December 12th is an International Day of Action calling for Universal Health Care for All. Ivan Miller, Executive Director of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care, says that on an international stage, the US ranks amongst developing nations when it comes to providing health care for everyone.
“The United States is the only industrialized, advanced country that doesn’t have universal health care.”
There are actions planned to mark the day in 120 countries, most of them developing nations. “These are very poor countries, in South America and Africa and Asia, this is the third world, so the United States is at the level of third world countries.”
Miller says that the main barrier to providing healthcare for all in the US is the invisible hand of money in Congress and the fact that our Congress people have to raise huge amounts of money from the corporations that are profiting in our healthcare system.
“Our healthcare system is great if you’re a pharmaceutical company, or if you’re a giant for-profit hospital chain like Health One that made two years ago 33% profit, is now making almost 40% profit, that’s 40 cents out of every dollar they collect goes to their stockholders, not for your healthcare. And the insurance companies add this incredible bureaucracy so they can skim profit. Those are the people that the healthcare system is good for.”
For universal health care to truly work, Miller says that it needs to be a single system like a single payer system, a term they are moving away from. “We prefer the term improved medicare for all instead of single payer and the reason is, when people say single payer, the opposition and the ideological people have gotten us to argue about Canada and England and France and Germany, and none of us know very much about those countries, so those arguments never get anywhere. We know medicare and we know it works one heck of a lot better than the insurance industry, and it does need to be improved. So that’s our goal, a system that is like improved medicare for all, and that’s a US system, we don’t have to argue about what healthcare’s like in other countries. Not that it’s bad, it’s just that people don’t know what it’s like.”
In 2016 Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a state-wide ballot measure that would have provided universal health care in the state.
As Executive Director for the campaign for Amendment 69 Miller says the measure failed for a variety of reasons, one of them being financial. “We did not do our job on multiple levels, and the reason we didn’t do our job is we didn’t have enough funding to do our job.”
The campaign raised about $1 million from mostly small donors. Half of that was spent on getting the measure on the ballot, leaving not enough money to effectively communicate the measure to voters in the state. “That was just not enough to get our message out.”
Miller also places blame at the feet of the state Democratic party. “Democratic leadership in the state put out the word that no one was to fund us, so all the progressive large funders we would contact them, they would check with leadership in the state and they would say “this is bad for Hillary, it’s bad for Bennet, we don’t want it on the ballot.”
Tuesday’s actions are part of an effort to keep universal healthcare in the national dialogue. Miller says it’s also an opportunity to highlight some of the bright spots in the fight for healthcare for all.
“The grass roots are coming together and there are legislators now that see the power of the grass roots and that gives them the courage and the backing to stand up to the monied interests.”
Looking ahead to the 2018 elections, The Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care is planning on contacting all candidates running in Colorado to convey their message. They are also planning on introducing legislation at the Colorado state house to do a full, in-depth economic analysis comparing the insurance industry system to a single payer system. “This will be a high quality study that the legislators and stake holders will have a chance to buy into.”
At a federal level, Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has introduced a Medicare for All bill and in the house, HR 676: Expanded and Improved Medicare for All has been introduced. “Nationally, people are getting the courage to talk about it.”
On Tuesday December 12th from noon to 2pm there will be rallies happening across the state.
Denver: Greek Amphitheater at Civic Center Park
Fort Collins: Old Town Square
Colorado Springs: Outside City Hall
Boulder: Bandshell at Broadway and Canyon (This will be a smaller rally, people are encouraged to attend the Denver action if possible.)