Hardly a day passes without reminders of why transformative reform, real health care justice, remains enormously popular—and why the National Nurses United campaign to build the mass movement for Medicare for All has drawn tens of thousands of volunteers and a wellspring of support in a direct contact with voters.
Here’s a few examples of the most recent this holiday season.
- A Brooklyn woman, concerned about possible strep throat, visited her primary care physician, got her throat swabbed, gave blood, and got a prescription for antibiotics—and a $28,395 bill. That she ultimately paid little of it, mattered little for all the “out of network” charges paid by her insurer.
- In California, the state that likely leads the nation in implementing the ACA, one-third of adults, age 18 to 64 with employer paid health coverage fear unexpected medical bills, 23 percent worry about out of pocket costs when using their insurance, and 15 percent struggle with monthly premiums.
- Medical bills account for more than half of debts sent to collection agencies and American families have accumulated $88 billion in unpaid medical debt.
- Thousands of surprise medical bills are being sent to patients to generate higher payments from insurers in a letter sent to Senators from a physician staffing firm. As Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Larry Levitt notes, the average negotiated rate paid by commercial insurers is 4.25 times higher than paid by Medicare.
- Over the past year, one-fourth of non-senior diabetics report skipping their prescribed insulin due to the high cost.
- Combined cost of premium contributions and deductibles for people with job-funded insurance amounted to over 11 percent of their income in 2018, exceeding $8,000 a year in nine states.
- And, finally, while the U.S. continues to spend far more than any other country on health care, mortality and life expectancy rates continue to fall while other wealthy countries are experiencing improvements in life expectancy. Opioid-related deaths and suicide are a major factor. So are, the study authors note, “diseases linked to social and economic privation, a healthcare system with glaring gaps and blind spots.”
There’s a common thread throughout these grim statistics. A health care system structured on generating profits, not on providing care. A system that rewards the wealthy who can afford the high cost of medicines, gold plated insurance plans, four-star hotel style hospital rooms, and all the perquisites of a society increasingly characterized by wealth and income inequality.
A nation with a health care system deeply stained by racial disparities in health especially linked to corporate practices, and social and economic inequities, in employment and housing that are the legacy of 400 years of structural racism and ability to pay.
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There’s another common thread here. In virtually every instance, the back-breaking costs fall dramatically after age 64—when seniors qualify for Medicare at age 65. And that doesn’t even account for the nearly 28 million people still with no health insurance, including an additional 400,000 children just in the time Trump and his war on health care have been in office.
Medicare for All would eliminate the debilitating health insecurity caused by skyrocketing costs while guaranteeing everyone will get the health care they need, when and where they need it.
That’s the gift that will keep on giving every holiday season.