Indian government announces free health-insurance to cover 500 million people.


India announced Thursday a program to give half a billion citizens free health insurance, a potentially transformative upgrade of the country’s dilapidated public health-care services and a key element of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government’s last budget before national elections next year. […]

Under the plan, the government will cover health-care costs of up to $7,800 for 100 million poor families and spend some $188 million to create “health and wellness” centers, Jaitley announced to loud table-thumping in India’s lower house. Spending on nutrition for tuberculosis patients, cleanliness drives and education will also result in significant improvements in public health, he said.  […]

India spends 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product on health care compared with ­China’s 3.1 percent and the United States’ 8.3 percent, according to the World Bank.—…

Healthcare in India tends to be mercenary, with hospitals often refusing treatment unless patients produce large sums of cash first. So the poorest Indians often go without care. Within the Indian context, $7,800 is a huge sum, represent 4 years of income on average. A current program covers $500 of costs for poor families. This program would increase that 15 fold.

The government is asking for $500 million in its budget to build 150,000 wellness centers (WaPo botched their currency conversion).

So this is a welcome development from a decidedly right-wing government which has in general been skeptical of poverty-reduction programs. The health-care program and strong statements in favor of farm-support bills are meant to counter this perception among poorer Indians who do vote in large numbers since elections are run by a non-partisan commission and voter-suppression is rare.

The government’s funding plan is very unclear. Even with India’s extremely young population (which means lower overall need), the cost for such a program will run into the billions. The government has yet to outline how it will fund the proposal, apart from announcing a surtax that is expected to raise $1.7 Billion. A detailed budget is expected next week and should clarify this.

There are also questions about how coverage will work with the mercenary private sector, which often charges inflated prices. Then there’s the fact that India’s poorest citizens are disproportionately Muslim or from “lower” castes who have historically not supported the right-wing BJP. Implementation details will determine whether or not these communities benefit from the program.

All that said, this does pose a question for us in the US. India has a far larger population, and is far, far poorer. If the decidedly right-wing government in India can propose such an ambitious health-care program, why do only half of our Democratic representatives and only a third of Democratic senators support Medicare For All?

subirgrewal | Cross-posted at &

A tale of two cancers: One sister in Canada, the other in the USA.

At the age of 56, Catherine Gordon found out she had breast cancer. A long deferred mammogram revealed two tumors, 6 centimeters long together. She underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumors.

A year later, her sister Karen who lives in the USA was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Karen’s tumors were smaller, but she also had surgery to remove them.

And here’s where it gets insane. Catherine lives in Canada, and did not have to worry about cost. In her words, she “could focus on getting better”.

Karen, unfortunately, lives in the USA, so she could not just focus on getting better:

And she had to contend with American-style billing. “Just as I was getting ready to head to the operating room, a tall man in a nice suit came in and told us he had to have a cheque before they would go ahead. ‘It’s our new policy because people aren’t paying their bills.’ We paid him, of course, but it seemed absolutely outrageous — especially when you’re frightened and sick.” […]

One morning, she pulled out a file folder with her medical bills as we were drinking our coffee. As I flipped through the three-inch pile of papers, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She’d been to just two hospitals and three clinics throughout her treatment, but there were invoices from almost 50 different service providers — pathologists, imaging centres, radiologists, plastic surgeons, anesthesia services, blood labs — people she didn’t know, asking for money for services she’d never heard of.

In Ontario, we don’t see any bills, so the costs are invisible. In the United States, the health-care system leaves the administration in the hands of the patient. “It’s a huge source of frustration and aggravation,” Karen told me. “The time and effort you have to put into trying to understand who’s billing you and why, and the stress of having to negotiate with suppliers and the insurance company — all while you’re in crisis mode and trying to deal with getting well — is a real hardship. I have to question everything, or I end up paying more than I owe. Can you imagine if you didn’t speak English well? Or if you were totally incapacitated by your illness and didn’t have help?”


Well, we here know the rest of this story.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why?

Why are we putting our sick brothers and sisters through the meat-grinder which is the American health-care “system”?

Why do we have a “system” where people have no idea whether a trip to the hospital will leave them bakrupt, even when they have insurance?

Why do they have to argue with insurers, hospitals and doctors over treatment costs and fees?

Why are we sapping the energy of doctors and patients by making them deal with insurers incentivised to deny coverage?

Why are we destroying the patient-doctor relationship by forcing doctors to ask payments before treating people?

Why do we have a “system” where hospitals publish fictitious prices which are exorbitant and scare people away?

Why do millions of Americans, living in the richest country in the world go into crushing debt and sometimes bankruptcy because they got sick?

Why don’t we have a system where people can just “focus on getting better”?

Why don’t we have Medicare For All?


Kirsten Gillibrand and 15 out of NY’s 18 House Dems support Medicare for All

New York has a long history of producing progressives focused on delivering health-care to all. Teddy Roosevelt was the first presidential candidate to propose socialized healthcare. FDR was the first president to actually deliver any kind of federal socialized health-care with the EMIC program and Social Security. EMIC provided some maternity and early childhood care, Social Security provided grants to states to provide programs for public health and services to benefit the blind and disabled.

Continuing in that long tradition, New York Democrats have stepped up to support John Conyers’ Medicare For All bill (HR 676). As of today, 15 out of the 18 Democrats in New York’s current Congressional House delegation support HR 676.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is also on record as supporting single-payer, and word is that she will support Bernie Sander’s senate version of Conyer’s Medicare For All bill.

This means three of the most prominent Senators mentioned as likely presidential candidates will co-sponsor the bill (Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand).

We are a far cry from the environment in 2009, when the party leadership was reluctant to bring a public option to a floor vote, or send it to the CBO for a score. The change in mood is perhaps best underscored by the journey that Max Baucus (D-MT) has been on. As  chairman of the Senate Finance committee, in 2009, Sen. Baucus helped kill public option proposals by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). Now retired, Max Baucus said he believes the time has come for single-payer.

Speaking of the party leadership, our state’s senior senator (and minority leader), Chuck Schumer has not declared his support for the bill, but he has said single payer is “on the table”. In Schumer’s case, it’s not clear whether he’s referring to a single-payer Medicare-For-All covering everyone, or a Medicare buy-in program with subsidies.

In contrast, 83% of NY’s Democratic delegation in the house has co-sponsored Conyer’s MFA bill, which expands Medicare to cover everyone, and improves benefits. They are:

Every Democratic Congressional representative from the nation’s largest city, NYC has co-sponsored HR-676. Dan Donovan, a Republican who represents Staten Island (11th district) is not a supporter.

There are three Democrats in New York’s house delegation who are not on record as supporting Medicare For All. They are Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-3), Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4), Sean Maloney (D-NY-18). Each of them represents NYC suburbs or exurbs including northern Nassau county (the Gold Coast), southern Nassau county (South shore) and Westchester/Dutchess. These areas are generally less diverse, wealthier and more conservative.


Maxine Waters, Bobby Scott, Elijah Cummings, Barbara Lee and Jim Clyburn support Medicare for All.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago, March 25, 1966 — Medical Committee for Human Rights)

Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13), Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-3) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-7) were all among the original co-sponsors of HR-676 when Conyers first introduced the bill in February 2003. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43) joined them in December 2005. Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC-6) signed up as a co-sponsor in April 2008.

All five are members of the Congressional Black Caucus. The CBC provides core support for HR-676, 38 out of 47 CBC house members are co-sponsoring the bill. Lee, Waters and Cummings are also members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is another important base of support for HR-676.

All five of these co-sponsors are deeply committed to the principle of health care as a right, and enshrining it into law with a single-payer system.

Rep. Barbara Lee was on the Democratic Platform committee in 2016 and voted to include Medicare for All/HR-676 in the Democratic Platform (it failed by one vote).

Rep. Jim Clyburn (who has been Assistant Democratic Leader since 2011) is stead-fast in his support for single-payer/HR-676, even when there was a enormous pressure to back away in 2009.

Elijah Cummings wrote a compelling Op-Ed in 2007 about the cost of not having a single payer system. He was writing after having watched Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko:

In one scene, Mr. Moore takes three small boats of sick Americans, including 9/11 volunteer rescue workers, to Cuba. They receive, at no cost, the medical treatment they had been denied at home.

We have heard time and again the statistic that 47 million Americans are uninsured, 9 million of them children. This does not even account for the more than 50 million who cannot get the care they need because they are underinsured.

The numbers are staggering, but they become more meaningful when we talk about how this trend affects the lives of everyday Americans. For me and many others in our community, our nation’s health care crisis has a face and a name. On February 25, 2007, Deamonte Driver, a 12 ­year ­old boy from Prince George’s County, died when an untreated tooth infection spread to his brain.

Deamonte Driver was a victim of our failed health care system. A routine dental checkup might have saved his life, but Deamonte was poor and homeless and he never made it into the dental chair. His is a story that chills the conscience. I simply cannot comprehend how, in a country that sent a man to the moon, we so thoroughly failed this little boy. —…

Like most members of the CPC, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43) has been a proponent of single-payer for a long time. This is from a discussion of her vote for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare):

A longtime proponent of comprehensive, affordable health care for all Americans, Congresswoman Waters and her allies in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) insisted that health care reform legislation must include a “public option” – a voluntary, public insurance program similar to Medicare that would be an alternative to profit-driven private insurance companies.

Most CPC members prefer a single payer health care system, but when it failed to gain enough support in the House as health care reform legislation was being drafted, they expressed support for a “robust public option”, which would reimburse medical providers at the Medicare rate plus 5%.  While Congresswoman Waters was pleased that the House passed legislation including a public option, she was disappointed that the reimbursement rates will be negotiated between the government and providers, a plan favored by more conservative Representatives. […]

Congresswoman Waters noted that efforts to provide health insurance coverage to all Americans was proposed in 1912 – almost 100 years ago – by Teddy Roosevelt, and Presidents following him have also supported this objective. Congressman John Dingell of Michigan has introduced the National Health Insurance Act (H.R. 15), which would provide universal health care for all Americans, during each of his terms in Congress going back to 1957. It was previously sponsored by his father when he was a Congressman.


I’m thrilled these progressive stalwarts are supporting Medicare for All and co-sponsoring HR-676. If your Congressional representative is not on the list of 115 co-sponsors, please call their office and ask them why.

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at & The

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) supports single-payer Medicare For All.

We’ve had a fair amount of discussion about Medicare For All recently, including the various proposal and what it means to different people. Over the past few months, an increasing number of Democrats have expressed support for the proposal. On that note, I’m proud that my Senator, Kristen Gillibrand of New York, supports Medicare For All.

Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has come out in favor of a single-payer health care system.

This is a move to the left for Gillibrand, who despite advocating for “Medicare for all” since her first congressional campaign has not outright advocated a single-payer system. She is following in the suit of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who told The Wall Street Journal last week that “President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts. Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”


Gillibrand has consistently supported universal healthcare for years. In 2009, during the lead up to the ACA, she was a strong proponent for a public option that she then referred to as “Medicare For All”.

“Standing up for public healthcare is the most important thing we can do,” she said, adding that her goal was a system that achieved “Medicare for all.”

But while at least one previous speaker had encouraged support for the single-payer approach to healthcare, with an entity like Medicare handling all health matters, Ms. Gillibrand did not mention that idea. She focused instead on what has emerged as the most divisive part of the current national healthcare debate in Washington—whether a government-supported health insurance program should be allowed to compete with private sector companies offering coverage under new terms set by the federal government. On that question she said, “if we do not have a not-for-profit [insurer] then we, as Democrats, have failed.”

—… (2009)

As Salon notes above, Sen. Gillibrand now supports single-payer “Medicare For All” as the right solution for our times.

Add another major 2020 Democratic player to the list of supporters of single-payer health insurance: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. “Yes,” the New York senator does support single-payer, her senior adviser Glen Caplin told me.

Gillibrand first seemed to endorse the idea on the steps outside the Capitol this week, in a Facebook Live hosted by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. “Health care should be a right, it should never be a privilege. We should have Medicare for all in this country,” she said.

However, Gillibrand in the past hasn’t used the phrase “Medicare for all” as a substitute for “single-payer” the same way Bernie Sanders does. Instead, as Caplin pointed out, “since she first ran for Congress in 2006 in a red district, Kirsten has been advocating for ‘Medicare for all’ where anyone can buy into Medicare for a price they can afford” — that is, by paying a fixed percentage of their income.

That all begged the follow-up: Does Gillibrand support single-payer? Her senior adviser’s answer — “yes” — to that question is a major development for Gillibrand. It positions her with Sanders, progressive activists, and as of this week, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who told The Wall Street Journal that on health care, “now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single-payer.” Per the Pew Research Center, 52% of Democrats support single-payer.


That Pew research report found that 60% of Americans say the federal government is responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has publicly said that “we should have Medicare for all.”


The Senate companion to John Conyers’ HR 676 (which has 116 co-sponsors in the house) has not been released as yet. That is largely because Senate Democrats had been focusing on defeating the ACA repeal efforts. Gillibrand has already endorsed the forthcoming bill.

Sanders spoke alongside Gillibrand in March at a press conference in support of the Family Act, and Gillibrand is very enthusiastic about becoming a co-sponsor of Sanders’s forthcoming Medicare for All bill. “People want affordable health care,” she says. For the record, she’s not late to that party; Gillibrand supported Medicare for everyone when she ran in her House district in 2006. “It’s the solution, and it makes sense to people even in my two-to-one Republican district.”


I’m pleased that my Senator and progressive stalwart, Kirsten Gillibrand supports Medicare For All.

Warren says Democrats should campaign on Single-Payer healthcare.

Elizabeth Warren has been on a campaign footing to push back against Republican efforts to bestow enormous tax breaks on millionaires and billionaires by decimating health-care coverage for ordinary Americans.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is traveling to Trump-friendly areas of her state hoping to connect with his backers and provide a road map for her party to win back working-class voters. […]

Democrats, she said, would do better if they campaigned on that progressive platform rather than blurring the lines between themselves and Republicans. — WSJ

Warren highlighted the lengths to which President Obama and Democrats had gone in 2009-2010 to garner Republican support for the PPACA.

“President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” Warren told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer,” she added. […]

“The progressive agenda is America’s agenda,” Warren said. “It’s not like we’re trying to sell stuff that people don’t want. … It’s not that at all. It’s that we haven’t gotten up there and been as clear about our values as we should be, or as clear and concrete about how we’re going to get there.” — The Hill

John Conyers Jr.’s Medicare For All bill in the House now has 113 co-sponsors, that is almost 60% of the Democratic caucus.

—  @subirgrewal

Meanwhile, in California, Assembly Speaker Rendon made a decision to shelve a single-payer bill that had passed the California Senate.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s abrupt decision Friday to sideline a bill that would have established single-payer healthcare in California roused a swift and fiery backlash from the measure’s supporters, who accused the Democrat from Paramount of unilaterally blunting the effort for sweeping overhaul of the state’s healthcare system. […]

But even as the bill advanced through the state Senate, it was apparent that it would have to overcome several obstacles to succeed. Legislators, who voted this year to raise taxes on gasoline, were wary of backing additional taxes. The proposal hinged on approval by voters and the federal government. […]

The bill’s progress alarmed some interest groups that saw crucial questions go unanswered. Laphonza Butler, president of the statewide council of the Service Employees International Union, said her union was eager to discuss the single-payer proposal but worried that specifics about implementation, namely how it would be integrated with care programs offered by county governments, were going unaddressed. — LA Times

David Sirota writes in the IB Times that Governor Jerry Brown, who has previously supported single-payer, did not support the bill. Sirota also outlined millions of dollars in donations to the CA Democratic party and assembly members from groups opposed to the single-payer bill.

Meanwhile, NY’s single-payer bill has passed the assembly but is being held up in the Senate by the Republican speaker (who holds the position with the support of the IDC). The bill is supported by all Democratic senators, except for Simcha Felder. The Campaign for NY Health has been organizing constituent calls to support the bill.

Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

Bernie at the People’s Summit, a Rainbow coalition.

The NY Times has an Op-Ed by Bernie Sanders up, advocating the Democratic party adopt a more progressive agenda.

Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections

In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.

Bernie argues that the right way to reverse this decline is with a progressive agenda that shows working people the party is firmly on their side. He notes that the sharp spike in participation among young people in the UK is an example of how a progressive platform can help drive voter turnout among the young.

The Democrats must develop an agenda that speaks to the pain of tens of millions of families who are working longer hours for lower wages and to the young people who, unless we turn the economy around, will have a lower standard of living than their parents. A vast majority of Americans understand that our current economic model is a dismal failure. Who can honestly defend the current grotesque level of inequality in which the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? Who thinks it’s right that, despite a significant increase in worker productivity, millions of Americans need two or three jobs to survive, while 52 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent? What person who claims to have a sense of morality can justify the fact that the richest people in our country have a life expectancy about 15 years longer than our poorest citizens?

Bernie highlights a number of issues he believes Democrats should campaign on and how these can be contrasted with Trump’s plans and those of the GOP’s billionaire masters. The list includes Medicare for All, a progressive tax system, an infrastructure plan, action on climate change, free public college, criminal justice reform and comprehensive immigration reform. Some of these issues have been part of the mainstream Democratic agenda for a while, others have been languishing in the progressive caucus for years. Bernie argues it is time for Democrats adopt an unabashedly progressive platform.

While Democrats should appeal to moderate Republicans who are disgusted with the Trump presidency, too many in our party cling to an overly cautious, centrist ideology. The party’s main thrust must be to make politics relevant to those who have given up on democracy and bring millions of new voters into the political process. It must be prepared to take on the right-wing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers and the billionaire class, and fight for an economy and a government that work for all, not just the 1 percent.

In many ways, the Democratic party has already begun moving in the direction Bernie is advocating for. John Conyers Jr. who has been a relentless voice for Medicare-for-All (and sponsor of the bill Bernie advocated for on the campaign trail) is seeing more Congressional Democrats than ever support his plan. Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), Sen. Patty Murray (WA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. They are supported by the Democratic leadership.

— @subirgrewal