10 Years of M4A

2013 was a big year — we had just survived 2012 (the year the Mayans thought the world was going to end), we were all doing the Harlem Shake on Vine, and — most importantly — our regular co-host Ben Day became the Executive Director of Healthcare NOW, the nation’s leading Medicare for All advocacy organization. In this episode, Gillian interviews Ben about the past decade in the movement for healthcare justice, revisiting the highs, the lows, and the weird in-between shit!

Like a lot of folks, Ben Day began his journey to Medicare for All activism as a patient. He was a graduate student in Labor Studies in his 20s when he developed a panic disorder that put him in the hospital and racked up his medical bills. He was so outraged by the experience of getting hung out to dry by the for-profit healthcare system that he decided to change course and spend his life fighting to bring down the system!

Back in 2006, when Ben started as an organizer with Mass-Care, the Massachusetts campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare (This was before the term Medicare for All was commonplace in public discourse.), Massachusetts had just passed “Romneycare,” a package of healthcare reform laws that became the model for the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), so Ben got a preview of how trying to reform the system without eliminating the private insurance companies can go VERY wrong, resulting in limited networks and other industry tricks to keep profits high.

Of course, even with that insight into how reform unfolded in Massachusetts, Ben and other single-payer healthcare activists were marginalized and dismissed as naive radicals throughout the years of debate leading up to the 2010 Affordable Care Act, as moderate Democrats consolidated their efforts into demanding the policy non-solution that refuses to die: the public option. That ended badly both for advocates of the public option and advocates of Medicare for All, who lost out in the final version of the bill, but it was a positive development for private insurers, who now had millions of new customers lining up at their doors!

By the time Ben came to work for Healthcare NOW in 2013, the whole country was mired in the backlash from right wing Republicans fighting tooth-and-nail to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, which had become a political symbol of the Obama administration. Ben explains that this was a turning point for the healthcare justice movement, as regular people who hadn’t been involved with politics before stood up at town halls and listening sessions across the country, not just to defend the ACA, but to push legislators further and demand Medicare for All.

Since then, we’ve seen massive growth in support for Medicare for All, and thanks in-part to Bernie Sanders, Medicare for All has been the top issue in the past two presidential elections, and Healthcare NOW is working with thousands of activists throughout the US to make Medicare for All a reality in our lifetimes. Ben speculates that even though we still have a fight on our hands to win, there are enough of us now that we won’t be marginalized or dismissed in the debate about healthcare ever again!

Want to help us celebrate Ben’s 10-year anniversary and make sure we get Medicare for All in a timely fashion so he doesn’t have to do this job for another 10 years? Make a donation to Healthcare NOW today!