Why do we as socialists support Medicare for All? Because “the healthcare system in America — a profit-driven, limited-coverage, patchwork, employer-based, multi-payer model — is a nightmare for working people.” (source: DSA M4A Organizing Guide) The struggles three real people living in North Jersey have faced accessing adequate health-care illustrate the necessity for a more humane system. Joey is a wheelchair user, Arnold is an immigrant on shaky ground with immigration officials, and Harold is a middle-aged man who suffers from mental illness and walks with a cane (not their real names). Here are their stories, and how a public healthcare system could change their lives.
Joey was 24 years old when we first met. He was in a wheelchair and often spent his days at the park. He always had on the same clothing, and his personal hygiene was lacking. We started up a conversation about his favorite cartoons. We talked often, and a friendship developed. I learned about Joey’s background – his mother was from Jamaica, but he was born in the US. Despite many struggles he always kept a smile on. Eventually, he let me into his living space – a basement in complete disrepair, where he lived with his mother and brother. I asked him “Joey, aren’t you disabled, don’t you have insurance?” He said that he did. He told me that when he tried to get a home health aide, his insurance company wouldn’t cover it. Eventually, upon my advice, Joey checked himself into a hospital in Hoboken. Last time I checked, he was able to start walking for a little bit and get into a more stable environment.
I met Arnold around the same time I met Joey. Arnold is an electrician, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and was living in the US on a permanent resident visa. He had a history of assaults and violence connected to substance abuse. There were days where he would stumble out of his apartment in a groggy state. We would go to a bar in the neighborhood around 11am. He would drink and play pool and pass the day there. When he was sober, he would lament beating his ex-girlfriend. He hated that he was nearly forty and had no kids. At one point he helped another ex get out of jail, but then she blew him off. I encouraged Arnold to see a therapist, but he wouldn’t do it. Arnold was trying to maintain, but given the high cost of therapy, even telehealth services like Better Help could cost $65 a session. He wasn’t able or willing to receive that service.
My last story is about Harold. We met years ago at our therapist’s office. He walked with a cane and was dealing with mental health issues. Harold was a religious man and deferred to God all the time. Eventually, Harold stopped attending his sessions. He contacted me and asked me to reach out to our therapist on his behalf. I couldn’t do that because his case was very different from mine, but I wished him well. I offered him the phone number so he could set up his own sessions, but he refused. Hopefully, he carried on elsewhere – but the barriers he faced in returning to therapy, or switching providers, concerned me.
Socialists understand that a capitalist system does not derive profit from insuring sick people, and our current system creates extremely poor health outcomes and impoverishes millions.
The solution that the Democratic Socialists of America support is Medicare for All. “Medicare For All” means the establishment of a single, public, universal health insurance system, managed by the federal government, where everyone, regardless of their employment or immigration status, will have insurance. It means comprehensive care: all services provided by a medical professional will be covered. It means free, on demand, unlimited care at the point of service, paid for not on the backs of the sick but through taxes on the rich. That means no fees, no co-pays, and no deductibles. And it means the establishment of a jobs program to replace the existing jobs lost if the private health insurance system were abolished.” (source: DSA M4A Organizing Guide)
With M4A Joey could have stayed at his home with an aide, who could have bathed him and helped his home feel more hospitable. Arnold would have been able to find a support group or maybe a therapist who wouldn’t have scared him off, with costly copayments. Perhaps Harold could have felt more comfortable reaching out if the process of returning to therapy, or switching providers, wasn’t so long and complicated.
Medicare for All wouldn’t deny claims to pinch pennies, like Joey’s for-profit health insurer did. Medicare for All wouldn’t have saddled Arnold with costly trips to the hospital. Our current healthcare laws are failing the residents of North Jersey. Americans are paying double what other advanced industrialized countries pay for health care, and because of this, the most marginalized folks in our communities often fail to get the care they need. Medicare for All could have prevented this needless suffering