Access to health care should not be a matter of luck – where you were born, whether your employer offers insurance, what health issues you encounter. For many, it is actually a matter of life and death. It is the difference between paying attention in school and being too sick to learn. It is the difference between being well enough to work and having to depend on disability insurance or the public safety net. Too often, it is the difference between financial stability and bankruptcy.
This is how it works in real life: In 2002, I was diagnosed with a rare voice disorder called Spasmodic Dysphonia. The process of getting the diagnosis took over a year and tens of thousands of dollars in doctor visits and tests. Treatments are expensive – more than $10,000 a year. But I was lucky: I had good insurance through my school district, so I was able to continue my career as a special education teacher for 10 years beyond the onset of the disorder until I was ready to retire.
Because I had access to health care, I taught hundreds of special needs children and worked with their families in those 10 years. I paid income and property taxes that supported local, state and national programs and services we all rely on. I had money to spend, so my income contributed to local economic activity. I didn’t need to rely on supports like Social Security Disability. I didn’t suffer from economic hardship or the isolation and depression common to those who can’t get treatment.
I was very lucky. I didn’t get the care I needed because I worked harder or was smarter or deserved it more than others; I got it because my school district and teachers’ union had negotiated a strong contract well before I was hired. Others’ collective efforts had created a framework in which the teachers in that district could buy the health care they needed to keep their jobs, pay their bills and take care of their families.
We Granite Staters now have the opportunity to do the same kind of thing for one another. New Hampshire Rights & Democracy is proud to announce that its People’s Platform proposes Medicare for All as the best replacement for our current expensive, inefficient, profit-driven system. This is hardly a fringe position: recent polls show that 85 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents and 52 percent of Republicans support Medicare for All.
The passage of the Affordable Health Care Act in 2010 already has demonstrated that access to affordable health care is good for individuals, families and society as a whole. Tens of millions of lower-income Americans – 130,000 New Hampshire residents through our Medicare Expansion program – have been able to purchase health insurance through this public exchange.
Opponents of Medicare for All are now making the same tired arguments they did to oppose Obamacare. It would turn our nation into a socialist dystopia, where people are doomed to die waiting in long lines or to be denied care by “death panels.” This obviously has not happened; it is insurance companies and health industry CEOs who still retain that power.
It would plunge our nation into financial ruin through deficit spending. Until the current occupant blew a hole in the budget with a trillion dollar tax giveaway to those who don’t need it, our deficit and debt were slowly but steadily decreasing following the economic collapse and bailouts of 2008.
It would be a “job-killer” and incentivize people to quit working and mooch at the public trough. Not so much. As we know, job creation has increased and unemployment has decreased over the last nine years.
It would raise the costs of health care for all of us good, hard-working people. Health care costs do continue to rise. This is a problem the ACA was not allowed to address. Medicare for All takes the profit motive out of health care delivery.
Skeptics do ask a legitimate question: Who will pay for it? The answer is, the same people who pay for the failures of the expensive, scattershot corporate system we have now: we the taxpayers. We cover the costs of uncompensated emergency care; personal bankruptcies; absenteeism at work and school caused by untreated medical problems; public assistance for those who are unable to work for want of preventive care or early intervention; expensive and brutal hospital, and even prison stays, for people with mental illness and addiction disorders. Would it not make more sense to pay for a system that actually works for everyone?
Health care is a human right and a public good. Something so essential should not only be available to those of us who are lucky. Rights and Democracy urges everyone to visit radnh.org to learn more, then let your representatives in Concord know you want them to make Medicare for All a reality in New Hampshire.
Jean Lewandowski is a resident of Nashua.