‘Twas the Night Before Healthcare Justice Rises
By Donna Smith
There is nothing more critical to public health – for our individual bodies and for our collective well-being – than a just and functional healthcare system. If the past year has taught us all to be amateur epidemiologists, the COVID-19 pandemic has also taught us all how dysfunctional and disjointed our U.S. healthcare system really is – and for some of us, we are determined to see healthcare reflect the equity and decency we treasure along with affordability we must demand. On March 17, 2021 (that’s tomorrow), two marvelous U.S. Representatives will introduce the Medicare for All Act of 2021. And when it passes, health justice will come rolling down as if we always cared about one another enough to care for the sick and heal the wounded.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan are the two original authors and sponsors of the Medicare for All Act of 2021. Both courageous and straight-forward Congressional members, Rep. Jayapal and Rep. Dingell know that if we are to build an equitable healthcare system that is prepared to address the next pandemic (and there will be one), we must stop putting profits in front of every other measure of the our health system’s ability to live up to the needs we all have for care at some point in life.
When the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare passed, the expansion of Medicaid, the subsidies for insurance coverage, and the elimination of lifetime caps and pre-existing condition clauses made for more access for Americans who had been priced out or off coverage without those protections. I reject the argument that the ACA/Obamacare did not help our healthcare mess because it did help. It didn’t get us anywhere near full coverage or elevate outcomes much, yet more people were able to get and stay on coverage that was not tied to their jobs. That’s an advance. But until we are able to cover everybody (and I mean every body), we are squandering any progress we have made to date.
The Congressional Budget Office/CBO recently released its fiscal assessment of a single-payer, Medicare for All health system for the United States. There was no surprise to those who have advocated for the policy – single payer saves enormous sums of money while covering everyone (Feb. 16, 2021, Journal Health Affairs, Gaffney, Woolhandler and Himmelstein). Those worried about the cost and where the funding comes from aren’t listening closely – if an item or even a system saves money, the money you need to pay for the system is obviously already available because you are paying the much higher price. This time, the CBO study and many others tell the clear story: we can get more for less. We don’t need to find more money; we need to find more brain power to stop denying the reality. Medicare for All saves us all
Many of us have been calling for this policy change for quite a while. We’ve been educating people, and the American public gets it. What they don’t quite understand enough yet, apparently, is that the profits being made by big insurance, big Pharma and the big provider/hospital systems are being shared and passed along to our elected officials to ensure that Medicare for All does not happen and disrupt the flow of cash. We, the American people, must be strong enough for long enough to push our case yet again.
Tomorrow we begin anew. From Sen. Edward Kennedy to Rep. John Dingell and his father, to Rep. Jim McDermott to Rep. John Conyers to Sen. Bernie Sanders and beyond, we will remember and honor the people who have called for health justice before now. We will build on that work and that courage. We will call. We will write. We will email. We will rally. We will hold vigils. We will do webinars. Leaving our children and grandchildren this mess of a system to protect them is a greedy, selfish decision.
Along with all other social justice issues, healthcare justice reaches into every section of our lives and our communities. Medicare for All is not socialized medicine. Don’t buy that. Don’t worry about the lies we’ll hear all over again with rising intensity.
Rise up, rise up. Stand tall and with the power of our shared commitment, let’s teach more people to be active constituents who push their own Congressional members to co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act of 2021. It helps us care for the sick and heal the wounded. It builds to the next incredible step toward doing what I know many of us have been called to do. Love one another. That’s it.
** Note: Check in on your representative at www.pdamerica.org