Report on Medicare’s 44th Birthday, July 30, 2009

Over one thousand single-payer activists descended on Capitol Hill on July 30th, 2009 to celebrate Medicare’s 44th Birthday as concurrent actions planned across the country and on the Hill culminated to pay great tribute to the nation’s most popular social program that is indeed the largest single-payer in the country of hospitals and doctors.

The message of the day was clear: Support Medicare for all NOW! Medicare has successfully provided care to seniors and people with disabilities for almost half a century. Since its enactment, poverty in those over 65 has been reduced by over 60% thanks to Medicare. Medicare is a truly American-made system that other health care systems around the world have since been modeled after. With little over 3% administrative overhead, we must look to this American solution to our health care crisis.

Over 200 activists lined up to deliver cupcakes and birthday cards to honor Medicare to every member of Congress. The activists lobbied morning and afternoon for Medicare for all, only breaking for a rally at Upper Senate Park that featured many wonderful speakers, including Dr. David Scheiner, Obama’s personal physician of 22 years who is calling for President to enact Medicare for all, State Senator Jim Ferlo who gathered over 100 signatures from fellow state legislators in support of HR 676, Terry O’Neil, President of National Organization for Women, Rep. John Conyers, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tim Carpenter (National Director of PDA), Medea Benjamin (Code Pink and Global Exchange), Donna Smith (California Nurses Association and co-chair of PDA’s Healthcare NOT Warfare Campaign) and Baucus 8 arrestees: Mark Dudzic (Labor Party), Dr. Margaret Flowers (PNHP) and Katie Robbins (Healthcare Now!), and various union leaders. Everyone stood unified in support of efforts to implement Medicare for All.

Many exciting developments occurred on the hill that day and leading into Friday. Congressman Anthony Weiner introduced, with brilliant ironic flair, an amendment in the Energy and Commerce Committee to eliminate Medicare. He was happy to see a unanimous vote against the amendment, and then proceeded on July 31st to introduce an amendment to HR 3200 for Medicare for All. This courageous gesture was met with a surprising deal from Chairman Waxman and Speaker Pelosi to allow HR 676 to come to the floor of the House for full debate, discussion, and a vote after the August recess. Congressman Weiner accepted the opportunity to bring single-payer legislation to the floor for full debate. This is an incredible opportunity that the single-payer movement has brought to fruition.

Our national ask is now clear: Tell you Congressperson to vote for HR 676! More details and campaign resources will be announced shortly

In addition to the progress of HR 676, Congressman Kucinich spoke at a packed Congressional briefing that explored the passage on Friday, July 17th, by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, in the House Education and Labor Committee, of the amendment that would allow the necessary federal ERISA waivers for states that pass and implement single payer healthcare plans for their citizens. The amendment will be considered as part of the Tri-Committee health reform bill as marked-up by two of the three committees of jurisdiction in the House.

Many encouraging statements have since been delivered to us at Healthcare-NOW!, including Michael Carano of PDA Ohio, “the single-payer movement should be encouraged by the numbers, diversity and broad range of organizations that came to this Healthcare Now! organized rally. It wasn’t a day in the park, an afternoon field trip if you will, for those who came to Washington on July 30. The single-payer crowd was made up of activists, and these activists are the ones who will go home and keep building the movement for real change. Their unrelenting enthusiasm and tenaciousness will not abate until single-payer healthcare is our nation’s healthcare system. They are working not just to put single-payer healthcare on the table but to make possible an expanded and improved Medicare for All, a publicly financed, privately provided program that will end the disparity and immorality of a system in which profit takes precedence over people.

The simple truth is that those who profit from illness, those who siphon money out of healthcare for the advantage of the few—in short, the corporate health insurance industry—will eventually have no positive role in our healthcare system and will be ousted from the system for good, and for the good of us all.

Our message is clear. Our hope is boundless. Our solution is economically feasible. Our resolve is implacable. Join us in this effort.”

Thank you to everyone who made the tremendous efforts on July 30th possible. Healthcare-NOW! especially thanks the work of our National Coordinator and founder, Marilyn Clement, who passed away on Monday August 3rd, after a year long struggle with multiple myeloma cancer. Her spirit lives in the single-payer movement. We are composing a more detailed announcement, but until then, let us simply echo as we reflect on the great progress we have made, Marilyn has alway said from the beginning of her work on single-payer health care – “We are going to win.”

Thank you to the full list of sponsors of the July 30th rally, especially the California Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, Progress Democrats of America, and Public Citizen. A full list of the over 50 sponsoring organizations can be found here.

Photos of the day can found here.

Thank you to the Real News Network for their piece on the July 30th events.