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In the Advocate September 2023:

WA State Labor Council Convention Boosts

Fight to Protect Medicare

David Loud

On July 20, over 300 delegates to the WA State Labor Council, AFL-

CIO (WSLC) convention unanimously voted to adopt Resolution #2023-01, “Level the Medicare Playing Field to Save Our Medicare From Total Priva-tization.” This resolution was drafted by PSARA and co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA); Pride at Work, AFL-CIO; Retired Public Employees Council of WA (RPEC); AFSCME Council 28/WA Federation of State Employees (WFSE); and the WA State Alliance for Retired Americans (WSARA). 

     This action builds on years of WSLC and national AFL-CIO resolutions 

of support for defending Medicare, expanding its benefits, and making quality health care a basic right in the United States by means of a single-payer system like Medicare for All.    The WSLC resolution calls out the existential threat to Medicare as a public program that is coming from the privatized Medicare Advantage plans and ACO REACH – a threat that has intensi-fied under the Biden Administration.  

     The call to “level the playing field” is based on a recognition that most people choose private Medicare Advantage plans because they are less expensive and offer additional benefits – but only thanks to massive subsidies from the Medicare Trust Fund. It is also clear that most beneficiaries in the private plans do not suffer the negative impacts of the need for prior authorizations, claim denials, and narrow provider networks until they face serious or complex health issues. A numbor of advocates believe we will not be able to eliminate Medicare Advantage and ACO REACH until we have the political strength to enact an expanded and improved Medicare for All, as proposed by Rep. Jayapal (H.R. 3421) and Sen. Sanders (S.1655).

     While PSARA and our coalition partner Health Care Is a Human Right continue to build support for our North Star for health justice -- Medicare for All -- the interim strategy we have developed with national allies is to demand that everyone in Traditional Medicare enjoy the same benefits and affordabil-ity as those in the private plans: adding vision, hearing, and dental; setting an out-of-pocket cap, and eliminat-ing the 20 percent copays that force beneficiaries to buy expensive private Medigap policies, if they can afford them. The companion demand is to eliminate excessive costs and profits in the private plans and to recoup for the Medicare Trust Fund the billions of dol-lars plundered every year by the fraud and abuse rampant in the private plans, well documented by Health & Human Services. 

     The goals of this interim strategy are to prevent the total privatization of Medicare, to achieve greater equity among Medicare beneficiaries, and to 

make Medicare an even more compel-ling platform to expand into a universal health plan for everyone in our country. 

     The resolution will be sent to our state’s Congressional delegation, Presi-dent Biden, and Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra. It also commits the WSLC to encourage its af-filiates and the state’s 15 Central Labor Councils to bring the resolution to their members for discussion and action. 

     It was fitting that in the floor debate, the three delegates who spoke in favor of our resolution (no one spoke against) represented retirees: RPEC, WSARA, and PSARA. I ended by saying “Retirees are leading this fight for ourselves, and we are also fighting for you who are still working and for all the generations to come.”

     

David Loud is a member of PSARA’s Executive Board and served as a PSARA delegate to the WSLC convention.

WSLC’s Mother Jones Award for 

PEBB Medicare Stakeholders Coalition 

From the STAND, July 24, 2023

The Mother Jones Award has been recognized for decades as the state labor movement’s award that recognizes our own members in their struggle for dignity and respect for all working men and women in our state. Traditionally, two awards are given, one to an individual and one to an organization. Candidates for the award will best exemplify the tradition of Mary “Mother” Jones’ immortal statement, “Mourn for the dead, but fight like hell for the living!”

     [At the WSLC convention] the organizational Mother Jones Award went to the Public Employees Benefits Board Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition for their advocacy protecting the health care benefits of public sector retirees. The coalition includes the Retired Public Employ-ees Council of Washington, Washington Education Association-Retired, AFT Washington Retiree Chapter, Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, and the Washington Federation of State Employees. Non-labor affiliated mem-bers include Social Security Works WA, Health Care Is a Human Right WA, and the Washington Senior Citizens Lobby.

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