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Gaining Momentum in the National Single Payer Movement

October 28, 2022

Summary: This week three city councils in the Midwest, West, and Southeast passed resolutions backing nationwide single payer. This brings local endorsements to over 100. Combined with growing popular and physician support, are we approaching an irresistible force?

Three Cities Pass Medicare for All Resolutions in Past Week
October 26, 2022
Public Citizen

In a show of growing momentum behind passing Medicare for All legislation, Denver, Colorado, Gainesville, Florida, and Kent, Ohio all passed city council resolutions in recent days backing a nationwide universal healthcare program, sending a strong signal to Congress that their constituents care about ending for-profit healthcare.

The three cities join more than 100 localities that have endorsed Medicare for All.

During the pandemic, more than one million Coloradans – including 34% of those in Denver – saw their incomes reduced; many lost their job-based insurance, and people of color were hit hardest, according to the Colorado Health Institute’s 2021 Health Access Survey. In Denver County, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 12% of residents under 65 are uninsured.

In Ohio’s 13th district, where Kent is located, more than 43,000 people are uninsured, and over 117,000 people live below the poverty threshold. Kent Councilwoman Heidi Schaffer-Bish works with Coleman Health Services and encounters many people struggling to make ends meet when it comes to healthcare. “We’ve seen that government-based healthcare works, and private insurance through your employer does not,” said Shaffer-Bish.

In Alachua County, where Gainesville is located, the U.S. Census Bureau notes that 11.5% of people under the age of 65 are uninsured.

Brittany Shannahan, a Medicare For All organizer at Public Citizen, stated:“These resolutions, city-by-city, are helping to pressure our representatives to act to make guaranteed healthcare for all a reality. The chorus of voices is growing.”

Comment by: Lily Meyersohn

Shannahan is correct in announcing that the “chorus of voices is growing” on a nationwide single payer healthcare program. This is not just three cities; this is a national movement. In recent years, support for the program has risen in the general public and among key stakeholder groups like physicians.

In Medicare for All: A Citizen’s Guide (2021), physicians and progressive activists Abdul El-Sayed and Micah Johnson write that “there is one stakeholder in American healthcare that matters most: the American public.” And “public support for M4A is high. A nationally representative Pew Research study [from 2019] found that most Americans agree “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. And a majority of Americans support M4A as a way to achieve this goal.”

This is a sea change from prior decades: “From 1998 to 2008, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted ten polls asking Americans whether they supported a single-payer national health insurance program. None found majority support. Between 2017 and May 2020, the same organization conducted fifteen similar polls. Every poll found majority support for M4A.”

Physicians, too, are shifting toward single payer. El-Sayed and Johnson note that the American Medical Association “played a central role in fighting previous attempts at national health insurance.” But now the organization’s membership is in steep decline. “Both physician preferences and power may be changing fast. Most individual physicians today support M4A.”

Recently we’ve experienced COVID fatigue: people fed up and tired of the pandemic. If the 100+ localities that have endorsed M4A – including the three cities that signed on this past week – can teach us anything, it is that people across the country are fed up and tired of our abominable health care system. Maybe we should call that “Mixed Insurance Plan Fatigue.” From fatigue comes a determination for change!

Lily Meyersohn is a researcher at the Institute for Public Accuracy, where she covers pandemic policy and American health care issues. She can be reached at lilymeyersohn@gmail.com.

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