A group of students at Weill Cornell and Columbia explain why their CEO is wrong to oppose ‘Medicare for All’

This article was originally published in Business Insider. You can read the article here.

Future of care must include single-payer system

This article was originally published by The International Falls Journal. You can read the original article here.

“As we head into an election cycle and as our healthcare costs become increasingly unaffordable, ask your representatives if they support a single-payer system that will cover you and everyone that you love.”

hands-699486_1920The stories are often shared in passing. As if they’re facts of life that one cannot change. The church secretary that makes $40,000 and spends $25,000 of it on health insurance premiums. The bartender who made too much in tips last month, lost his MNSure coverage, and now hasn’t taken his diabetes, hypertension, or psychiatric meds in weeks. The farm family where one family member must work off the farm to get insurance.

I am only a second-year medical student, but stories of people losing or not being able to afford essential medical care are already a commonplace part of my clinical experience.

In 2015, one third of all Americans put off necessary treatment because of costs. That means that almost everyone reading this knows someone, or they themselves, didn’t get the care they needed because of how much it cost. This summer I spent a rural rotation in International Falls. I was impressed with the quality of care and resilience that this community has shown in its commitment to providing healthcare to the community. I also heard at all levels – from administrators to patients, frustration with the healthcare system, costs, and accessibility of care.

Frustrations with healthcare are not unique to International Falls with an estimated 700,000 Americans going bankrupt every year because of medical debt. Healthcare spending now eats up almost one third of an average family’s income in America. If we were getting the best care in the world, that might be worth it, but the United States ranks 30th in the world for life expectancy, right behind Costa Rica and ahead of Cuba and we rank 26th in infant mortality. Rural communities are especially hard hit with shrinking insurance markets and difficulties retaining providers.

Every American deserves quality care that is affordable and accessible. With a single-payer system that is publicly funded and privately operated, we can get that. A single-payer healthcare system is funded by taxes on employers and individuals based on income. There are no co-pays, premiums, or deductibles. Once you pay into the system, all medically necessary care is free – from primary care, to surgery, dental, and vision care. You can see your hometown doctor that knows you best without having to worry if they are “in network” because every provider is included within the single payer system.

Physicians don’t have to fight insurance companies because single-payer insurance isn’t for-profit and lets patients and their physicians decide what care is medically necessary. And with a publicly accountable system, rural hospitals can incentivize providers to practice in communities like International Falls by increasing the budgets of rural hospitals and clinics to provide more competitive wages.

Non-partisan studies have shown that single-payer insurance would save 95 percent of American families money. Single-payer insurance is good for individuals, it is good for businesses, and it is good for rural communities that are the foundation of our country.

So as we head into an election cycle and as our healthcare costs become increasingly unaffordable, ask your representatives if they support a single-payer system that will cover you and everyone that you love.

Beret Fitzgerald is a medical student at the University of Minnesota who completed a summer internship with Physicians for a National Health Program Minnesota.


ACTION ALERT: Support the National Prison Strike

National Prison Strike StampStarting August 21, 2018, incarcerated peoples in 17+ states will be striking to demand an end to the death penalty, unfair wages, unsafe conditions, and racist policing and sentencing practices. They are also demanding equitable access to therapeutic rehabilitation programs and the right to vote.

Throughout the history of prison strikes, lack of quality medical care is a constant theme. The Attica Prison Rebellion, which this strike commemorates, was in part a response to the poor health conditions and medical experimentation on incarcerated people. At Attica, there were compassionate physicians who demanded access to prisoners to assess their injuries following the violent retaliation by correctional officers. As caregivers and public health advocates, SNaHP seeks to honor this legacy of medical solidarity by supporting those striking almost fifty years later in the 2018 National Prison Strike.

SNaHP is encouraging caregivers and public health advocates to personally support the 2018 National Prison Strike by signing the Letter of Solidarity sponsored by White Coats 4 Black Lives.

Here are a few other ways you can support to the strike:

  1. Educate ourselves and others about the strike demands.
  2. Officially endorse the strike by emailing a statement of endorsement to prisonstrikemedia@gmail.com and millionsforprisonersmarch@gmail.com. (Sample statement here).
  3. Share the Letter of Solidarity with classmates, colleagues, and social media: http://bit.ly/students-for-the-strike.
  4. Amplify incarcerated voices via social media using the #August21 and #prisonstrike hashtags.
  5. Organize a phone tree in preparation for phone zaps and similar requests once the strike is underway.

Statement in Solidarity with the National Prison Strike

SNAHP IconAugust 15, 2018


Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Millions for Prisoners Human Rights

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW (IWOC)

& all incarcerated peoples




On behalf of Students for a National Health Program, please accept this letter of solidarity with all incarcerated peoples participating in the 2018 National Prison Strike and the supporting organizations of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, Millions for Prisoners Human Rights, IWOC, and more. Throughout the history of prison strikes, lack of quality medical care is a constant theme. The Attica Prison Rebellion, which this strike commemorates, was in part a response to the poor health conditions and medical experimentation on incarcerated people. At Attica, there were compassionate physicians who demanded access to prisoners to assess their injuries following the violent retaliation by correctional officers. As caregivers and public health advocates, we want to honor this legacy of medical solidarity by supporting those striking almost fifty years later in the 2018 National Prison Strike.

Students for a National Health Program advocates for equitable access to medical care, and we stand in support of those who are striking for their right to health. America’s criminal punishment system is dependent on the inadequate accessibility of mental healthcare, rehabilitation, and treatment for substance use disorders. These lifesaving measures are even harder to access for people already in prison. Incarcerated people are often denied medical services, including appropriate reproductive care for pregnant persons, and treatment of infectious disease. We believe all people have a right to safe living and working conditions, rehabilitation programs, and access to mental, medical, and reproductive healthcare. In order to create a healthier and more equitable justice system, we proudly endorse the National Prison Strike and pledge our support.

In solidarity,

Students for a National Health Program, National Board

Robertha Barnes, Augie Lindmark, Jonathan Michels, Sydney Russell Leed, Tony Spadaro, and Michael Zingman

Can a New Generation of Med Students Help Push Medicare for All?

This article was originally published by Pacific Standard. You can read the original article here.

by Natalie Shure

“Young doctors stand to be a key bloc influencing the direction of American health-care reform.”

pnhp_1Upon finding out what residency programs they’d been matched with this spring, some 310 fourth-year medical students have taken the #MatchDayPledge, a social media campaign that invites the next crop of first-year residents to snap selfies alongside a signed commitment to fight for “improved Medicare for All.” The initiative was sponsored by Students for a National Health Program, or SNaHP—a single-payer advocacy organization with 1,400 members and chapters in over 60 medical schools—whose annual conference in New Orleans this March culminated in a demonstration on the steps of city hall, where they demanded an equitable health-care system financed by a single, public insurance pool.

Such actions may not command outsized attention relative to the overall Medicare-for-All campaign, which grew considerably after Bernie Sanders‘ 2016 primary run and counts among its supporters groups like National Nurses United, the AFL-CIO, the Democratic Socialists of America, and several national Democratic figures, including Congressman Keith Ellison and Senator Elizabeth Warren. But the heightened participation of medical students within the movement signals an apparent shift in the way that some future physicians interpret their public duties as they step into their new roles. As the Affordable Care Act teeters after a stormy few years of legal onslaught, volatile exchange markets, skyrocketing premiums, shrinking coverage options, and just-missed repeal efforts, young doctors stand to be a key bloc influencing the direction of American health-care reform, which voters cite as a top concern for 2018 mid-terms.

In recent years, left-of-center political activism among medical students has grabbed headlines across the country, including die-ins staged by the racial health justice group White Coats for Black Lives, and student-led ACA sign-up drives and gun-control demonstrations. If SNaHP’s recent growth (the group’s numbers are up 50 percent since 2016) is any indication, today’s students are poised to find themselves on the front lines of a protracted political battle over the future of a profit-driven health-care system that many of them intend to dismantle and fix from within.

It hasn’t always been this way: Medical school curricula can be notoriously divorced from the broader social and political context that shapes the lives of students’ future patients. Instructors often maintain an expressly apolitical posture toward political issues, and practicing physicians are encouraged to do the same; as Dr. Thomas S. Huddle put it in the journal Academic Medicine in 2011, “Advocacy on behalf of societal goals, even those goals as unexceptionable as the betterment of human health, is inevitably political. … Official efforts on behalf of advocacy will undermine university aspirations to objectivity and neutrality.” As I reported this story, a few dozen current and former medical students told me they’d received only minimal exposure in classrooms to material about health-care financing in general, let alone about single-payer specifically.

Augie Lindmark, a third-year at the University of Minnesota and a SNaHP board member, tells me that, as for most students, his introduction to these ideas was extracurricular. It wasn’t until attending a talk by Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, the co-founder of PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program, of which SNaHP is the student arm), that he came to appreciate fully the dire state of health-care financing in the United States.

“To this day, I remember this one chart,” Lindmark recalls of a lecture slide. “The growth of [health-care system] administration, 3000 percent; growth of doctors, 100 percent.” For Lindmark, Woolhandler’s critique of administrative costs painted a picture of a health-care system that was at best incoherent and wasteful, and at worst unbearably cruel, preventing millions of patients from finding necessary care while funneling billions toward a byzantine administrative regime that denies claims based on technicalities, processes documentation for eligibility, and decodes complicated billing systems that differ from patient to patient. The political content, Landmark says, “was a complete 180 from the curriculum I’d gotten in school.”

Illness, Lindmark came to realize, results from the dynamics of capitalism as much as from germs or lifestyle. He was maddened by the lack of political content in his coursework, and at SNaHP, he found like-minded students convinced that they are witnessing real momentum toward the biggest health-care policy shift in American history. “These are people who are very excited, very disenchanted with the system as it is, and want to work under something else,” Lindmark says. “I think students are at the front lines of leading that push.”

This confrontational posture places these left-leaning students at odds with many of their historical predecessors, who have often prioritized professional and financial interests over reforming health-care financing. During the administration of President Harry Truman, the American Medical Association famously beat back a once-popular proposal for national health insurance by launching what was then the biggest lobbying campaign in American history. The AMA smeared the public plan as “socialized medicine,” and the organization’s successful campaign against Truman helped entrench the private, employer-based system that we’re still stuck with today. Just over a decade later, the AMA allied with industry representatives to try to defeat Medicare and Medicaid—only to pivot, enthusiastically, once it became clear just how conciliatory legislators intended to be in carving out lucrative roles for the private sector. While the AMA (and physicians more broadly) have been more supportive of reforms in the decades since, their endorsements have largely come with caveats to protect their autonomy and, above all, their salaries. This year, SNaHP led an effort within the AMA’s student wing to encourage the group to endorse Medicare for All.

It isn’t terribly hard to figure out why many U.S. physicians would resist transformative health financing reform, even if Medicare did end up being more of a cash cow than their propaganda in the 1960s had warned. For many decades, doctors were among the parties who derived the greatest advantages from commodified health care. The structural shortcomings of a piecemeal, for-profit system leave insurers unable to negotiate prices effectively, resulting in staggering medical cost inflation that has tended to benefit physicians. By covering all Americans in one unified insurance pool, single-payer systems—like those envisioned in bills sponsored by Sanders and Ellison—would leverage federal bargaining power to drive down reimbursements paid to providers. In peer countries that employ similar health-care cost controls, doctors earn some 40 percent less than their American counterparts—and, as Elizabeth Rosenthal notes in her book An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, while most Americans have struggled to make do amid lackluster job prospects since 2009, doctors’ pay has risen steadily. And, given that the average U.S. medical student graduates with $170,000 in debt, there are strong incentives to protect the status quo even before becoming a part of it.

But there is evidence that this self-interest among doctors is changing too. Polls show that 56 percent of American doctors now support a single-payer health system, up from 42 percent in 2008. That shift may partly reflect the recent erosion of the traditional advantages that doctors long held within the system. Rampant industry consolidation has left more than 50 percent of doctors working for larger corporate entities, rather than owning their own practice, and physicians can expect to spend over twice the amount of time on the complicated administrative work our system demands than they’re able to spend with patients. And, of course, doctors see firsthand the harm that inadequate insurance coverage has done to their patients: Tens of thousands of Americans die each year because they don’t have insurance, even after the reforms of Obamacare.

“I’m banging my head against the wall every day just trying to get my patients the care they need in this broken system,” explains Dr. Richard Bruno, a family physician who co-founded SNaHP as a med student in 2011. The failures of that system can have grave effects on doctors themselves, among whom suicide rates are on the rise. Their anguish, many argue, is ascribable to the very system harming so many of their patients: “Doctors are just trying to survive day to day … they’re victims of the system too,” Bruno says.

Bruno is heartened by SNaHP’s growth: “I’ve never seen a more active group in all the orgs I work with…. While they’re learning how to stop disease, they’re spreading their passion for health justice; it’s beautiful, really,” he says. Students do have a historic track record in helping to advance progressive movements: They can have the advantage of being able to shape institutions as they move through them, establishing new political norms from the get-go that stretch the boundaries of currently acceptable discourse within the profession. And given the AMA’s politically decisive role in knocking down a single-payer plan during Truman’s presidency, and the group’s critical roles in the health-care system overall, doctor buy-in will be essential to achieve Medicare for All. While the organization endorsed the ACA in 2009, it still maintains an official stance against single-payer—a decades-long position that Lindmark says SNaHP is pushing them to reject this summer.

Now that the message is taking hold among more and more students, Bruno says the next step is gaining electoral power. He’s running for the Maryland State House on a Medicare-for-All platform, and making his case directly to the people who he hopes will be his future constituents. “We’re knocking on doors every day,” he says. “They tell me their stories about scraping together $400 a month just to pay premiums before they get any care at all. They see the need for something better.”

Solidarity with Medical Students Who Demand Single Payer Now!

fist_logoWe, the undersigned, stand together with medical students as they pressure organized medicine to support a single, comprehensive health care system for everyone in America.

At the American Medical Association’s annual conference in June, medical students demanded the organization end its decades-long opposition to a single-payer national health program, a system that would be publicly financed but privately delivered and is better known as “Medicare for All.” This week, members of the Student Osteopathic Medical Association will submit a resolution asking the American Osteopathic Association to support Medicare for All.

Currently, the majority of Americans and practicing physicians support single-payer health care. In their resolutions, medical students from both organizations acknowledge what the rest of the country already knows: Market-driven healthcare is leading Americans to early graves and medical bankruptcy.

Our health system produces some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world—the U.S. has the highest rate of infant mortality and the highest number of avoidable deaths—and devours an ever-increasing share of our economy with health spending accounting for a whopping 17.9 percent of the GDP. Those fortunate enough to have insurance face prohibitively expensive copays, premiums, and deductibles that limit access to care, and medical expenses remain a leading cause of bankruptcy.

Instead, Medicare for All would give health care providers more autonomy because their clinical judgement—not the financial bottom line of insurance companies—will guide patient care. Patients would have free choice of any doctor, allowing providers to compete based on quality of care. Physicians would spend less time on administrative responsibilities like paperwork and billing, and more time seeing patients, which boosts both their work satisfaction and income.

We proudly stand alongside America’s future physicians in their efforts to steer the AMA and the AOA towards a universal, single-payer health system that provides quality, equitable care for all patients.


Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP)
Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA)
Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA)
Pre-Health Dreamers
American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)
California Health Professional Student Alliance (CaHPSA)
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP)
California Physicians Alliance (CaPA)
White Coat Brigade
Radical Public Health
Progressive Doctors
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
Labor for Single Payer
Healthcare NOW!
Clinicians for Progressive Care
All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI)

What Does Jeff Bezos have to Offer Health Care?

This article was originally published by The Progressive. You can read the original article here.

“…Amazon approaches health care as another market, like books or groceries, focusing our attention on corporate engineering rather than the structural barriers that keep people from getting care.”

-Karim Sariahmed

17124132409_d7d0b42ebc_zIn late January, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Jamie Dimon announced that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan would be collaborating on a new “health care venture.” More recently we learned that Atul Gawande, the celebrated endocrine surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, will be its CEO, starting on July 9.

We don’t know much about what the project actually seeks to accomplish. Other than Gawande’s comment that “the system is broken, and better is possible,” the venture has not clearly named the health care problems it is attempting to solve or even offered a mission statement.

How might a new team of billionaires, led by a prominent surgeon and storyteller, approach our health care system? To get a better idea, it may be useful to look at Amazon and its chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos.

This month, Amazon helped fund a ballot challenge to repeal a tax that would have raised $48 million to combat homelessness in Seattle. This affront to the poor is unsurprising, because for most of its existence Amazon has been avoiding taxes as it seeks to more efficiently accrue new market shares.

In 2017, the European Union ordered Amazon to pay €250 million in back taxes it had evaded through an elaborate series of shell companies created around its Luxembourg headquarters in 2003. Amazon also has a track record of eliminating retail jobs, paying minimal or no property taxes, and abusing its workers. Despite this, poor cities with crumbling infrastructure like Philadelphia, my home, are courting Amazon with the help of state-level tax breaks, hoping to be chosen as the site of its new headquarters.

Outside the realm of private joint ventures, there is widespread agreement that our current health care system is in crisis. Leaders in the struggle for better care are emerging from the new Poor People’s Campaign, a continuation of the project launched by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and other advocates of Medicare For All.

The United States still has nearly 30 million uninsured people, while as many as 41 million remain underinsured. The rising costs created by health care profiteers are continually shifted onto poor and working class people.

As a member of Put People First! PA, a human rights organization led by poor and working class people, I understand Amazon’s exploits as a story about poverty and dispossession, not innovation. Our economy stratifies us by markers including income, race, nationality, gender, age, and ability, justified by a narrative about poverty which qualifies all of us as either “deserving” or “undeserving.”

The poor are widely denied health care and other fundamental needs on these bases. It is in this context that Amazon approaches health care as another market, like books or groceries, focusing our attention on corporate engineering rather than the structural barriers that keep people from getting care.

I’m disheartened to see that one of medicine’s moral voices is joining their team. Gawande, perhaps best known for his writing on the end of life in Being Mortal, has implemented quality improvement projects in diverse settings to make surgery safer. But I have no illusions that any amount of positive influence from one good person can change what Amazon stands for.

As Dr. Steffie Woolhandler of Physicians for a National Health Program commented about the project, Amazon and its partners have only one interest in health care: saving money. This project is only worthwhile if it gives them a unique competitive advantage.

As JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon reassured his clients, the new venture is invested only in its own employees and its own bottomline. It has no interest in guaranteeing health care access to everyone. And while the venture is nominally “nonprofit,” that distinction is not meaningful in a health care environment in which so-called nonprofits like Independence Blue Cross are shifting costs on to people across Pennsylvania.

More than 2,500 people have been arrested so far in Poor People’s Campaign demonstrations across the country, demanding policies to address rampant poverty and racism, including Medicare For All. U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, was the keynote speaker at a recent Single Payer Strategy Conference in Minneapolis.

Health care inequity is a moral crisis that only the moral leadership of social movements can address. The fantasy of a magical fix handed down from a team of billionaires is at best a distraction. Knowing Amazon’s track record of exploiting its own workers, it could likely turn into something dangerous to health care workers and patients.

In the documentary Being Mortal, based on Atul Gawande’s book, there is a scene in which an older man dies peacefully on his own terms, surrounded by his family. The scene made me think of Isabella (Bella) Oliveras, a member of Put People First! PA who died in early 2017, from complications of a treatable disease. She was in her thirties.

At the time of Bella’s death, the group was helping her raise money for a motorized scooter, which her insurance would not cover although she was wheelchair-bound. The absence of stories like hers from our conversations about the end of life reflects our nation’s general failure to identify poverty as the central driver of health care outcomes.

Amazon and its business partners will not seriously engage this. They will likely not get us closer to universal, public insurance financing or meaningful checks on the profiteers that drive costs. We should look instead to the vision that Martin Luther King Jr. had at the end of his life. As he expressed it:

“There are millions of poor people in this country who have very little, or even nothing, to lose. If they can be helped to take action together, they will do so with a freedom and a power that will be a new and unsettling force in our complacent national life.”

karimKarim Sariahmed is a medical student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. In addition to supporting the growth of Temple Med’s SNaHP chapter, he is a member of Put People First! PA. This is the community in Philadelphia that teaches him how to organize alongside many other developing organizers from various healthcare professions and healing traditions. You can read his other work at in-Training and the PPF-PA blog. He tweets @sariahmed.

Is this the year the AMA finally joins the single-payer movement?

This article was originally published by STAT News. You can read the original article here.

“The AMA’s opposition to Medicare for All puts the organization at odds with the public and with America’s doctors.”

medicareforallrallylosangelesFifty years ago this month, at the 1968 meeting of the American Medical Association, a fourth-year medical student named Peter Schnall seized the microphone and scolded several hundred of the most prestigious, highly educated white men in America.

“Organized medicine has never felt responsible and accountable to the American people for its actions and continues to deny them any significant voice in determining the nature of services offered to them,” Schnall chastised the group.

“Shut up!” yelled the doctors, who were accustomed to being treated with respect and deference, not with outrage and indignation.

Schnall’s outburst, coordinated by members of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign and the Medical Committee for Human Rights, aimed to be a wake-up call to an institution that was highly successful at protecting physicians’ “interests against encroachment” but failed to meet the public health and human needs of patients by opposing both civil rights and the expansion of safety-net health programs.

At a time when Jim Crow racism harmed the health of millions of African-Americans in the South, the AMA repeatedly rebuffed requests from the National Medical Association, an organization that represents African-American physicians, to work together to end racial health disparities.

Even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the AMA allowed local medical societies to discriminate against physicians and patients of color. The AMA also mobilized attacks against major social programs intended to benefit all Americans, from Social Security to Medicare and Medicaid. In 1948, the AMA leadership spent millions on a campaign to characterize President Truman’s popular universal health care plan as “socialized medicine.”

Today, in the midst of a revived Poor People’s Campaign, physicians and medical students are again pressuring the AMA to be more responsive to the needs of the nation’s uninsured and underinsured. At the AMA’s House of Delegates annual meeting in Chicago this weekend, its Medical Student Section will ask the AMA to end its decades-long opposition to a single-payer health insurance program, a system better known as Medicare for All that would be publicly financed but privately delivered. Why bother? For better or for worse, the AMA sets the agenda for American health policy.

It is clear to medical students that no matter how well they are trained, far too many Americans will remain sick and poor under market-based medicine.

Our wildly inefficient system is currently dominated by private insurance companies, a health care model spearheaded by the AMA. It produces some of the worst health outcomes in the industrialized world — the U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate and the highest number of avoidable deaths — and devours an ever-increasing share of our economy, with health spending accounting for a whopping 17.9 percent of our gross domestic product. Despite the improvements of the Affordable Care Act, 28 million Americans remain uninsured, without access to primary care that could prevent costly and life-threatening diseases. Those fortunate enough to have insurance face prohibitively expensive co-pays, premiums, and deductibles that limit access to care, and medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy.

Contrary to the AMA’s assertions, a single-payer system would give health care providers more autonomy because their clinical decisions wouldn’t be second-guessed by insurance companies. Patients would have free choice of any doctor, allowing providers to compete based on quality of care. Physicians would spend less time on administrative responsibilities like paperwork and billing, and more time seeing patients, which boosts both their work satisfaction and income. In fact, when Canada implemented its single-payer program, physicians enjoyed long-term salary increases.

The AMA’s opposition to Medicare for All puts the organization at odds with the public and with America’s doctors. Sixty percent of Americans believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide health coverage for all; 51 percent specifically support the creation of a single-payer health system, as does the majority (56 percent) of practicing physicians. The single-payer bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 676, now has a record 122 co-sponsors; in the Senate, Bernie Sanders introduced his updated Medicare for All Act in 2017 with a record 16 Senate co-sponsors, including most of the leading Democratic contenders for president in 2020.

In the AMA’s evaluation of these and other health system reform proposals, it asserts that a national health program could lead to a concentration of market power in the hands of the government, limiting patient choice and physician autonomy: “Reform proposals should balance fairly the market power between payers and physicians or be opposed.”

Although the AMA’s membership has steadily declined since the 1950s, it remains the most powerful doctors group in the country. The growing Medicare for All campaign is unlikely to be won without its support.

Will the AMA choose to move toward guaranteeing health care as a human right or continue down the wrong side of history by linking patients’ health to the vagaries of the private insurance market?

The activists who staged the protest at the AMA meeting in 1968 hoped that the organization would finally recognize health as a human right. It didn’t. A lot has changed in the ensuing 50 years. It’s time the AMA does, too.

Jonathan Michels is a premedical student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Robertha Barnes is an MS/MD student at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Sydney Russell Leed is an MD/MPH student at SUNY Upstate Medical University. All are board members of Physicians for a National Health Program, an organization that advocates for an improved and expanded Medicare for All health system.

ACTION ALERT: #MEDforED:Healthcare solidarity with NC teachers!

medforedlogoStudents for a National Health Program, Health Care for All NC and other national and state single-payer organizations will march alongside North Carolina teachers as they rally for respect this Wednesday, May 16 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

One of the primary issues affecting public teachers across the country has been the rising cost of their health coverage. West Virginia educators recently underscored the connection between jobs and health when they initiated a massive walk-out and demanded action over their increasingly expensive, yet meager, healthcare coverage.

“It’s the insurance,” confirmed one of the striking teachers. “That’s the big deal.”

In North Carolina, health insurance premiums are skyrocketing for all of us and our teachers pay an outrageous average of $10,000 a year to cover their families.

As healthcare professionals and advocates fighting for a universal, single-payer health system, we believe the purpose of both healthcare and public education is to serve the common good of the community, not the bottom lines of corporations.

Together, as members of professions whose goal is to foster, care for, and promote the health of our communities, we condemn this endless attack on North Carolina educators.

Teachers are fighting for the future of our children. With our common values, it is our obligation to support them in the classroom and in the public square.

The North Carolina teachers’ rally is an opportunity for us to show our support for public education, clarify that we offer an answer to the healthcare crisis, and emphasize the connection that Improved Medicare-for-All should have in a larger movement for social justice.

Here is how you can help:

  • Wear your white coat at the march and rally on Wednesday, May 16 in Raleigh.
    • Healthcare workers and single-payer advocates will assemble between 10:00 and 10:30am at 700 S. Salisbury Street in Raleigh, North Carolina. The march to the Legislative Building will begin at 10:30.
    • The Rally for Respect on Bicentennial Plaza starts at 3:30 p.m
  • Share and like the Facebook event.
  • Post on social media using #MEDforED and pledge your support for NC teachers.
  • Tell people about Improved Medicare-for-All! Rarely do we have a tangible answer for such a widespread, systemic problem like our current healthcare crisis. The good news is that we have several pieces of legislation that can fix our collective heartache: House Bill 676 and Senate Bill 1804 both expand Medicare for all Americans.

Endorsed by:

Health Care for All NC

Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP)

Health Care Justice

Healthcare for All, Y’all

HealthCare for All WNC

Duke SNaHP

Everyone should have access to health insurance

This article was originally published by The Advocate. You can read the original article here.

“We will not stand for a system that prevents us from providing the care our patients need.”

– Ashley Duhon and Sara Robicheaux

snahp_summit_2018_2As a medical student, you never forget the first time a patient says, “Thank you for your help, but I can’t afford it.” It’s the one sentence that could stop any treatment plan, regardless of the potential benefits.

Medical textbooks aid in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, but they fail to tell us how to help a patient who cannot afford care. Like millions of Americans, many of our patients leave clinics with a choice between addressing their critical health needs or paying for basic necessities. As medical students and future physicians, we cannot ignore the system that denies our patients access to the care they need and deserve.

Over the course of history — from the Greensboro sit-ins of the 1960s civil rights movement to today’s high school students leading the fight for stricter gun regulations — students have been powerful agents of social and political change.

Based on this proud tradition of student-led activism, we recently gathered in New Orleans with more than 100 fellow medical students from across the country for the annual summit of Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP). SNaHP is a national organization of medical and health professional students advocating for a single-payer, Medicare-for-all health system. The event was organized and led by passionate students who believe every patient deserves access to quality, affordable health care. Wearing our white coats and holding “Medicare for All” signs, we danced and marched in a second line parade for health justice, crossing paths with University Medical Center and Tulane Medical Center.

The day concluded with a keynote presentation by Bethany Bultman, CEO of the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic, who explained how the majority of performance artists in New Orleans are uninsured and rely on the Musicians’ Clinic to access basic health services. Musicians are at the heart of the city’s culture, but fall through the cracks of our fractured health system — often earning too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.

Musicians aren’t the only New Orleanians who experience health care rationing. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 54,417 people in New Orleans still do not have any form of health insurance.

Our medical education can only benefit our future patients if an insurance company deems they are worthy of care. While we are taught to see all patients as humans deserving of the highest quality care, private insurers see patients as nothing but profit. We will not stand for a system that prevents us from providing the care our patients need. In this historic political moment of student-led activism, our time is now. Your health is too important for it not to be.