Medicare for All, Union Benefits, and the Promise of #NotMeUs

Nurses and doctors rallying for Medicare for All in Chicago over the weekend outside the annual gathering of the American Medical Association which currently opposes the plan to make healthcare coverage in the United States available to all. (Photo: National Nurses United/flickr/cc)

Medicare for All, Union Benefits, and the Promise of #NotMeUs

The nation's healthcare crisis is staring us in the face. And so is the solution.

Medicare for All won a resounding victory as Sen. Bernie Sanders dominated the Nevada caucus on Saturday.

There had been significant misrepresentation leading to confusion about this proposal. Perhaps no piece was more confusing than the flyer distributed by the Nevada Culinary Union stating that the election of Sanders would end the members' healthcare. That said, rank-and-file union members supported the Sanders' message of #NotMeUs in supporting improved Medicare for All thereby bucking union leadership and guaranteeing healthcare for all.

Union members fight long and hard over their negotiated benefits. Sanders understands full well the battles that unions must fight and has a long history of standing with unions. In fact the Sanders' improved Medicare for All plan has included a provision that directly protects union members requiring that all monies left over between what the employer was paying for healthcare and their contribution to Medicare for All be on the bargaining table and that the allocation of those monies be determined via the bargaining process. So that would mean increased wages, pensions, and other benefits to union members.

Furthermore, life happens. Loss of job, career change, firing, health conditions that cause a reduction in work hours often cause a loss of--or reduction of--healthcare benefits. These events are protected under Medicare for All.

There are approximately 90 million people in this country who have either no insurance or who are underinsured. The state of Nevada ranks sixth highest in the nation for uninsured with approximately 14% of Nevadans without healthcare. This is a critical problem that impacts everyone. Ultimately, the cost of providing care to the under and noninsured, which can bankrupt individuals, is passed on to all of us. To remedy this issue there is really only one option that guarantees universal coverage to everyone and that is improved Medicare for All. A Yale study published by The Lancet medical journal last week found that a Medicare for All plan would save the United States $450 billion yearly while saving an estimated 68,000 lives. This program is promoted by Sanders who has championed universal single payer healthcare for decades and ultimately was endorsed by the votes of union members in the great state of Nevada.

As a family physician, I am faced with a daily dilemma of trying to care for individuals who have no insurance or who are underinsured and are unable to purchase prescriptions, let alone pay deductibles or significant copayments required to get the care they need. The further reality is that all of us mayfind ourselves one illness or injury or job loss away from bankruptcy. Four out of five Americans who suffer bankruptcy due to medical bills and illness had health insurance when they became ill.

Alternative proposals to Medicare for All include providing a public option which ultimately is simply an extension of our current dysfunctional piecemeal, for profit, non-uniform tiered system. Keeping the for profit health insurance industry is misrepresented as allowing individuals greater "choice" to determine their own healthcare needs. The health insurance industry takes away our choice by limiting physician networks, limiting medication formularies and changing these often. Unfortunately, no one can know what their future health needs will be. When will tragedy or illness hit? Individuals will invariably purchase the lowest cost program assuming they have coverage only to find huge deductibles, copayments or inadequate drug and pharmacy coverage.

Only through universal coverage of every person in this country through a comprehensive improved Medicare for All program will people obtain the preventive and follow up medical care services that is their right and should be afforded to everyone in our country.

Senator Sanders' improved Medicare for All plan protects the health and economic interests of each of us, our families and communities. Nevadans and a majority of Americans participating thus far in this year's Democratic primaries understand this while the Democratic Party remains dumbfounded as to why the people are supporting one of its platform's principle tenets--providing healthcare to all Americans. This is reminiscent of the oft quoted proverb: "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true." It's time to make our nation's health a priority recognizing that healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Join me and physicians across this country in endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders for President.

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