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'Join This Struggle,' Says Healthcare Activist Ady Barkan After Santa Barbara Approves Medicare for All Resolution

"The pandemic has made it painfully clear that the status quo is unacceptable," said another campaigner after a local community vote that speaks to a national trend.

"The United States must become a country where everyone receives the healthcare they need, and the best way to achieve that goal is to enact Medicare for All," said Ady Barkan on February 23, 2021. (Photo: DNCC via Getty Images)

"The United States must become a country where everyone receives the healthcare they need, and the best way to achieve that goal is to enact Medicare for All," said Ady Barkan on February 23, 2021. (Photo: DNCC via Getty Images)

Healthcare activist Ady Barkan called on local community members throughout the United States to join the fight for Medicare for All after the City Council of Santa Barbara on Tuesday night voted to approve a resolution in support of a national single-payer system that would provide universal coverage at a lower overall cost than the current for-profit model.

"Healthcare is a human right and should not be limited to those with the means to pay sky-high insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles."
—John Douglas, DSA

"Santa Barbara activists won a huge victory," Barkan said in a statement released after the resolution's passage. "Our city now officially supports transforming our health insurance system so that it puts people above profits."

"The movement for Medicare for All is gaining momentum in small towns and big cities across America," continued Barkan, a Santa Barbara resident and a champion for healthcare as a human right whose ALS diagnosis has left him paralyzed. "I urge people across the country to join this struggle."

The unanimous vote signaled to lawmakers in California and Washington, D.C. that residents of the 400,000-person city are demanding an end to the exclusionary, profit-maximizing status quo that benefits the private insurance and pharmaceutical industries while causing unnecessary suffering for working people and low-income families.

"The Covid pandemic is showing us just how broken the American healthcare system is," said Barkan in an address to the city council ahead of Tuesday night's vote. "Hundreds of thousands of Americans are dead, and our whole society has been profoundly disrupted because we have built a healthcare system that prioritizes profits over people, private wealth over public health."

Other Santa Barbara residents also testified at the council hearing, sharing harrowing personal stories to demonstrate the necessity of Medicare for All—a policy that more than 70% of U.S. voters support and that would do far more to solve the nation's healthcare crisis than less ambitious proposals, such as expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or creating a public option.

"I saw how difficult it was for uninsured patients to receive care," said Dr. Nancy Greep, a Santa Barbara resident and retired physician who has been a Medicare for All advocate since teaching in a community clinic.

"For example," Greep continued, "patients with uncontrolled seizures or recurring gallbladder attacks would have to wait months to see a specialist if at all, while someone with private insurance would be seen within a week or two."

"The country needs Medicare for All because it is the only system of healthcare which provides universal coverage, comprehensive quality care at an affordable cost," she added. "The other options our elected officials are talking about, like the public option, expanding the ACA, or decreasing the age eligibility of Medicare to 50 all leave millions still uninsured and increase, rather than decrease national health expenditures."

Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez, who introduced the resolution, said that he "strongly believe[s] that having access to quality healthcare is a fundamental human right and should be supported on all levels of our communities and governments."

Nevertheless, the council's approval of the resolution was the fruit of a hard-fought campaign by local activists.

John Douglas, a member of the Santa Barbara chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which organized to push the council to pass the resolution, said that "healthcare is a human right and should not be limited to those with the means to pay sky-high insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles."

"Cities and counties are joining the millions of voters across the country to send a message to Congress that healthcare should be guaranteed for everyone."
—Melinda St. Louis, Public Citizen

"In the best of times, but particularly in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has impacted frontline workers and communities of color in shockingly disparate numbers, now is the time for California government leaders to support single-payer healthcare for all Californians," Douglas added. "Our city leaders know the needs of our community best, and our community is calling for high-quality universal healthcare now."

During his testimony, Barkan said that "the United States must become a country where everyone receives the healthcare they need, and the best way to achieve that goal is to enact Medicare for All."

"We know that our federal leaders must continue to be pushed by the cities and states who bear the brunt of our healthcare crisis," Barkan added. "Cities will be the moral leaders this country needs to make Medicare for All a reality."

A number of cities, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Knoxville have also passed resolutions in support of Medicare for All, as Public Citizen pointed out.

"Momentum is growing for Medicare for All," said Melinda St. Louis, campaign director for Public Citizen's Medicare for All campaign. "Cities and counties are joining the millions of voters across the country to send a message to Congress that healthcare should be guaranteed for everyone. The pandemic has made it painfully clear that the status quo is unacceptable."

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