Free health care for all!

Jan. 2020 Cuba health
Health care clinic in Cuba (Photo: Gail Reed)

By SOCIALIST RESURGENCE

Below we reprint a section from the U.S. Political Resolution approved at the Dec. 14-15 Socialist Resurgence founding convention. The full resolution can be read in the DOCUMENTS section of this website.

There is a huge public health-care crisis in the United States. Lack of affordable and adequate coverage remains a persistent problem. Some 27.7 million Americans are still without any health-care coverage, despite the Affordable Care Act, aka. “Obamacare.” Initially, the rate of uninsured non-elderly Americans went down from 46.5 million, with the enactment of the ACA in 2010, to just below 27 million in 2016. However, for the first time in 2017 to 2018, the number of uninsured increased by half a million to 27. 7 million.

The rising cost of health insurance premiums, high copays, and deductibles are all reasons cited for workers to be unable to afford health insurance. Many of these insurance plans have inadequate coverage, and do not include dental care. Low-wage workers, particularly non-documented workers, are hit especially hard because of their socioeconomic status. People of color are at higher risk of being uninsured than non-Hispanic Whites (Kaiser Family Foundation, Dec, 13,2019).

As unemployment and underemployment grows, as wages and hours of workers are cut, many find they can no longer afford basic medications. The price of insulin has skyrocketed—the average price of insulin has increased by 64% since January 2014. Some patients have to make choices between medication and eating or heating their homes, or even rationing doses of insulin, a potentially life threatening practice (Medical Economics, April 3, 2019).

The U.S. health-care crisis isn’t limited to patient care. Health-care workers are under siege by employers. Hospitals and clinics are cutting wages and benefits while nurses and doctors are forced to see more patients, despite evidence that doing so increases errors with disastrous effects. Experienced nurses and doctors are being fired and replaced by fresh out of school nurses and doctors—they’re paid less. Experienced staff not fired are leaving the profession due to ever increasing on the job stress. Suicide rates of nurses and doctors are on the rise.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), is a failure. Pitched by Democrats as an alternative to universal care or a single-payer system, the ACA is not affordable for working and poor families. Insurance rates and co-pays are too costly.

The largest cause of bankruptcy in America is medical costs. Social Democrats and many progressives advocate Medicare for All. This will fall short in addressing the health-care crisis. Medicare is an 80/20 model (patients are still responsible for 20% of the cost) and is too expensive for workers and the poor.

An example from Cuba

In Cuba, the health-care system is publicly owned, with several layers. There are community clinics, with doctor-nurse teams who live in the neighborhoods that they serve, local hospitals, and larger medical institutes. All health care is free, with exceptions for some medicines and procedures for higher income people, and quality of life indices are impressive. Cuba enjoys one of the highest life expectancy rates in the hemisphere, with the average life expectancy at 78.05 years old, compared to the U.S. at 78.62 years.

In 2005, Cuba had 627 doctors and 94 dentists per 100,000 population. That same year, there were 225 physicians and 54 dentists per 100,000 population in the U.S. All medical and nursing education in Cuba is free. Cuba has innovated in the realm of vaccines and cancer treatment. Unlike the U.S., which sends weapons around the world, Cuba sends doctors and nurses to disaster areas and semi-colonial countries.

Fight for a national health-care system!

Doctors, nurses and organized labor should be natural allies in the fight for a national healthcare system. Additionally, nurses, physician’s assistants, and doctors should have the right to unionize. We need more doctors and nurses with lower patient loads. As with all education, medical and nursing school should be free. All debt for education must be abolished. The health-care and pharmaceutical industries must be nationalized under workers control. Out-of-control medicine costs must be immediately brought under control. Society should provide more community-based clinics, visiting nurses and doctors, and preventative care.

Nationalizing urgent-care facilities would be a step in the direction of community health clinics. Humane and affordable community-based elder care must become a standard. Currently, elderly people with resources and money can afford expensive assisted-living facilities and nursing homes, while working-class families struggle to care for older relatives. We need elder care that allows people to live at home in their communities and with the proper support from medical professionals.

Winning free health care for all will require an independent class-struggle approach. Our movements cannot depend on lobbying the Democrats to win. We must mobilize in our unions and communities to fight for health care for all.

Health care is a human right. This must include dental, vision care, and humane, non-punitive, and non-stigmatizing approaches to mental health care. No one should have to go bankrupt because of medical costs or decide whether one eats or gets medicine. Get the insurance companies out of the equation. Free quality and universal public health care now!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s