well notes.

But the senator and his allies in the struggle for the
real reform of Medicare for All speak a profound
truth when they say, "We ultimately need to do
better.. the real solution to America's health care
crisis is a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system."


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