By Katie Myers
The Albuquerque Journal, Oct. 4, 2015
When I decided that I was going to be a doctor, I had many preconceived notions about what that meant.
I pictured myself coming upon a mass casualty accident and saving everyone’s lives single-handedly. I thought that I would make a difference every day by curing people’s ailments.
Obviously, I realize now, that saving everyone in a mass casualty accident is a bit grandiose, and as I progress further in my education I have come to the harsh realization that making a difference is often going to be out of my hands as a physician due to our current health care system.
The system is funded by more than 17 percent of our GDP – more than any other nation in the world – and it still leaves 29 million people in America uninsured.
This does not include the 31 million Americans that are underinsured, meaning that they pay over 10 percent of their household income on out-of-pocket medical expenses, even though they have insurance. And that doesn’t include premiums.
This leads to people not going to the doctor due to out-of-pocket costs that they cannot afford. It leads to debt and bankruptcy in families that are already dealing with the overwhelming stress that comes with illness.
These injustices are too real for those of us in the medical field and for our patients who are attempting to navigate this system.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this issue: single-payer health care.
Single-payer health care is the expansion and improvement of Medicare to everyone.
Often the topic of single-payer health care causes a negative reaction and people are quick to say, “This would never work in the U.S.” But, before you dismiss it, I urge you to take a moment and think about it.
Think about the last time you went to the doctor for yourself or with a loved one. During the visit, did you find yourself concerned with the cost of the treatment or test that had to be done? Were you worrying about whether your insurance was going to cover the procedure that you or your loved one needed to have done to feel better?
If you’re like me, you answered yes to these questions and you are directly affected by our failing health care system.
Now imagine going to the doctor and not worrying about these things. Imagine going to the doctor and worrying only about you or your loved one getting better.
Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP) is a growing organization in medical schools across the country. We are students that rally together to find new ways to advocate for this single-payer system.
We do this because every day we see the results of this failing health care system.
We do this for our future patients as well as our families, and our communities.
We do this because, when we received our white coats, we took an oath that we would consecrate our lives to the service of humanity and that the health of our patients would be our first consideration.
Our current health care system is hindering our ability to keep this oath.
For all of these reasons, SNaHP chapters across the country came together on Oct. 1st for a national day of action and demanded a system where our citizens will not go bankrupt paying for their medical bills. A system that is accessible to all. A system that is fair.
We held teach-ins, rallies, and a luminaria vigil to pay our respects to the tens of thousands of people who die each year due to lack of insurance.
This is not the end of our fight for an equitable health care system. We ask that you write your representatives and urge them to vote for the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act – H.R. 676.
We hope that you will be as inspired about this issue as we are so that we can all work together for a better, more just health care system.
Katie Myers is a University of New Mexico medical student.