BURLINGTON, VT. — At the Sanders Institute Gathering on Friday, former Ohio state Senator and Our Revolution President Nina Turner repeated the call several times as she rallied a room full of Medicare for All organizers and supporters—"All that we love is on the line."
"That's all! Only all that we love is on the line," she repeated.
"The only thing that stands in the way of Medicare for All in the United States is a lack of political and moral will. The moral argument is the only argument strong enough to create the political will necessary." —Jean Ross, NNU
Reminding the audience of the story of Alec Smith, a 26-year-old man who died of diabetes after desperately rationing his insulin when he aged out of his parents' healthcare plan, Turner called the ongoing U.S. healthcare crisis "a sin and a shame," pointing out that eight years after the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), millions of Americans are still without health insurance.
Turner was joined by other organizers, healthcare experts and leaders of National Nurses United (NNU), who make up the core of the nation's Medicare for All coalition.
"People connect with politics on an emotional and personal basis so we don't bombard them with statistics," said Jo Beardsmore, a senior adviser at the Social Practice who has worked on NNU's campaign. "Nurses are the best people in the world for doing this. They do it every day at the bedside of their patients."
NNU has led the charge for Medicare for All since its founding in 2009, knowing that speaking from their experiences caring for Americans in hospitals and doctors' offices will be what forces a groundswell of support.
"People connect with politics on an emotional and personal basis...Nurses are the best people in the world for doing this. They do it every day at the bedside of their patients." —Jo Beardsmore, Social Practice
Diane Archer, president of JustCareUSA.org, spoke about the challenge of reaching out to Americans who may think of themselves as essentially satisfied with the only healthcare system they've ever know—the expensive and inequitable for-profit system—even as they're forced to pay out-of-pocket for some care, pay high deductibles, and change health insurance companies if their jobs change.
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"People sometimes fear change, and this is going to be presented to them by the opposition as tremendous change," Archer told Common Dreams after the panel discussion. "So if they are happy with what they have, they're concerned about what they won't have. In fact, the change for most people is going to be minor. They're going to be able to stay with their doctors and hospitals if they're happy with them and they're going to spend less. So all in, the only thing they're really losing is their insurance companies, and I don't really know anybody who loves their insurance company. So I think we can make this case pretty powerfully."
NNU co-president Jean Ross was unable to attend the Gathering, but Kelly Coogan-Gehr, who helps lead the group's public advocacy work, read Ross's prepared remarks.
"The only thing that stands in the way of Medicare for All in the United States is a lack of political and moral will," Ross's statement read. But, she added, "The moral argument is the only argument strong enough to create the political will necessary."
Coogan-Gehr doubled down in saying that the fight for Medicare for All can be won with a moral argument, recalling the British people's demand for their national healthcare system after World War II when they saw how much money their government poured into the military during wartime—funds that had been apparently unavailable years earlier when there had been mass unemployment in the counrtry.
"If you could have full employment killing Germans, why can't you have full employment by building hospitals, by building schools, by recruiting nurses, by recruiting teachers?" said Coogan-Gehr. "If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people."
Turner drew applause when she denounced "anybody, but especially Democrats who will not stand up for Medicare for All, when members of Congress are afforded the best healthcare money can buy" and more than 80 percent of Democratic voters—and 70 percent of all voters—support the proposal.
"The stage is set, Medicare for All is in the air," Archer told the crowd. "Onward!"