More than 360 delegates to the Democratic National Convention have signed a petition vowing to vote against the 2020 party platform if it does not include a plank supporting Medicare for All, a policy solution one progressive delegate described as "a red line for a humane society."
"Millions of people have lost their jobs and their healthcare at the same time. There's people leaving the hospital now with millions of dollars in medical bills. What are we going to do about that?"
—Judith Whitmer, delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders
The petition, led by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from Nevada's DNC delegation, says the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted "the need to separate healthcare from employment" and ensure that healthcare is guaranteed to all as "a basic human right, not a luxury."
Judith Whitmer, a Sanders delegate and chair of the convention's Nevada delegation, told Politico Monday that while a majority of petition signatories are Sanders delegates, some of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's delegates have also taken the pledge. The largely virtual Democratic convention is scheduled to begin on August 17.
"This pandemic has shown us that our private health insurance system does not work for the American people," Whitmer said. "Millions of people have lost their jobs and their healthcare at the same time. There's people leaving the hospital now with millions of dollars in medical bills. What are we going to do about that?"
Advocacy group Families USA estimated earlier this month that at least 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance between February and May, the largest three-month spike in uninsurance on record. Major private insurance companies, meanwhile, have seen their profits soar amid the deadly pandemic.
More than 360 delegates have signed on to a pledge to vote against the Democratic Party’s platform if it does not include support for "Medicare for All."
— RootsAction (@Roots_Action) July 27, 2020
A draft version (pdf) of the 2020 Democratic platform released last week mentions Medicare for All once but does not endorse the proposal, which has grown in popularity among Americans since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March. The Democratic Platform Committee, a panel of 180 delegates, is expected to begin considering the draft and offering amendments on Monday before the document is advanced to the full convention for a vote.
"Generations of Democrats have been united in the fight for universal healthcare," the draft reads. "We are proud our party welcomes advocates who want to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and those who support a Medicare for All approach; all are critical to ensuring that healthcare is a human right."
Throughout the 2020 Democratic primary race, Biden repeatedly attacked Medicare for All with right-wing talking points and pushed a public-option alternative that would leave millions of Americans uninsured. In an interview with Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan earlier this month, Biden reiterated his opposition to single-payer and said he supports preserving a role for the private insurance industry.
Norman Solomon, national director of progressive advocacy group RootsAction.org and a Sanders delegate from California, told Politico that "Democrats who understand the profound need for Medicare for All don't want a pat on the head," referring to the draft of the Democratic platform.
"We want a genuine political commitment to healthcare as a human right," said Solomon. "Biden hasn't gotten there."
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Read the full petition:
Bernie Sanders delegates from the Nevada delegation to the Democratic National Convention call on all delegates to sign on to this petition and pledge to vote against any platform that does not include a plank supporting universal, single-payer Medicare for All.
Whereas, this Country is currently in the throes of a catastrophic public health crisis; and
Whereas, this emergency has led to massive job losses due to the Country’s response to that crisis; and
Whereas, millions of Americans have lost their healthcare insurance because of those job losses at a time when healthcare is needed most; and
Whereas, this crisis has highlighted the need to separate healthcare from employment; and
Whereas, we believe that healthcare is a basic human right, not a luxury; and
Whereas, our current, for-profit health care system is inherently racist and discriminatory; and
Whereas, the majority of Americans now believe that a universal, single-payer, Medicare-For-All system is the best way to achieve equitable, affordable and accessible healthcare for all Americans; and
Whereas, the Democratic Party and their Platform Committee process has failed, to date, to incorporate a clear and progressive platform plank for Medicare-For-All for adoption by the 2020 National Convention; therefore
Be it resolved that we, the undersigned delegates to the Democratic National Convention, pledge to vote against any 2020 Platform that does not include a universal, single-payer, Medicare-For-All, platform plank.