Leaked document foretold secret corporate campaign to derail Medicare for All
National Nurses United rally for Medicare for All | NNU.org

OAKLAND, Calif.—A document leaked two years ago by someone in a corporate front group described a secret campaign, which continues today, to derail national support for Medicare for All.

The insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, and the American Hospital Association, in 2018, teamed up to form the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a fake “grassroots” lobby whose purpose was to derail what had become nationwide majority support, even among Republicans, for Medicare for All.

That support was so broad that in the early stages of the current campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination support for Medicare for All included not just Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but also several of the so-called “moderate” candidates like Kamala Harris. Since then, by backing off that position, most of the Democratic candidates are at least questioning the feasibility of the Medicare-for-All program, if not saying it will take healthcare away from many who have it or even outright opposing it – both goals of the corporate lobbying group. A glance at the group’s website shows how the health industry is making good on its plans to bash Medicare for All.

The corporate “partnership” is about a lot more than just talking points, however. The “partners” dumped half a billion dollars into the 2018 congressional campaign on behalf of candidates who either opposed or had “concerns” about Medicare for All. Many of the Democrats swept into office in 2018 nevertheless supported Medicare for All, causing the “partnership” to step up its efforts for 2020. They are pouring dollars into campaigns on every level this cycle.

The original leaked document, as well as the group’s website today, clearly shows the two main goals of the so-called partnership: “to change the national conversation around Medicare for All by raising doubts about it” and “to make sure it isn’t in the platform of a major national party.”

The leaked memo details specific tactics the corporations are using including crafting op-eds for its allies to place in newspapers and other media, developing anti-Medicare for All talking points that can be used by lawmakers and others, and, of course, dumping millions of dollars into election campaigns.

Undeterred by all of this, Medicare for All supporters are taking the memo with them on a newly announced national campaign to battle the corporate health care industry. They have rolled out a new petition drive with two goals. One is to push federal, state and local officials to back the law and to swear off campaign contributions from its corporate foes. The other is to expose those foes and reduce their clout on Capitol Hill, through a mass movement against them.

The drive, led by National Nurses United, will culminate in the week of April 6-10, when Congress, home for its Easter-Passover recess, will find campaigners armed with thousands of names on petitions, on their office doorsteps. NNU also launched a website for the drive, www.patientsoverprofits.org.

The point of the petitions will be to get the lawmakers and candidates, as well as mayors, city councilors, and county officials to both back Medicare For All and to sign a pledge to refuse campaign contributions from Big Pharma, the health insurers, the hospital lobby and other sectors of the medical-industrial complex.

And petitioners will also spend their time exposing the medical-industrial complex’s fake “grassroots” lobby and its corporate backers who scheme to kill Medicare For All.

NNU and at least a dozen other unions, along with community groups and other progressive organizations, have pushed Medicare For All for years. But they only gained congressional traction for that positive goal when their campaigning helped pro-worker Democrats flip the U.S. House in 2018.

It’s gone nowhere in the Senate, however, even though lead sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., now has 16 Democratic co-sponsors and even though his advocacy on the campaign trail makes Medicare For All a top topic of the Democratic presidential primaries – and a “litmus test” of sorts for all the hopefuls.

Since the start of 2019, four House committees held hearings on Medicare For All and other alternatives to the nation’s expensive, ineffective and wasteful health care non-system, but took no further action. That’s by House leadership design.

That’s even though health care costs eat up one of every six dollars of U.S. national output, while the insurers and the drug companies make billions in profits and funnel the money into executives’ high pay and fancy yachts, drive organizers said.

Besides Sanders and his 16 senatorial allies, a majority of House Democrats co-sponsor Medicare For All. So do the Justice Democrats, a campaign finance committee dedicated to electing progressives to Congress, even over Democratic Party opposition. Their top success is a key Medicare For All advocate, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who ousted a pro-business Democrat in 2018.

And in a break with the rest of the medical-industrial complex, Medicare For All gained support from the American College of Physicians, the group’s government affairs director, Brian Doherty, told The Hill. Doherty said the doctors, many of them primary care physicians, are increasingly frustrated by the insurers’ refusal to pay for basic services. The docs say even patients with insurance can’t shoulder the bills.

That’s one key point the petition drive pushes, the organizers said. Another is reminding state and local officials medical costs crowd other priorities out of their budgets. Some unions are receptive because their members must give up pay hikes to keep health care costs within bounds – and those costs are skyrocketing anyway. And businesses are getting squeezed by insurers’ high bills.

The petitioners will make all those points from now through early April. They’ll also point out that while government spending will rise for Medicare For All, families and individuals will win because they’ll save a lot more through eliminating the insurers, their high copays and premiums and denial of care will save each U.S. family and resident thousands of dollars as they fan out over the country.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is cool to Medicare For All. Under pressure from NNU, Ocasio-Cortez and their allies – including another backer, the Sunrise Coalition, which has Medicare For All as part of its Green New Deal – Pelosi permitted the House panel hearings. They were jammed with Medicare For All backers.

But she also made sure the most-important hearing was by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, headed by Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a top recipient of pharmaceutical industry campaign contributions and a Medicare For All foe. Pallone’s opposition has prompted AFSCME member Russ Cirincione, a county attorney in Pallone’s district, to launch an uphill primary challenge to Pallone this year.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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