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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has decried the nation's health inequality as "one of the greatest moral and economic issues of our time." Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

'Going on Offense,' Advocates Demand Single-Payer Health Program

'With the swift defeat of the GOP bill, a grassroots movement toward a universal, single-payer health program is growing. Now is the time.'

Andrea Germanos

With a new poll strengthening their case and the Republican healthcare bill's failure energizing their call, Medicare-for-all advocates are holding rallies in scores of communities across the nation on Saturday "to go on the offense and demand a healthcare system that covers everyone and costs less."

Timed to coincide with the first day of a two-week recess for members of Congress, when constituents can confront (or attempt to confront) their lawmakers, the day of action is being coordinated by the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare, a coalition that believes "Access to healthcare is basic to human dignity," and whose members include National Nurses United, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Our Revolution, Public Citizen, and Social Security Works.

Participants in the actions will be asking their lawmakers to support the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, H.R. 676, reintroduced in January by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.).

Among the lawmakers targeted is Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). At a sidewalk town hall in Louisville, Rev. Ron Robinson said: "It is shame to live in a country where people are expendable like pawns on a chessboard, a chessboard built for profiteers," and "where people have to use the emergency rooms as their primary care doctor. ...Somehow, we need to raise our consciousness to a higher level and take back what is taken away from us."

"Republican attempts to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance have backfired," noted Dr. Carol Paris, a retired psychiatrist based in Nashville, Tennessee, and president of PNHP.  "With the swift defeat of the GOP bill, a grassroots movement toward a universal, single-payer health program is growing. Now is the time," she said in an earlier press statement.

An Economist/YouGov poll (pdf) conducted April 2 - 4 found that such a system has the backing of 60 percent of Americans. Patty Eaking, a 40-year veteran Registered Nurse, for one, is optimistic about getting single-payer in place, in part because she's "never seen the level of energy and involvement that we've seen in recent months." She continued

When the ACA [Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare] came under attack, regular people came out of the woodwork to share their stories and demand that the law be kept in place. These weren't paid protesters: They were real people whose lives and livelihoods are deeply affected by our healthcare system. Other battles are on the horizon now that the Trumpcare crisis has been temporarily averted, but people are craving a proactive agenda. We refuse to merely play defense when healthcare is still out of reach and far too expensive for millions of people.

"Keep what we have" isn't good enough.

Medicare-for-All is not only the best policy solution, but also the guiding principle—healthcare as a basic right for everyone—that we can rally behind as we carry on this fight.

Some of those participating in the Saturday rallies have posted images of the events on Twitter:

The day of action comes the British medical journal The Lancet publishes a new series on health inequality in the U.S..  It includes a special commentary by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who writes: "Such inequality continues to be one of the greatest moral and economic issues of our time."

"It's also a huge health issue," he continues. "The USA has the most expensive, bureaucratic, wasteful, and ineffective healthcare system in the world. Medicare-for-all would change that by eliminating private health insurers' profits and overhead costs, and much of the paperwork they inflict on hospitals and doctors, saving hundreds of billions in medical costs."

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