By Paul Krehbiel
People of all ages will gather in Los Angeles and scores of other cities across the country on July 30, 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Medicare and demand that it be protected, improved and expanded for everyone. Medicare is the popular government-run health care program that serves 50 million Americans, primarily those over 65 and people with disabilities. It’s the largest and most successful health insurance program in the US.
The Los Angeles rally and celebration will be held at LA Trade Tech, 400 W. Washington Blvd., Thursday, July 30, from 4:00 – 6:30 pm. Entertainment will be provided, and everyone is welcome.
Lenny Potash, co-chair of Labor United for Universal Health Care and an organizer of the LA event, said, “Our goal is to unite the broadest possible coalition of organizations to protect, undo the damage, and expand Medicare for everyone in the US. We want this to be a model for others across the country.” Potash is a member of the American Federation of
State, County and Municipal Employees, one of many labor and community groups endorsing the July 30 National Day of Action.
Other supporters include the SCLC, Health Care for All, the County Federation of Labor, California Nurses Association, California NOW, ACLU, California Alliance for Retired Americans, Campaign for a Healthy California, and other groups. Other rallies will be held in many cities. For more information contact Bonnie Coleman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While Medicare covers primarily seniors, organizers say they want to improve and expand Medicare to cover everyone. The Medicare rallies are taking place at a time when Republicans and some for-profit medical businesses are trying to undermine and privatize Medicare through federal legislation. Their goal is to turn a successful government-run health program into a private profit-making enterprise. If successful, they would eliminate guaranteed medical benefits for seniors today and for future generations.
Prior to Medicare being signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, millions of seniors and disabled people suffered in poverty with untreated illnesses because they couldn’t afford to pay a doctor. Many suffered needless pain and early death as a result. Medicare changed all that, lifting millions out of poverty and giving them access to the medical care they needed, regardless of their income or medical history. Organizers want to expand that kind of system to everyone.
Republicans and for-profit healthcare businesses want to turn the clock back and undermine Medicare today, by raising the age of eligibility, raising out-of-pocket costs for seniors, and turning the Medicare guaranteed health care system into a privatized voucher system. This would cost seniors substantially more and line the pockets of the for-profit health insurance
companies and hospital chains. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a chief proponent of privatized vouchers. Ryan brazenly lies to seniors, claiming his plan will help them.
Ryan and other Republicans try to scare the public by telling them that Medicare costs too much. The opposite is the truth. Administration costs for the non-profit Medicare system are only 2 cents on every health care dollar. In the private health care industry 25 cents on the dollar is siphoned off by for-profit health insurance companies, much of which goes for multimillion dollar executive salaries and stockholder dividends.
The CEOs of health care companies make more, on average, than in every other industry. Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna, the 3rd largest health insurance company, had total compensation of $30.7 million in 2013. That year thousands of health care workers were laid off, including nurses. Bertolini’s take could’ve put 500 nurses back to work at $60,000 a year each, and still leave Bertolini $700K a year. Many millions go to stock dividends and for profit providers. The capitalist health care system is undermining quality, affordable health care for millions of people. Only an improved Medicare-for-all single-payer system will fix these problems and provide high quality, affordable healthcare for all. Help build this movement and attend the July 30 rally at LA Trade Tech.
Paul Krehbiel is a member of Labor United for Universal Healthcare. He’s a staff member of Change-Links, and a member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.