By Maggie Mills
Common Dreams, July 11, 2020
A recent study by Yale epidemiologists found that Medicare-for-All would prevent 68,000 deaths a year. These 68,000 deaths are not quiet, peaceful deaths. They are gasping-for-air, writhing-in-pain, bleeding out, wasting, violent, gruesome deaths. These deaths often follow extended periods of physical pain, emotional distress, and financial ruin.
The same study found that Medicare-for-All would save the United States 45 billion dollars annually. In the midst of a pandemic-motivated corporate bailout estimated at between $6 and $10 trillion so far, the ‘’but how will we pay for it” argument has largely been abandoned. And yet, the nominee for the Democratic Party has unequivocally stated that he will veto Medicare-for-All, the Democrats in Congress have proposed a bill to bail out insurance companies that subsidizes COBRA payments rather than provides healthcare for their constituents, and 27 million Americans and counting have lost their employer-based coverage as unemployment soars. Three of the four members of Congress with the highest campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry are Democrats, and the healthcare lobby accounts for a third of the contributions to the DCCC in the 2019-2020 election cycle. As usual, the Republicans brazenly broadcast their disdain for the poor, sick, and disabled. Put simply, both Democrats and Republicans receive many millions of dollars from the healthcare lobby to ensure that the industry profits at the expense of human life. There is no relief in sight from either establishment party, not even in the shadow of economic collapse.
I write this not to rage against the bipartisan, healthcare and pharma lobby funded machine. Although, the American public should at minimum educate themselves as to why every developed nation on earth has managed to provide healthcare to its citizens as a right, except for the US.
I write this to appeal, hell, plead, with my fellow Americans to pay attention to the suffering that exists all around us- to recognize our well, able-bodied privilege, and to come together to tear this cruel system down.
I have MS. I have a growing Rolodex of injuries, illnesses, and disabilities. I am exhausted. My prospects are limited. I am a victim of the unwinnable battle with our healthcare system. I work full time to keep my increasingly unaffordable health insurance. Ironically, I will lose this insurance when my full time job makes me too sick to continue working full time. I cannot vote for a candidate that doesn’t support Medicare-for-All.
I have been told that I am part of the Democratic Party’s disunity problem for my decision. I have been told that I am part of the problem as if prioritizing my own ability to remain in the world is petty or immature. I have been told this by people who think millions of lives are expendable in the name of political party loyalty and who refuse to acknowledge that we cannot patiently wait for incremental change when our lives are at stake. I have only been told this by people who are well, able-bodied, or who have excellent health insurance. I am angry and indignant because people who casually vote to sacrifice the most vulnerable of their fellow citizens are the problem, and not the other way around.
Class does not prevent illness and disability, though their onset tends to push the afflicted into poverty. People with disabilities make up 12% of the US population, yet account for more than half of the population living in long-term poverty. Medical bills are responsible for an astounding 66.5% of bankruptcies. As of January, it was estimated that as many as 25% of Americans delayed getting healthcare because of cost, resulting in great physical pain, mental anguish, and death. These numbers have surely grown exponentially during the pandemic.
We should be outraged at the injustices that our fellow citizens suffer at the hands of this predatory healthcare system. We should be outraged at the violence that it inflicts on its innocent victims. We should be outraged that this violence has been normalized as if there is nothing to be done to stop it. We should not accept it, nor should we be quiet about it. We should educate our neighbors, withhold our votes, and shout that we will do so from the streets. Tens of millions uninsured, underinsured, bankrupt, suffering, and dead constitutes an unforgivable injustice. Please allies, I beg of you, demand justice.
And please, allies; recognize that by settling for anything less than universal healthcare and by voting for someone who does not support Medicare-for-All, we are committing a deliberate and willing act of violence against the poor, sick, and disabled among us.
Maggie Mills is an artist and assistant professor of art at Cedar Crest College.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
The important message from this article is that many Democrats who emphatically support single payer Medicare for All are so disappointed in the fact that the presumed Democratic Party candidate for president is outspoken in his opposition to Medicare for All that some are considering not supporting him in the general election – the Democratic Party’s disunity problem.
What other options are there? Not showing up to vote? There are many other important issues that are certainly worthy of a vote. Defecting to the Green Party? We still have a predominantly two party system so casting a vote for a third party candidate will have a similar net impact as not voting at all, except for the personal satisfaction of having cast a protest vote. Vote for President Trump? With our highly polarized politics, without overlap in the middle, abruptly flipping on all policies would defy reason.
Many people have cautioned that if the Democrats endorse Medicare for All, President Trump may be reelected by those opposing Medicare for All, and getting him out of office is their highest priority. That is ridiculous. Even Democrats who want to keep their current health plans are not going to vote for Trump just to prevent enactment of Medicare for All. In fact, many Republicans, though not a majority, also support Medicare for All.
The disunity is not in opposed views on Medicare for All, and it is not even in opposition to the reelection of Donald Trump. Rather than disunity, the problem is disappointment in the fact that Joe Biden continues to reject Medicare for All.
The current health care situation is horrendous for many of those with significant health care needs, and that can be any of us at any given time. So what can we do? Simply, don’t let up. Continue with advocacy through education, coalitions, and grassroots efforts. Some say that is not enough, so go ahead and expand your efforts. Any and all activities that will take us beyond the threshold for action are certainly welcome. Just don’t fall into the trap of walking away because of the perception of a disunity problem.
Though PNHP does support single payer Medicare for All, PNHP does not endorse any political candidates nor political parties. Political views expressed here are those of the author and not of PNHP.
Stay informed! Visit www.pnhp.org/qotd to sign up for daily email updates.