Coalition of Black Communities Demands Medicare for All; Union Benefits Don’t Last Forever; Big Pharma Bankrolls Opposition to Affordable Vaccine

Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest health care industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.

REMOVING HEALTH CARE BARRIERS FOR BLACK COMMUNITIES

As the killing of George Floyd focuses the country on institutional racism and inequality, it is important to note that disparities in access to health care are a significant part of the problem.

Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of groups that represent the interests of black communities, has released policy demands in response to the coronavirus pandemic – including making health care available to all Americans.

“We have higher mortality rates and less access to healthcare because of systemic discrimination,” the group said.

Among its demands, the coalition called for Medicare for All, demanding that all barriers to health care for Americans be removed and necessary protective materials be provided to all health care workers.

UNEMPLOYED, UNINSURED MOTHER: ‘I DEFINITELY CRIED MANY TIMES …”

While unions are important for protecting worker safety and benefits, including health care, these benefits don’t last if a worker is unemployed – leaving many Americans in a dangerous position.

In Nevada, furloughed Culinary union members who have the union insurance plan have their  benefits through June 30, and workers with the state’s largest private employer, MGM Resorts International, have their insurance through Aug. 31.

“I definitely cried many times … but what are you gonna do?” said Ariel Gilstrap, who lost her job – and her family’s insurance – while she was eight months pregnant and is facing a $36,000 medical bill.

Gilstrap is just one of the 42.6 million Americans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

But a plan exists that would untie employment and health care and give everyone coverage regardless of their employment status: Medicare for All.

REPORT: BIG PHARMA FUNDS OPPOSITION TO AFFORDABLE, AVAILABLE CORONAVIRUS TREATMENTS

Groups that are opposed to making future coronavirus treatments and vaccines affordable and available for any manufacturer to produce have been bankrolled by Big Pharma.

A new Public Citizen report finds that among the 31 organizations that wrote to Congress to oppose affordability and non-exclusivity, 15 received funding from the pharmaceutical industry over the past four years, collectively receiving $2.5 million from industry.

The organizations included the American Legislative Exchange Council Action ($532,150), Institute for Policy Innovation ($374,500), Hudson Institute ($300,000) and Consumer Action for a Strong Economy ($195,000.)

“Pharma money, flowing like sewage through Washington, pollutes serious conversation in Congress about ensuring that Americans can get any safe and effective treatments or vaccines that are developed,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program.

Medicare for All not only would ensure that every American can receive free treatment and vaccines, the policy also would allow the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs to prevent price gouging by Big Pharma.

REMINDER:

As millions continue to lose their jobs – and their health care – Americans are realizing just how broken the health care system is, and they’re demanding action – even in the most conservative areas of the country.

Public Citizen is part of a coalition urging citizens to petition their local elected officials in cities, counties and towns from coast to coast to pass resolutions supporting Medicare for All. Last month, Knoxville, Tenn. – located in the heavily red second congressional district – passed such a resolution.

This grassroots mobilization, community by community, is how we’re going to win Medicare for All.

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.