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Episode Info: Mark Dudzic, National Coordinator for the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, joins us again to take a deep dive into the recent history of Medicare for All organizing within the labor movement, including the political calculations made during the failed Clinton health reform push, the changing landscape for unions through the Affordable Care Act, labor’s role in the creation of the center-left Healthcare for America Now (HCAN), and the direction labor is moving in the Sanders/Biden era. Show Notes Ben kicks things off on a rant. Recently diagnosed with gout, which leads to extremely painful inflammation in the joints Ben was warned by his doctor that the miracle drug that treats gout inflammation – colchicine – could come with massive copayments of hundreds of dollars. How? Colchicine is one of the oldest medicines in recorded history – described in Egyptian medical texts from 1,500BC, and used by the ancient Greeks to treat joint pain! Colchicine has been widely available and prescribed by doctors at low prices for generations now, but in 2009 the FDA decided to give the patent rights for colchicine to one pharmaceutical company, which drove all the generic manufacturers out of the industry, and prices rose by more than 2,000 percent. Ben now has trouble accessing a drug that was readily available to Aristotle and Christ. Good job American healthcare! With that rant over, we bring back our guest Mark Dudzic, national coordinator for the Labor Campaign for Single Payer to do a deep dive on the history of the Medicare for All movement, and labor’s role. Mark starts by pointing out that in the U.S., the linking of healthcare to our employment was an accident of history coming out of WWII. When wages were frozen during the war effort, the labor movement effectively pushed for and massively non-wage benefits – including healthcare coverage – for workers in the U.S. However, the promise that Roosevelt made to implement an economic bill of rights following the war, including establishing healthcare as a public right, was never realized. Instead, a serious attempt by Truman to pass national healthcare in the late 1940s was defeated by Southern Democrats to protect structural racism in the healthcare system, and that was followed by a decade of red-baiting and anti-worker legislation. During the entire postwar period, the official policy of the labor movement was to fight for a national health plan, until the 1990s. However, the late 1980s and early 90s marked a huge health crisis – huge losses in healthcare coverage, and surging prices. Bill Clinton ran on healthcare in 1992, and tasked Hillary Clinton with implementing health reform. However, the Clintons early on ruled out a single-payer system, taking the approach that Democrats need to coopt market-oriented policy from Republicans, and they promised to develop a universal healthcare plan with all the benefits of Medicare for All without taking on the healthcare industry. Mark describe...
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