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To Galvanize Local Organizing for Medicare for All, Nurses Union to Kick Off Nationwide 'Barnstorms' This Weekend

"I know people with diabetes literally dying because they cannot afford their insulin."

Volunteers across the country, coordinated by National Nurses United (NNU), are hosting Medicare for All barnstorms Feb. 9 to Feb. 13. (Graphic: NNU/Twitter)

Building on rising public support for scrapping the nation's for-profit healthcare system and replacing it with Medicare for All, the nation's largest nurses union—along with progressive allies—on Saturday will kick off a week of barnstorms in cities and communities across the United States.

"Any Democratic politician worth their salt needs to get behind Medicare for All. People want it. If you're not behind it, you need to get out of office."
—Emily Hibshman, barnstorm volunteer

Volunteers nationwide, coordinated by National Nurses United (NNU), are planning more than 150 events from Feb. 9 to Feb. 13.

As NNU executive director Bonnie Castillo explained, "The barnstorms are about harnessing that momentum and continuing to build it out even further, into every community, conversation by conversation, neighbor by neighbor—until the people's will for Medicare for All becomes the political will to get it done."

At the events, according to organizers, "you'll gather with volunteers near you, talk about the plan to win, and begin organizing to knock doors, make phone calls, and more in your community." Find an event in your community here.

Recent polling has shown that 70 percent of Americans support a Medicare for All system called for by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a growing number of Democrats in Congress. The barnstorms come as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) is set to introduce the Medicare for All Act of 2019 in the House as early as next week.

Not only is a single-payer system increasingly popular with the public and progressive lawmakers, it also is expected to dramatically improve Americans' healthcare experiences. A new Public Citizen analysis, as Common Dreams reported Monday, found that Medicare for All would "significantly cut healthcare costs, increase systemic efficiency, and improve coverage—while expanding it to everyone."

"I know people with diabetes literally dying because they cannot afford their insulin... Having healthcare tied to your occupation holds everybody back. In what should be the greatest country in the world, there's no excuse for this."
—Briana Moss, barnstorm volunteer

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As patients and healthcare providers nationwide can attest, for those who are living with dire conditions but struggle to afford high quality care, the proposed overhaul can't come quickly enough—which has inspired some of them to join the grassroots movement for Medicare for All.

Briana Moss' fight to maintain insulin for her Type I diabetes motivated her to host the Dubuque, Iowa barnstorm, according to a statement from NNU.

"I know people with diabetes literally dying because they cannot afford their insulin... In what should be the greatest country in the world, there's no excuse for this," Moss said. "Profiting off sick people is sick."

Emily Hibshman, who is hosting the Allentown, Pennsylvania barnstorm, emphasized the importance of pressuring elected officials to support a rapid transition away from the existing for-profit system.

"I want people who support incremental change in the existing system to think about who will be hurt by continuing to do that," she said. "Any Democratic politician worth their salt needs to get behind Medicare for All. People want it. If you're not behind it, you need to get out of office."

As Castillo wrote in an op-ed for The Hill on Wednesday: "Try as elected officials might to pledge allegiance to both corporations and to people, it won't work that way. Not anymore. Our patients' lives and life savings will either continue being sacrificed—or there will be guaranteed healthcare as a human right. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has already served as a great example of the fact that there is no workable in-between."

In a similar vein, Heather Gautney, executive director of Our Revolution, wrote this week that "if Democrats are serious about defeating [President] Donald Trump in 2020, they cannot continue to play footsie with drug and insurance companies and allow them to exploit our sick and our elderly."

NNU co-president Jean Ross, RN, urged supporters of the transition to keep up pressure on federal lawmakers, and called on members of the U.S. House to schedule hearings for the forthcoming Medicare for All legislation. "The healthcare and insurance industries may be able to buy politicians and the media," she said, "but they will never be as persuasive as our thousands of volunteers."

"In honor of our patients who have paid the ultimate price in this deadly system," Ross concluded, "we know we can't wait any longer—and together, with all of the working people and allies standing up this week and beyond, we will see that Medicare for All makes it across the finish line."

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