Chicago UAW Local 551 Endorses HR 676, Improved Medicare for All

February 28, 2017

At its February meeting, UAW Local 551, which represents workers at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant, endorsed HR 676, Congressman John Conyers’ national single payer legislation, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

UAW Local 551 Vice President Scott Houldieson reports that the local “made note that negotiations over healthcare continue to consume a large portion of the money the union negotiates over.  This holds back wages and pensions.” 

“We also believe in Social Justice for all workers,” said Houldieson.  “Because of this we know that a single payer system covering every American from cradle to grave is the moral thing to do.”

Houldieson says that the local “took guidance from the delegates to the 35th Constitutional Convention which set International UAW policy.  At that convention we debated our support for the Affordable Care Act, noting that while the Act was a step in the right direction, we still believe National single Payer Health care is the proper remedy.”

The Chicago Assembly Plant, where UAW Local 551 workers build the Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer, and the Police Interceptor, is the company’s oldest continually-operated automobile manufacturing plant.  The local also represents workers at Voith, ABM, and USA.


Hale Landes of IBEW Local 134 reports that the Labor Outreach Committee of the Illinois Single Payer Coalition initiated the discussion of endorsement of HR 676 with the UAW local.

The resolution passed the UAW Local 551 Executive Board unanimously and was approved by the membership with the approval of the Board minutes.  The full resolution is below:



UAW Local 551 Resolution to Support Single Payer Health Care


WHEREAS, the delegates to the 35th Constitutional Convention while supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a good beginning step stated; We remain convinced that a single-payer system is the best way to control costs while providing universal access to high quality care; and we are committed to building an aggressive strategy to educate lobby and mobilize to achieve that goal; and


WHEREAS, many in Congress have called for the repeal and replacement of the ACA; and


WHEREAS, workers, their families, and their unions are waging an increasingly difficult struggle to win or keep good health benefits; and


WHEREAS, almost every union at every contract deadline must battle and sacrifice merely to sustain health insurance benefits; and


WHEREAS, the rising cost of health insurance premiums are blocking worker progress in wages, job growth, and other areas. All of our unions face a health care crisis; and


WHEREAS, economic necessities and moral conscience compel us to seek a better way; and


WHEREAS, Congressman John Conyers Jr. has introduced H.R. 676, the United States National Health Insurance Act. A.K.A. “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All;” and


WHEREAS, H.R. 676 will cover every person in the United States for all necessary medical care from birth to death; therefore be it


RESOLVED that UAW Local 551 endorses Congressman Conyers H.R. 676 Bill “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All;” and be it further

RESOLVED that UAW Local 551 will work with other unions and community groups to build support and action for H.R. 676 until we make what is morally right for our nation into what is also politically possible; and be it finally

RESOLVED that UAW Local 551 will take other actions to mobilize our members and the community at a grassroots level, to encourage other members of the House to sign on as co-sponsors of H.R. 676 and to encourage Senators to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.

Issued by:

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551


HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system by expanding a
greatly improved Medicare to everyone residing in the U. S. Patients will
choose their own physicians and hospitals.

HR 676 would cover every person for all necessary medical care including
prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and
preventive care, emergency services, dental (including oral surgery,
periodontics, endodontics), mental health, home health, physical therapy,
rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care and correction,
hearing services including hearing aids, chiropractic, durable medical
equipment, palliative care, podiatric care, and long term care.

HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save hundreds of
billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the
private health insurance industry.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 628 union organizations including 152 Central
Labor Councils/Area Labor Federations and 44 state AFL-CIO’s (KY, PA, CT,
RI, NH, ID).

The list of union endorsers.
The sample endorsement resolution. 



New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer Health Care

February 27, 2017

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

With the chaos and uncertainty at the federal level, New York Progressives see an opportunity to push for single-payer health care in the state – a plan that has been approved by the Democratic-controlled Assembly, but has been defeated by the Republican-controlled Senate (with the help of the so-called Independent Democratic coalition of state senators who were elected as Democrats but caucus with Republicans).

Hundreds crammed the Universalist Unitarian Church in Huntington, Long Island, under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to build the movement for the state to adopt single-payer health care.

Irrespective of what Republicans do in Congress, Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of LI Activists ( said, “There is a lot we can do in New York – people forget we can act locally, not everything happens in Congress. Single payer is a real possibility in New York.”

Widelec exposed the lies that are used to beat back universal health care, despite the fact that every other industrialized nation has such a system:

That universal health care is too expensive, will add trillions of dollars to the national debt – but that is belied by the fact that the US spends twice as much on health care as any other industrialized nation, health care amounts to 1/6 of the entire economy, and the outcomes are poor, with the US ranked 32nd among nations, contradicting the claim that the US offers “the best health care in the world.”

Another lie is that universal health care will result in rationing, ”as if 20 million people with no insurance isn’t rationing, or people who have insurance but can’t afford deductibles or copays isn’t rationing, or insurance companies denying care isn’t rationing,” he said.

Janet Green, a nurse who lived in Canada for two years and now lives on Long Island, spoke of the difference: “We lived it, loved it – you could choose any doctor you like, be rid of billing, deductibles, copays; to be covered regardless of age, job status, preexisting conditions, personal wealth. No wonder the Canadians love their single payer universal health insurance system with private provision..

“When we moved to Long Island,  the unfairness and inefficiency of an increasingly corporatized health care system was increasingly hard to take because I knew another system. I had coverage through husband’s job – but I was angry , not lucky, to be part of such an unfair system.” That included problems with doctors in/out network; merger/replacement of insurance plans, with changing rules, preferred provider lists not once but twice in 4 years. “There is none of that on single payer, no deductibles or copays or networks.

“I saw the misinformation spread by those most affected, the insurance industry –myths about Canadian system.

“North of the border and throughout the rest of the world, it is understood that to be a compassionate, enlightened society, there must be universal health coverage.

Dr Martha Livingstone,  vice chair of Physicians for a National Health Program, also spoke from experience about Canada’s health program, because she lived in Canada while getting one of her degrees.

“There are only two reasons we don’t have national health insurance Medicare for All – it is 1/6 of the economy and very powerful people are arrayed against us who will do everything in their power to persuade us we can’t have it. And our failure of imagination.

Indeed, it may well be that Republicans have overplayed their hand and the pendulum will swing back much more forcefully. If they succeed in repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Trumpcare, it can cost Republicans to lose Congress in 2018 and the White House in 2020, just as Obamacare cost Democrats control in 2010. Instead of Obamacare, which was Obama’s attempt to appease conservatives who demand a for-profit health care system, there will be universal health care, single-payer Medicare for All, a socialized health care system.

She told of a Victoria BC woman whose son had to go to five specialists before a rare brain tumor was diagnosed, treated, so he could survive. “In the states, he would have been one of 45,000 Americans dead of treatable medical conditions because he didn’t have access to timely medical care.

“Preexisting condition? Life is a preexisting condition., resulting from sexual contact and will invariable end in death. We all have a  preexisting condition. We all need health care because we are human beings. How we will get it?

“We are the 99%. We don’t mind paying taxes when they provide for things we need. Who doesn’t want to pay taxes? it’s the billionaires – they want us to be uneducated, unhoused, unfed and if sick, they like us to die [and not be a burden on society]. It is a life/death fight.

“We have to protect the Affordable Care Act, but frankly my dears, ACA was written by the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank. It is a Republican plan first put into place by then Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.  You have piece a that‘s public, that funds the majority, and the piece that’s private.

“What Romneycare did, then ACA, was to build on the wildly expensive private for-profit sector of the system. We want to build in the wildly successful, inexpensively administered Medicare program…

“There are only two things wrong with Medicare: it doesn’t cover everything, doesn’t cover everybody. So improve it, Medicare for all.”

But regardless of what happens at the federal level, the state can create its own single-payer plan.

“Let New York be the first to have single-payer.  What it will do for us in New York State is save us $50 billion, and save everybody but the very wealthiest New Yorkers money over what paying now for lousy access to care, where we have narrow networks, where some insurance genius can tell us at any moment, ‘Well, if you looked at p 793.’ The bill gets rid of all that – no copays, deductibles for a human right. We have to reinforce that. We know we won’t get it through the New York Senate this year, but 2018 if we hold their feet to the fire.”

“This event left me hopeful,” Widelec said before sending everyone off to their breakout sessions to come up with local actions. “The election of Trump wasn’t a hopeful time, but I am hopeful. I believe this is not a matter of left versus right, this is a matter of right versus wrong. One good thing about the 1%: we outnumber them 99 to 1.

“Everybody forward, not one step back.”

He said that events will be posted on

See also:

Hundreds Rally on Long Island to Save Obamacare, Push for Single Payer in NYS


© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to, email Blogging at  ‘Like’ us on, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Brooklynites cheer single-payer health care at congressional town hall

February 25, 2017

Crain’s Health Pulse

Friday, February 24, 2017

The future of the Affordable Care Act has provoked heated discussions at town hall meetings across the U.S., particularly those convened by Republican members of Congress.

Here in New York, at an overflowing and overwhelmingly friendly town hall Wednesday night hosted by Rep. Yvette Clarke in progressive Brooklyn, the Democratic congresswoman predictably defended the ACA.

But audience members, who numbered in the hundreds, showed their most enthusiastic support for an alternative that gets far less attention in the political sphere: universal, or single-payer, health care that provides access to everyone.

Democrat-backed bills have long been kicking around the New York Legislature and the U.S. Congress that propose variations on that idea.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democrat of Vermont, championed a “Medicare for All” concept during his presidential campaign. But such proposals haven’t come close to achieving bipartisan support.

The New York Health Act—sponsored by Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and Sen. Bill Perkins, both Manhattan Democrats—passed the majority-Democratic state Assembly in the last two sessions, but it has been stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Of the dozens of audience members who posed questions to Clarke and her invited speakers, just one directly addressed the future of the ACA.

“We could increase subsidies and we could expand Medicaid further, but those are just Band-Aids, not proper solutions,” the young man asking the question began. “At what point will congressional Democrats come out in full force in full support of universal, single-payer health care?”

After sustained applause and cheers from the crowd, Clarke replied, “You’re talking my kind of language. I’ve been for single-payer health care ever since I’ve been in Congress.”

Clarke suggested that the reason there’s pushback against the ACA is that it’s “taking us down that road.”

While President Barack Obama paid lip service to a single-payer system during his 2008 campaign, the Affordable Care Act has maintained a diverse insurance market.

The law did greatly expand the number of people enrolled in government-funded and subsidized insurance plans, though, particularly in New York. As of Jan. 31, more than 2.4 million people signed up for Medicaid through the state’s Obamacare marketplace. The state also has enrolled more than 665,000 people in its Essential Plan, a federally subsidized option created under the ACA for New Yorkers earning less than twice the federal poverty level who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Clarke is one of 63 members of Congress, all Democrats, who have signed onto the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, calling for single-payer health care. But she said her focus remains on organizing constituents to resist the proposed repeal of the ACA.

Some New Yorkers might have a “certain level of comfort that we have a Democratic state that does to a certain degree do everything it can to preserve the right to health care,” Clarke told Crain’s after the event.

Grassroots efforts to pressure Congress to preserve coverage and federal funding are essential, she said.

“We’re continuing to promote the need for the ACA and to encourage New Yorkers to make their preference known for the ACA, because it would be catastrophic to our health care infrastructure if this is repealed without any replacement,” she said. “And who knows what type of replacement they would offer in any event.”—C.L

Buffalo Council Passes Resolution Urging Passage of New York Health Act

February 24, 2017

BUFFALO, NY – On Tuesday, February 21 2017, the Buffalo Common Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the New York Health Act (A.4738 / S.4371) — legislation that will guarantee health care to all New Yorkers by creating a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system. The resolution was introduced by David Rivera and Rasheed Wyatt in a February 14 meeting of the Community Development Committee where Council members heard testimony from health care advocates with the Campaign for New York Health, a broad coalition of labor, nurses, physician groups, community healthcare clinics, organized labor and grassroots community activists.

The New York Health Act passed by a large majority in the Assembly in 2015 and 2016. It has been reintroduced in the Assembly and Senate for the 2017 legislative session by Assembly member Dick Gottfried and Senator Bill Perkins, respectively. The resolution reflects the growing public support for this solution, especially as Congressional proposals threaten current health coverage for millions of New Yorkers.

Niagara District Council Member David A. Rivera stated, “I want to thank the members of the community, from labor, nurses, and community organizations who brought this to the Common Council’s attention. It is important we continue on in establishing health care as a right in this country. Our basic human needs should not be left up to the market to decide the price and accessibility of goods and services. Health, housing, food, and other needs need to be equal and equitable for all. If one level of government cannot provide for our needs, other levels of government will need to step up to deliver. That’s why I am supporting the NY Health Act and look to our state representatives to make this a priority for 2017 Legislative Session.”

“While Congressional Republicans consider repealing the Affordable Care Act, the New York State legislature could take action to guarantee health care to all of us New Yorkers,” said Jim Anderson, State Vice President of Citizen Action of NY and Buffalo resident. “The destructive policies being pushed in D.C. would negatively impact health coverage for over 2.7 million New Yorkers, driving the number of uninsured individuals to over 4 million statewide. In Erie County alone, the Governor’s office estimates that over 93,000 people would lose health care coverage. This is inhumane and unacceptable. A universal, public healthcare program is the only solution to the current healthcare crisis. We need to guarantee healthcare for all. Our city and county elected officials need to actively support passage of New York Health Act.”

“As a healthcare consumer, I have been uninsured, and my family underinsured,” said Sara Palmer, a Buffalo resident and member of the Campaign for New York Health who testified at the Buffalo Council meeting.. “At times we’ve gone years without dental or proper vision coverage, high co-pays and deductibles, diagnostic tests deemed elective and denied by insurance companies, inability to afford necessary medications, or even a primary care physician, has caused medical debt that follows us still today. I support the New York Health Act because healthcare is a human right as defined in our U.S. Constitution, “to promote the General Welfare” of our people.”

“In every set of contract negotiations we participate in, health insurance is one of the most difficult issues we confront,” said Debora Hayes, Area Director Communications Workers of America. “Employers are constantly proposing to shift more health care costs to workers in the form of increased cost sharing of premiums increased deductibles, co-insurances and co-pays. With annual premium costs rising about 14% per year, it is almost impossible to negotiate wage increases that keep up with increasing out of pocket health care expenses. New York Health would treat health care as a human right and solve many of the problems faced by the uninsured and underinsured.”

“There’s only one way to cover everyone and save money, and that’s with the New York Health Act,” states Ursula Rozum, Upstate Coordinator with the Campaign for New York Health. The New York Health Act will provide universal, comprehensive health care coverage and billions of dollars in savings for New York families, businesses, and local governments. All New Yorkers would be covered for all medically necessary services, including: primary, preventive, specialists, hospital, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug, and medical supply costs. The care provided under New York Health would be more comprehensive than plans offered by health insurance companies today. There would be no out-of-pocket costs as barriers to health care.

A detailed study of the New York Health Act, conducted by Professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, showed tens of billions in savings by streamlining the administration of our healthcare system to a single-payer funding stream[1]. Most of the savings is found in eliminating insurance company administrative cost and profits, and slashing the enormous administrative costs health care providers spend to deal with insurance companies. Another significant area of savings is due to negotiating better prices for drugs with the pharmaceutical companies; and for medical devices with their manufacturers.

The New York Health Act will establish a trust fund that pools federal funding from Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health plans and other federal entitlements. A progressive payroll tax on income and a capital gains tax on unearned income will also be paid into the fund. These sources of funding will replace health care premiums, deductibles, and copays. This is vitally important: the health act creates new taxes, but those taxes replace all other health care spending. 98% of all households will be spending less on health care under the New York Health Act.

While it is funded through taxes based on ability to pay, it relieves tax burdens in other areas. For example, New York is one of the only states that requires counties to contribute to Medicaid. The New York Health Act will shift those costs from the county back to the appropriate level of government – the state. This will reduce counties’ costs significantly. In 2012, Erie County paid $242 million into Medicaid, which is equal to 82% of what the county collected in property taxes. Eliminating the local share of Medicaid will give Erie County the ability to lower property taxes, create an emergency surplus for economic downturns, rebuild infrastructure like failing roads and bridges, and fund other important programs.


Time Waits for No Plan

February 18, 2017

David Blumenthal, M.D.PresidentThe Commonwealth Fund      212.606.3825


  • Time is a new president’s enemy when it comes to health care legislation
  • Republicans will need to act fast to enact what history will call Republican health reform

In the fall of 1964, Wilbur Cohen, then assistant secretary of legislation at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), was summoned to the White House along with his peers from throughout the fledgling Johnson Administration. Lyndon Baines Johnson had just been elected president in his own right after succeeding the slain John F. Kennedy as president in November 1963. Johnson had won 61.1 percent of the popular vote and 486 electoral votes, and his party had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

According to Cohen’s oral history, Johnson told his staff: “‘Now look, I’ve just been elected by the overwhelming majority. And I want to tell you that every day while I’m in office, I’m going to lose votes. I’m going to alienate somebody.’ And then he took about 20 minutes and traced the history of other presidents . . . and he says, ‘The President begins to lose power fast once he has been reelected . . . We’ve got to get this legislation [his Great Society Program, including Medicare] fast. You’ve got to get it during my honeymoon.'”

Johnson knew whereof he spoke. In addition to being Kennedy’s vice president, he had served in the House of Representatives, and then the Senate, where he was perhaps the most powerful and effective majority leader that body has ever seen. He understood Washington better than any president before or since.

In health care, history has driven Johnson’s point home. Time is a new president’s enemy when it comes to bold health care legislation. When Bill Clinton delayed in proposing his sweeping health reform package in 1992, his initiative collapsed in a legislative tangle. Learning from this, Barack Obama made the Affordable Care Act (ACA) his first priority and pushed hard for its quick approval. He succeeded, but just barely.

Johnson’s remarks carry huge potential significance for President Trump and his congressional allies if they are serious about replacing the ACA, not just repealing it. Unless Washington’s rules have changed completely, Republicans need to act fast to succeed. They can repeal the law quickly, but creating its replacement, as they are discovering, is every bit as complicated and fraught as the ACA’s enactment. In fact, repeal and replace cannot be separated because the details of the repeal affect the shape and viability of replacement.

The entire endeavor is probably mislabeled. The Republicans call their effort “repeal and replace,” but history will call it “Republican health reform.”

Although Republicans have tried repeatedly to repeal the ACA, and were clear during the election about their intent to dramatically change it, they did not do the technical or political work necessary to break swiftly from the starting blocks in January. The more legislators seem to learn, the more they seem inclined to slow down. One potential strategy is to repeal the ACA and then “repair” it with incremental steps. But step-by-step legislating takes time, and time is the enemy. As Johnson would counsel, each incremental piece of legislation will cost some measure of support for the president and his party. This is a particular problem in the Senate, where Republicans need eight Democratic votes to overcome a possible filibuster of key replacement provisions. And those votes must be gathered repeatedly, for each new proposal.

What is more, as time passes, other legislative priorities will come barreling through to sideline the health care process: tax reform (with its huge health care implications), infrastructure, modifying NAFTA, regulatory relief, foreign crises and responses, and potentially, new staff embarrassments and scandals. All of these will be complicated and costly for the new president and the majority congressional party. Every day the president and his party will lose votes. Every day he and his congressional advocates will alienate somebody.

Of course, we may be in different times. We may have a new administration that will change all the rules that have governed the rhythms of Congress and the presidency in modern times. We may. But we may not.

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