A Democratic National Committee panel on Monday voted down an amendment that would have inserted a plank supporting Medicare for All into the party's 2020 platform, a move progressives decried as out of touch with public opinion and a slap in the face to the millions of people who have lost their health insurance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DNC Platform Committee rejected the Medicare for All amendment introduced by longtime single-payer advocate Michael Lighty by a vote of 36-125 during a virtual meeting Monday. The committee also voted down separate attempts to include support for expanding Medicare to children, dropping the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, and legalizing marijuana.
"Shameful. And during a pandemic," tweeted progressive radio host Kyle Kulinksi in response to the defeat of the Medicare for All amendment. "History will not judge this kindly. It's like opposing the New Deal during the Great Depression. Unforgivable."
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) July 27, 2020
Winnie Wong, former senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, tweeted late Monday that she "can't even imagine what went on in the heads of those 125 DNC Platform Committee members who voted Medicare or All down."
"The fact that our nation is the only advanced industrial country without universal healthcare cannot be blamed on Republican obstruction alone. It was also caused by Democratic leaders who've spent decades catering to corporate interests."
—Jeff Cohen, RootsAction.org
"Today. Now. When the country is in the deathgrip of a global pandemic and people are dying because they can't afford to the upkeep of their sick-care," Wong wrote. "Shameful."
Lighty said ahead of the vote that with more than 100 million people and counting either uninsured or underinsured amid a deadly pandemic, "it is vital that the Democratic Party join the NAACP, the Poor People's Campaign, the Rising Majority, Mijente, community-based organizations all over the country and demand guaranteed healthcare for all through an improved Medicare for All system."
Speaking in support of Lighty's amendment during the platform meeting Monday, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former health director for the city of Detroit and 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidate, said the Covid-19 pandemic has "revealed that our house of healthcare was built of straw."
"We have a for-profit healthcare system that's left 27 million more people without healthcare because we attached healthcare to jobs," said El-Sayed.
As of late Tuesday, more than 600 DNC delegates had signed a petition vowing to vote against the Democratic platform if it doesn't include support for Medicare for All, a policy solution supported by around 80% of Democratic voters and a majority of House Democrats. Most of the petition's signatories are Sanders delegates, according to organizers, but some Biden delegates have also signed on.
Mike Casca, a spokesman for Sanders, said in a statement that the Vermont senator "believes that the Democratic Party platform should advocate strongly for Medicare for All."
"The senator appreciates that, amid a deadly pandemic which is creating a national health emergency, his delegates understand that now more than ever we must guarantee healthcare as a human right," Casca said.
The draft (pdf) version of the Democratic platform includes one mention of Medicare for All but does not endorse the policy that would provide comprehensive healthcare to everyone in the U.S. for free at the point of service.
"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."
Progressives said the brief nod is nowhere near enough. "Democrats who understand the profound need for Medicare for All don't want a pat on the head," Norman Solomon, national director of progressive advocacy group RootsAction.org and a Sanders delegate from California, told Politico on Monday. "We want a genuine political commitment to healthcare as a human right."
In an op-ed for Common Dreams on Tuesday, RootsAction.org co-founder Jeff Cohen wrote that "the fact that our nation is the only advanced industrial country without universal healthcare cannot be blamed on Republican obstruction alone."
"It was also caused by Democratic leaders who've spent decades catering to corporate interests (while collecting their campaign donations)—and refusing to fight for universal coverage," Cohen added. "This history of Democratic obstruction and vacillation is why hundreds of elected delegates to next month's Democratic convention have put their foot down."