Medicare for All: Its time has come

“Each of us must be a hero for our communities, for our country. And then, with a compassionate, and intelligent president, we must act together and put on his desk a bill that guarantees us all the healthcare we deserve.”

— Ady Barkan, ALS patient, Democratic National Convention

The COVID-19 pandemic has lifted the veil and exposed the failures of our current healthcare system.

In the first half of 2020, more than two in five working-age U.S. adults do not have stable health insurance, while more than one-third struggle with medical bills. Since the pandemic, an estimated 12 million Americans lost their health insurance that was tied to their employment.

Even those who are lucky enough to still have insurance, if hospitalized with a serious case of COVID-19, are being hit with hospitals bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Michael Flor, 70, of Seattle, had a bill of $1.1 million.

The median cost of a coronavirus hospitalization is $14,366, which doesn’t include long-term healthcare costs for patients with severe illness who suffer significant lung damage, for example. Other estimates have pushed COVID-19 hospitalization costs closer to $20,000.

A majority of Americans are in favor of a federally funded government-run healthcare system that provides insurance to all Americans at minimal cost, according to a new Gallup poll.

However, the giants of the for-profit healthcare industry have spent millions — $143 million for lobbyists in 2018 alone — to insure that Medicare for All cannot become law. At stake for them is the nation’s $3.6 trillion in annual health spending.

Under an expanded and improved “everybody in, nobody out” Medicare for All system, those trillions will go to provide quality health care for all, saving all of us time and money. For doctors, nurses and providers, it will mean more time giving high-quality care. And for patients and our families, it will mean freedom from worry about what is covered and in network, allowing us to get the healthcare we need.

The federal government already is the primary insurer for all Americans over the age of 65 and for households with incomes low enough to qualify for Medicaid. The advantages of large public insurance systems are important in ensuring consistent access to medical providers and in containing the rapid growth of health care costs.

COVID-19 has exposed just how incomplete and threadbare the U.S. healthcare and social insurance system is. United we can build a better healthcare system that takes care out of the hands of private corporations and provides security to all.

The fight for quality affordable healthcare – expressed vividly at the Democratic National Convention when hundreds of delegates voted against the party platform because corporate led officials refused to include Medicare for all – is not going away. This fight must continue through the election and beyond until we all have access to the fully funded public system that is possible today with the technology and abundance of resources available. Healthcare for all over profits for the few!

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