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Medicare for All: Where Do We Go From Here

By DeAnte Washington

“The biggest crime you can commit in America is being sick.” Matthew Fentress, a 31-year-old from Taylor Mill, Ky. said, in a recent interview published by NPR. In a life-threatening situation, his only option was to seek professional care immediately even if that came with a high price.

Fentress’s insurance covered only a portion of his medical expenses, leaving him to pay thousands out-of-pocket. Not only was he paying for his most recent stay, but has medical debt from years before that he still owes. He experienced what millions of other Americans are experiencing at this moment; being a statistic in this healthcare crisis.

Now during the worst pandemic in a century, 22 million Americans who’ve lost their jobs due to COVID-19 have not only suffered financially but have also been stripped of their health insurance, leaving them particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Not only does the cost of health care have an impact on all Americans, but it affects BIPOC communities especially hard. They are more likely to live in communities where access to health and affordable food is scarce,  have higher levels of diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions vulnerable to COVID-19, and suffer the inequities of affordable health care at higher rates.

As  COVID cases in the U.S. continue to decrease and more Americans get vaccinated, we can’t ignore, during this crisis, the underlying truth of the injustices inside the for-profit health care system. Patients are hit with crippling medical bills, families are going bankrupt, desperate people are begging for GoFundMe donations — all a side effect of a corporate health care system more focused on profits than health. 

So where do we go from here? How do we make sure Americans are prepared and protected against the next pandemic?

Medicare has long been an essential health program that has covered medical necessities such as clinical visits, procedures, hospital admission costs and prescriptions for decades. Medicare has successfully covered Americans 65 and older for over 50 years; we believe access to health care shouldn’t be determined by age nor should the cost of healthcare determine someone’s life. The concept of guaranteed healthcare for everyone sounds fair, and better yet, would serve millions of Americans struggling with medical bills. Unfortunately, there is always going to be a loser in every fight, this fight just happens to be with Big Pharma & Insurance companies who not only increased their profits in 2020, but doubled their profits in the second quarter amid global pandemic. 

Americans were advised to not seek medical assistance unless they were positive for COVID-19, second-guessed their health because they were afraid that they couldn’t afford an inhaler, and had to figure out how to pay for a life-saving treatment–all in the midst of a global pandemic. Medicare must be expanded to cover every American and put an end to profiteering by corporate insurers and Big Pharma who solely profit off of sickness. 

Under a single-payer, Medicare for All system, everyone in the U.S. would finally have access to the care they need, without high out-of-pocket costs or insurance companies getting between them and their doctor.

But we have to build the movement from the ground up. This is why we push to win resolutions in support of Medicare for All in cities, towns and counties all over the country. . The most effective form of government is the one that represents the people and local governments can play an important role in highlighting the desperate need for an expanded and improved Medicare for All. By passing a local resolution, a city or county council is telling Congress that it stands with its residents and this common-sense solution to our broken health care system.

Together, the coalitions we are building at the local level in blue, red, and purple states can drive the momentum that leads to Congress action on Medicare for All. When we get engagement from our communities and local elected officials stand with their residents, these grassroots organizations are able to build a broader audience to push this agenda forward. 

And we’re getting there. When Rep. Pramilia Jayapal (D.Wash.) and Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2021 in March,  more than half of House Democrats joined them as original cosponsors, including Rep. Frank Pallone, the chair of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.  and Though it has gotten overwhelming support, there is still a long way to go. 

“Lawmakers are acting on nationwide disgust with a health care system that literally kills people just because they can’t pay,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “It’s not a matter of whether we’ll have Medicare for All. It’s a matter of when.”

Public Citizen has put together strong resources to help you pass a Medicare for All resolution in your community. Public Citizen has created:

  • Created a toolkit that explains, step-by-step, what individuals or local organizations need to do to win resolutions;
  • Built a powerful coalition of allied groups to coordinate resolution work and connect activists with affiliates in other organizations;
  • Identified activists who are interested in running local resolution campaigns; 
  • Reached out to local leaders and helped them map out their plans to win a resolution;
  • Engaged directly with local elected officials in strategic areas to encourage them to introduce resolutions; and 
  • Hosted monthly nationwide webinar trainings and coordinated organizing parties across the country to build excitement and provide training to local groups.

Don’t let the size of your local community determine your fight to make healthcare affordable! communities with small populations can have just as much if not more impact on Medicare for All. Along with them are major cities, like Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, that have all passed resolutions to Medicare for All.

It is now up to you to continue to spread this information within your community and local officials who will help advocate to push for resolutions to Medicare for All. It will take a movement to stop corporations from profiting off of the lives of American people wronged from a system whose purpose should be to take care of every persons’ medical needs and to provide affordable and guaranteed care.