Denton recently became the first city in Texas and the 100th nationally to pass a resolution in favor of Medicare for All.
The local resolution does not change any laws and instead aims to drum up support for the single payer healthcare system.
Alison Maguire, a Denton council member who backed the resolution said the federal policy would improve health outcomes for Denton and ease financial burdens on residents and the city.
Maguire estimated Medicare for All could cut as much as $23,462,000 from the city’s annual budget by saving money on employee benefits.
“In light of all that, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s appropriate for the Denton City Council to voice our support for Medicare for All at the federal level,” Maguire said.
The organizers behind the local resolution say its purpose is to continue to build the grassroots movement for Medicare for All.
“We see it as building power at the local level, to say that we have a voice too and the Texas state government doesn’t speak for all of us,” said Sean Kirkpatrick, Medicare for All regional organizer with Democratic Socialists of America North Texas.
To get city council on board, Kirkpatrick said organizers focused on budget-minded arguments for Medicare for All, such as the money the city would save with the federal policy.
“That’s public taxpayer money that is going straight to the private sector and making CEOs of health insurance companies very rich and then allowing them to dictate which doctors people can go to, what services are approved for people who are sick and are trying to get treated, whereas Medicare for all would cut out that middleman,” Kirkpatrick said.
“We’ve got this really inefficient system that we’re all paying for, and it’s just essentially contributing to more income inequality, where taxpayer money is subsidizing very powerful corporations,” Kirkpatrick said.
The DSA chapter was aided by Public Citizen, who helped write the resolution and prepare organizers for objections they may face.
The nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader has helped organizers in other cities across the country pass similar resolutions.
Brittany Shannahan, Medicare for All organizer with Public Citizen, said a similar strategy was deployed to pass hundreds of local resolutions last decade to support the overturning of Citizens United.
“It’s a really good way to build a grassroots movement for a federal bill, which can be really difficult for people with communities where either their federal representatives are already on the bill or for whatever reason aren’t reachable on this issue,” Shannahan said.
Shannahan said city councils often focus on bread and butter budget issues that Medicare for All could help address, like pension plans. She pointed to the city of Detroit, which declared bankruptcy in 2013 and ended up cutting retiree health insurance benefits from $4.3 billion to $450 million.
“So cities every few years, they will get back together a team, hire a sort of specialist from a consulting firm to help them renegotiate their employee plans, and usually what that involves is figuring out ways to pass more of the expenses onto the employees,” Shannahan said.
Cities could also save money on public hospitals where local governments pay for the healthcare of patients without insurance.
“Many cities have their own ambulance service, and so if someone doesn’t pay their ambulance bill the city pays for it,” Shannahan said.
Organizers are trying to pass similar resolutions supporting Medicare for All in counties and cities across the state, including in Tarrant and Harris County.
In a statement praising Denton, Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, chief sponsor of the Medicare for All Act, said the resolution shows the growing momentum behind the federal policy.
“In a grueling pandemic that’s claimed a million lives in our country, and left millions more without health insurance, people in cities big and small understand that health care shouldn’t be tied to a job,” Jayapal said. “It should be affordable, accessible, and universal. I’m thrilled to see Denton’s support for Medicare for All, and will keep fighting to ensure universal health care becomes the law of the land.”
Photo: Michael M Stokes / Wikimedia Commons