Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

From California to Minnesota to Tennessee, no less than 33 medical schools are hosting campus events, rallies, lobby visits and demanding attention for improved, expanded Medicare for All right before the November elections. (Image: Pixabay/CC0 with overlay)

Let’s Treat Our Patients, Not Trick Them with Private Insurance

This Halloween, medical students are refusing to endorse the horrifying for-profit healthcare system as it exists

Emily Kirchner

A few days ago, I was studying a medical diagram in a coffee shop when a man in his mid-forties walked in. His face was red, he was sweating, he looked upset.

"Please, can anyone help me?" he asked. "My daughter is at Children's Hospital for seizures and she needs medicine. My credit card is maxed out. I need $16.50."

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a friend describe a Pennsylvania Insurance Department hearing on proposed rate hikes for marketplace health insurance premiums.

"Our message: Private health insurance is a trick. We just want to treat our patients. Our demand: An improved, expanded, "Medicare for all" national health program. It's the only way to provide affordable, quality care for everyone."

 "One insurance company representative actually asked the department to consider the health of the company," he said. After this hearing, all six insurance firms received rate increases, often more than the rate increases they had requested.

A few months ago, I was standing in the operating room. The attending surgeon was instructing the resident about how to deal with a patient who had insurance difficulties.

"Well, the patient is going to say, 'My insurance says they won't pay for it,'" he said. "You say, 'That's not my problem. I gave you my advice.'"

Before you dismiss the coffee shop encounter as a panhandler pestering customers, consider that we live in a country where some medications have unaffordable copays, that many people go without needed medicines, and that people often have to make a choice between seeing the doctor and paying their utility bill. 

Before you dismiss the big premium increases by pointing to Obamacare's subsidies, consider that we live in a country where insurance firms helped write the Affordable Care Act, that millions of people remain uninsured despite the ACA, and that copays and deductibles are sharply rising.

Incidentally, the "health of the company" is not the kind of health I give a damn about.

Before you dismiss the attending surgeon’s callous attitude as difficult reality in a changing practice environment, consider that our current inefficient health care system harms patients, that doctors spend hours of their time demanding necessary tests and procedures from health insurance corporations that deny medical care because it threatens their bottom line, and that burnout contributes to hundreds of physician suicides each year.

This picture is horrifying. So horrifying that medical students like me believe that this Halloween is the perfect time to once again focus attention on our fractured health care system.

Our message: Private health insurance is a trick. We just want to treat our patients.

Our demand: An improved, expanded, "Medicare for all" national health program. It's the only way to provide affordable, quality care for everyone.

Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP) is sponsoring the Second Annual Medicare-for-All National Student Day of Action on October 31, dubbed #TreatNotTrick. More than a few of us will be wearing Halloween costumes.

The actions are co-sponsored by the American Medical Student Association, the Latino Medical Student Association, White Coats for Black Lives, and many regional and local groups.

In Boston, students will host a public demonstration and call-in asking Rep. Mike Capuano to sign on to the single-payer bill, H.R. 676. In Ohio, medical students will visit Sen. Sherrod Brown and ask him to sponsor a Senate single-payer bill. In Philadelphia, students will rally and memorialize the lives lost to uninsurance and underinsurance with a candlelight vigil.

From California to Minnesota to Tennessee, no less than 33 medical schools are hosting campus events, rallies, lobby visits and demanding attention for improved, expanded Medicare for All right before the November elections.

This Halloween, medical students are refusing to endorse the horrifying system as it exists. We will don our white coats and witches hats, publicly and politically demanding the ability to #TreatNotTrick. Join us.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Emily Kirchner

Emily Kirchner

Emily Kirchner is a medical student at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. She is active in Students for a National Health Program.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Supreme Court Denies Trump Bid to Conceal Records From Jan. 6 Panel

One government watchdog group welcomed the decision as "a huge win for transparency."

Jessica Corbett ·


Jayapal, Lee Resolution Promotes More Peaceful US Foreign Policy

"It's far past time we take our foreign policy into the 21st century," said Rep. Barbara Lee. "We should be leading with diplomacy and human needs as the path to global security."

Brett Wilkins ·


Anti-War Veterans Group Issues Its Own 'Nuclear Posture Review'

Released ahead of a Biden administration report, the assessment warns that the danger of nuclear war is greater than ever.

Jessica Corbett ·


Critics Warn Puerto Rico Debt Plan Will Lead to More Austerity

"The island's ability to resume growth and avoid cuts in anti-poverty programs are both chief concerns," said one economic justice advocate.

Julia Conley ·


Faith Leaders, Rights Groups to Biden: End Immigration Detention

"People are losing their lives to a detention system that simply does not need to exist," said one immigrant rights advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo