Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Forum Brings National Leaders Together

Peace Advocate June 2023

Fund Healthcare Not Warfare: Second Annual Forum presenters Rep. Carol Doherty, Lindsay Koshgarian, Deborah Weinstein, and Shailly Gupta Barnes. Photo: MAPA Livestream
Fund Healthcare Not Warfare: Second Annual Forum presenters Rep. Carol Doherty, Lindsay Koshgarian, Deborah Weinstein, and Shailly Gupta Barnes. Photo: MAPA Livestream

By Jonathan King

At the June 11, 2023 Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Forum, attendees heard chilling descriptions of efforts by corporate forces to privatize and monetize health care, both in general hospitals and in the Veterans Administration system. These stories alternated with uplifting accounts of nurses’ unions and veterans organizations fighting back both nationally and locally to keep health care accessible and patient focused. Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler (Include Photo} made clear that focusing only on reforming the financing of health insurance was an inadequate approach; instead, the public needs to a) regain control of the hospital systems so that they serve those in need rather than management and investors, and b) protect the Veterans Hospitals from privatization. Suzanne Gordon argued that the levels of care provided by the VA were greatly aided by the absence of the  profit motive in the VA hospitals.

The Forum opened with distressing summaries of the Congressional Budget from Lindsay Koshgarian and Deborah Weinstein. The exorbitant Defense Authorization, now up to $880 billion, is choking off the increases desperately needed in the civilian programs. In fact, the Veterans Administration, the largest hospital system in the nation, is not covered by the Defense Authorization but is one of the civilian programs whose resources are being starved. Shailly Gupta Barnes of the Poor Peoples Campaign made clear that our national wealth is fully adequate to lift the 140 million poor and low wealth individuals out of poverty if only the decision to do so were made. Deborah Burger, President of National Nurses United, reminded the audience of the origins of modern nursing on the battlefield in efforts to limit the ravages of war casualties. She, together with Mass Nurses Assn Pres, Katie Murphy, noted that nurses understand better than most people the fundamental contradiction between preparing for war and investing in public health and welfare.

Not surprisingly the Republican-led effort to use the debt ceiling to limit federal spending exempted the bloated military budget. Much of the accumulated federal debt is in fact the costs of past wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and around the globe. In the same session that Congress voted $40 billion for Ukraine (now well over $100 billion), they declined to appropriate $5 billion to insure Covid-19 vaccination in poor countries. Natalia Linos of Harvard School of Public Health made clear that we are a long way from ensuring access to vaccination for all those in need.

At least two bills in Congress address some of the problems above–People over Pentagon (from Representatives Barbara Lee and Marc Pocan), which would cut $100 billion from Pentagon spending, and the Sanders Medicare for All 2023, which would expand access. Our Revolution Chair Larry Cohen called on the attendees to go on the offensive in the coming Congressional season by getting behind a limited number of progressive initiatives, and pressing both the Progressive Caucus and friends in the Senate to support them.

The Forum provided opportunities for exchange among participants through a set of eleven Breakouts focused on topical issues, with knowledgeable panelists as resources. The issues and panelists can be found in the Forum program.

The Forum was one of the first activities representative of MAPA’s new Peace Economy/People over Pentagon Campaign. In the coming year we hope to continue to work with organizations of nurses, public health professionals, and health care providers to make clear that the best path forward  involves not only by resisting corporate  forces undermining the healthcare system,  but also by transferring funds needed to revive and upgrade public health in the US by cutting the bloated military budget.

The Fund Healthcare Not Warfare Committee meets by Zoom monthly and welcomes new members. Check the MAPA Website for the day and time of the next meeting, and register for the event to receive the Zoom link.

Thanks to the Panelists and Program Committee of Catherine DeLorey, Sandy Easton, Bonnie Gorman, Cate Henning, Jonathan King, Alan Meyers and Susan Mirsky.

For those who missed out, a recording of the forum can be found on YouTube. (Part 1, Part 2)