As scores of red-clad registered nurses stride through the halls of Congressional office buildings this week, they’ll have some other people on their minds.
The postal worker who told us his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and whose disability coverage expired after six months and had to cover thousands of dollars more out of pocket for her treatment.
The 57-year-old California contractor who now pays $22,000 a year for health insurance for himself and his wife. “I’m OK with paying high insurance premiums if it helps provide health care for others, but I am mad as hell at the prospect of paying even higher premiums only to see help cut for those who really need it.”
The 28-year-old who has been disabled “for almost a third of my life with extreme nerve pain caused by two degenerative discs. It could take months to years before the pain relents at all. Until then I wait, and spend myself into thousands in debt trying to pay for my care.”
Members of National Nurses United are commemorating this national nurses’ week with a message for Congress.
We will never be silent in the face of the mortal threat to our nation posed by your immoral assault on health care.
And we will never relent in our campaign to enact real transformation of our health care system into the humane, rational model established by most of the rest of the world – through a universal, improved and expanded Medicare for all.
Certainly the monstrosity rammed through the House would not only fail to repair the existing gaps left by the Affordable Care Act, it would accelerate a healthcare nightmare for tens of millions of Americans.
Bait and switch hardly conveys the twisted duplicity of what emerged from the House. Under the pretense of fixing the ACA, the House engineered close to $800 billion in tax cuts for the richest of the rich, as well as huge breaks for drug companies, health insurers and medical device manufacturers.
And who pays the price? The 24 million, at least, who lose health coverage, and tens of millions more who will see their premiums explode by thousands of dollars more a year because they have what is endearingly called a “pre-existing” health condition. Even the Marquis de Sade might be embarrassed by this blatant gift to wolves of Wall Street and yacht owners at the expense of everyone else.
Through its targeting of cuts in health coverage for the most low income, the massive reductions for Medicaid, the most vulnerable, people with cancer, heart disease, autism, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and mental health illness, who will be forced to pay far more for health coverage, and women, through the cuts in women’s health services, the House bill symbolizes the perversity of what the corporate class has inflicted on our society.
You can hear it in the language of people like Rep. Raul Labrador, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care” or Rep. Roger Marshall, “There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves … morally, spiritually, socially,” the poor “just don’t want health care.”
Or the architect of this cruelty, Speaker Paul Ryan, “We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg ... I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time.”
Their vision, neoliberalism on steroids. Escalating the transfer of all wealth of our society to the 1 percent and the corporate suites, and for everyone else, you’re on your own. They’ve updated Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” to a 21st Century version of “Lord of the Flies.”
What the elite did not count on was the massive rebellion they’ve encountered. The millions who have been marching in the streets, packed airport corridors, shut down Congressional phone lines, and so dominated town halls that many members of Congress are now afraid to appear in public.
But amidst the resistance there’s more – a vision of how to build a better world, sculptured on the pillars of social and economic justice.
Health care, which affects everyone, is a bedrock of a more just world, and we know the path to achieve it – an improved and expanded Medicare for all. A system where everyone is guaranteed health coverage, with equal treatment, regardless of your age, gender, race, ethnicity, where your live, or “pre-existing” health status.
Where no one is driven into medical bankruptcy or forced to skip needed care due to un-payable bills foisted on them by price gouging corporations. Where everyone has real patient choice, not the phony “choice” promised by those who would have us believe the claims adjustors at profiteering insurance companies will ever act in our best interest.
There has never been more momentum, enthusiasm, energy, and mass movement for Medicare for all/single payer reform. It’s represented by a majority of House Democrats who have now signed on to co-sponsor Rep. John Conyers’ HR 676, the outpouring of response to the Bernie Sanders campaign last year in which Medicare for all was a signature component, and his soon to be introduced Senate single payer bill.
And it’s represented by a California state model, SB 562, for which 1,200 people turned out in late April for the first state Senate hearing, sending shock waves through the jaded members of the California legislature.
As the operator of a small business in San Francisco wrote us, “health care should be a right, and I hope this bill moves us in that direction.” Our message, it will.
We’ve seen the future, and in this nurses’ week, we are going to bring it to life.