Boise DSA

Democratic Socialists of America

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Healthcare Working Group: PNHP
Mar 1, 2019

Boise DSA invited members of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) to discuss past efforts to achieve Medicare For All in Idaho. The Minutes are posted below.


Summary Minutes for Healthcare Meeting, Feb. 17, 2019, Boise Main Library, 715 S Capitol Blvd, Bingham Room. Topic: Medicare for All in Idaho. Ashley Prince opened the meeting shortly after 3:00 pm. 15 people attended. Meeting finished at 4:30 pm.

Ashley introduced Gail LeBow, Secretary/Treasurer of Idaho Healthcare for All and one of its founders. Idaho Healthcare for All is currently the Idaho chapter for Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). For Gail, the most surprising development has been the growth of physician support for single payer. In the 1990s, her late husband, Dr Bob LeBow, was one of very few doctors supporting single payer. Today the PNHP, committed to universal, single payer healthcare, has some 20,000 members. Gail stressed that the PNHP website,, is an outstanding source for solid, objective research on single payer.

Ashley then introduced Dr. Greg Thompson, a member of PNHP and Co-Chair, Idaho Healthcare for All, and a practicing physician in internal medicine in Boise. Greg’s slide presentation contained some familiar information about Medicare for All vs private insurance. Medicare for All is truly universal, covering everybody at a cost lower than private insurance’s costs. In the rankings of developed countries – all of which provide government run, universal care, except the USA – the USA consistently is the worst in costs and in health outcomes, as measured by infant mortalities and life expectancies. Employer provided private insurance means insurance is non-portable; loss of job means loss of insurance.

But Greg’s presentation also contained additional information less well known. One out of a thousand American deaths occur because the person was uninsured and thus lacked care. The administrative cost of Medicare is about 2% of its total cost compared to 20% (profits and administration) for private insurances, including Obamacare. The number of underinsured is growing. In healthcare staffing, growth is not in the number of healthcare providers (doctors, nurses), but in administrative staff, contributing to overhead costs. The inability to pay healthcare costs is the most common reason for being sent to collections. Greg also noted that current Medicare needs improvement. It neglects long term care, such as nursing home care.

One of Greg’s topics about Medicare shortcomings concerned Medicare Advantage, the highly advertised Medicare plans administered by private insurances. These plans, after profits and overhead, pay 86.3% in actual medical care, while traditional Medicare, with no profits and low overhead, pays 97.8% in medical care. Also, Medicare Advantage continues a private insurance problem, the network system, restricting patients to certain doctors.

Gail related her own experience in joining a Medicare Advantage plan, and then switching to traditional Medicare after one year. During Q & A, the problem of 1.7 million private insurance job losses in switching to Medicare for All came up. Greg noted that we do need to provide retraining and support for those people. Greg had a question for the DSA: How does the DSA account for Medicaid expansion passage in conservative Idaho? The DSA’s answer was the grass-roots activity of knocking on doors, talking to people face to face, without imposing political party labels on the effort, brought success. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the afternoon was members from Idaho Healthcare for All, as members of PNHP, and Boise DSA members meeting to find we are natural allies for promoting Medicare for All.

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