The urgency of reform and socialized medicine

The following excerpts are from a talk given by Fight Imperialism, Stand Together organizer, David Hoskins, at the WWP National Conference, Nov. 14.

On Feb. 25, 2007, 12-year-old Deamonte Driver died in Maryland after infection from an abscessed tooth spread to his brain. His mother, Alyce Driver, had spent a considerable amount of time prior to his death trying to find dental care for her children.

Although Alyce Driver was a working mother, none of her jobs in a bakery, construction or home health care provided insurance for her family.

On June 19, 2008, 49-year-old Esmin Green was videotaped as she writhed and then died on the floor of a Brooklyn psychiatric emergency waiting room where she had been waiting for 24 hours to be seen by a doctor.

There is a desperate need for quality universal health reform in the United States. Almost every statistic you can imagine points to the dire crisis in health care.

More than 50 million people living in the U.S. lack basic health insurance. Another 25 million are underinsured.

A July report from Families USA detailed how rising insurance premiums and increased unemployment have intersected to push the number of uninsured up by 44,230 people each week.

The examples of Deamonte Driver and Esmin Green illustrate that every single number has a human face.

Given the severity of the crisis, many in the progressive movement hoped that the election of President Obama and the new Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate would open the way for meaningful health care reform.

One year after the historic 2008 election we now know that these hopes for change have very little chance of being realized in the halls of Congress. The House recently passed a severely flawed bill that redistributes tax money away from poor and working class people into the coffers of the big insurance companies, mandates millions of the uninsured to purchase private insurance, thus delivering insurance companies a captive market, and yet still manages to leave 17 million uninsured.

Despite the disappointment in the health reform legislation making its way through Congress, there is a valuable lesson for workers and the oppressed when evaluating the actions of the present government.

The Democratic Party is not the answer. It is not a vehicle for reform and electing Democrats is not a strategy for advancing working class demands. With a popular first-term president, a filibuster-proof Senate and a 79-seat advantage in the House, the only reason the Democrats have not waged a serious fight for meaningful health care reform, the only reason they haven’t used their majorities to pass health reform, is because they do not want to, because they are a capitalist party and it is not in their interest to do so.

At our Party’s 50th anniversary conference it is appropriate to say that there is a party worth building that can lead a fight for free quality health care for all and that is Workers World Party.

There are reforms worth fighting for. One such reform is Improved Medicare for All, which is a single-payer system of national health insurance that removes private insurance companies as arbiters of who does and does not receive adequate care.

H.R. 676 is the Improved Medicare for All bill. It has 88 congressional co-sponsors and labor endorsements from 308 union organizations in 44 states, including 22 state AFL-CIO affiliates.

It is a progressive piece of legislation, and its passage would represent a big victory for workers and the oppressed. The proposed program covers everyone with comprehensive medical services and prescription drug coverage. The patient is not charged any co-pays or deductibles.

Single-payer represents a minimum demand and it is the right demand for right now. The maximum demand is a system that can only come with working-class power—and that is socialist medicine.

Socialist medicine is what workers deserve

Socialist medicine is a medical care system that is publicly financed and administered. Hospitals and clinics are state-operated with doctors and nurses working as public employees.

The Cuban Revolution in 1959 set the stage for socialist medicine in that country.

Cuba’s Constitution guarantees free health care as a right of all citizens. Cuba’s infant mortality rate of five deaths per thousand live births is lower than that of the U.S., where there are seven deaths per thousand. Cuba has twice as many physicians per capita as the U.S. and life expectancy there is two years higher than the average for all of the Americas.

Socialist medicine in Cuba has accomplished all this while spending just $251 per capita on health care compared to $7,129 per capita in the U.S. Cuba has protected the integrity of its health care system even while enduring a punitive economic blockade by the U.S.

These achievements by Cuba demonstrate that only socialist medicine—and by way of getting there socialism itself—can provide workers with the health care revolution they deserve.

We invite you on the 50th anniversary of Workers World Party and the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, to stand with us and demand free quality health care for all.

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