Dear Democratic National Committee, Current US Senators and Representatives along with congressional Candidates, and Presidential Primary Contenders:
I am a 29-year-old woman living in a rural enclave in the Greater Pittsburgh metropolitan area. Though I occasionally work a temp job now and then, I’ve spent most of my time since my college graduation unemployed yet out of the jobs I have, I’ve never managed to make enough money to support myself. I have a blog, write articles for a magazine for adults on the autism spectrum, and whatever novel or screenplay I’m currently writing. Despite that I’ve made some money off it, it’s not enough to leave my parents’ house and set off on my own in an area with mass transit. Yet, thanks to my Medicaid coverage, my parents’ generosity, and the good health God has given me, I can pursue my writing, save my money, and not have to constantly worry when and where my next paycheck will be.
But I know that life can’t last forever. My parents will die someday. I could get deathly ill or hit by a bus. And eventually I’ll have to move out and get a job that sustains my means. Yet, regardless what happens, I want to keep my reliable Medicaid coverage regardless of how much money I make. But under our shitty for-profit system, I worry about having to switch to private employer coverage which isn’t as good and possibly coming down with a serious or grievous injury and having my life financially ruined by medical debt. I don’t want any of that to happen to me. And I don’t think it should in America. For I only wish to lead my life on my own terms. And I want my healthcare to be the same way. So I am doing everything in my power to make sure Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans are voted out of power in 2020. And the fact Trump’s predicted to win reelection just terrifies me to my core that I write to you in desperation so this nightmare scenario won’t happen.
My fellow millennials and I are becoming increasingly unable to support ourselves because while our wages remain stagnant while everything gets significantly more expensive. This especially goes with healthcare. Many of us also find ourselves stuck in low income jobs that leave little room for advancement, unpredictable hours, and little agency over our lives. Some will remain in these shit jobs for the rest of their lives. And as an autistic woman who lives in rural Pennsylvania and doesn’t drive, I face multiple barriers finding any opportunities that suit my preference and provide any decent standard of living as well as ample time for me to write, which I’d rather do full-time anyway. Furthermore, when Obamacare repeal was on the table in 2017, I was constantly afraid of losing my Medicaid coverage and that fear hasn’t really gone away. Since Republicans keep challenging the Affordable Care Act with a new lawsuit aimed at stripping the whole law because the 2018 tax law cut out the individual mandate.
For my generation, the 2020 election isn’t just a fight for this nation’s soul but also a fight for our lives and our future. While you may have concerns of Medicare for All or any other healthcare plan, it can blow up the national deficit and still be a drop in the bucket compared to what Americans had to pay under the current system. For trillions of dollars under a Medicare for All plan is nothing compared to a healthcare system that’s cost us our homes, our jobs, our life savings, our hopes, our dreams, our ability to move up in society, our ability to do some basic tasks around the house, our freedom, our time, our careers, our children, our families, our marriages, our retirements, any possibility of financial stability, control of our own destinies, and for thousands of us, our lives. We can’t afford to pay that steep a price. Concerns for Medicare for All’s costs and how it’s paid for are perfectly legitimate, but it shouldn’t be the overwhelming reason why you don’t support it. For what matters more than Medicare for All’s costs are what our current for-profit healthcare system’s costing ordinary Americans as for-profit health insurance is increasingly becoming a scam product. Since even raising taxes to pay for such a system is nothing compared to how the parasitical for-profit healthcare industry’s drive for larger returns for their shareholders.
Therefore, I implore you that regardless who wins their primaries in the 2020 Election that come 2021, each Democratic candidate and current federal elected office holder will pledge that they’ll call for, sponsor, and support legislation guaranteeing all persons living in the United States access to healthcare as a fundamental legal and civil right. Thus, providing the legal framework that anyone in America is deserving of healthcare regardless of who they are, whether and what they do for a living, how much money they make, what health insurance they have, or whether their workplace provides any form of health benefits.
But given that Democrats have differing opinions on what “healthcare is a right” may mean, let me elaborate. While I strongly support Medicare for All, I understand that not all Democratic politicians may agree with me. But I know full well that though we may not share the same vision on healthcare policy, that despite our competing plans and ideas, we all believe that healthcare is a right and by that, we must at least mean the following under the current system:
All future healthcare policy decisions must put the American people’s interests first.
All private health insurance plans must cover at least 95% of all costs related to premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and out of pocket expenses. They all must offer the same coverage as state Medicaid programs, Obamacare exchanges, and Medicare or better. And they all must include dental and vision.
All employee health insurance plans must cost no more than 10% of a worker’s income in both premiums and deductible. And their costs can’t be raised by increasing the employees’ overall compensation.
Employers cannot change their employees’ health insurance coverage without their workers’ consent. That includes those with or without union representation. While most Americans have insurance through their employer, their bosses can change or drop their coverage without their input. This is not choice.
A single payer public option must be established and available to all. This can be Medicare for all, Medicaid, Medicare for all who want it, or something else. But it must offer the same coverage as state Medicaid programs, Obamacare exchanges, Medicare or better as well as include dental and vision. And must cover the costs of all uncompensated care at medical facilities. It must not have work requirements or require enrollees to take a drug test. Best paid for by a tax on capital gains, stock buybacks, and private equity investments. Since they’ve cost jobs and caused people to lose their healthcare, it’s only fair.
Medicare must be entirely single payer and cover at least 99% of all healthcare costs. And it must include dental and vision benefits.
Should the single payer public option be Medicaid, then the Medicaid expansion must be enacted in all states and US territories. (I know there was a Supreme Court ruling against this but I put people first. Not states.)
No health insurer can drop a patient’s coverage for any reason without their consent save for habitually not making payments without a legitimate excuse or criminal or fraudulent behavior.
Medicaid asset seizure must be banned.
All public and private health insurance plans must cover patients outside their region and state of residence. I once tried to get medication in Richmond, Virginia back in 2017 and neither pharmacy I went to accepted my coverage.
Surprise medical bills must be banned.
Open enrollment period for Obamacare exchange plans at Healthcare.gov must be extended to all year round. Furthermore, they must cost patients no more than 5% of their income in premiums and deductibles. Same goes for any private healthcare plan that’s on the individual market.
All hospital bills must amount to no more than $9,999 in overall out-of-pocket expenses to patients. That co-pays must not exceed $99. And that drugs and medical devices must cost patients no more than $999 out of pocket.
All privately insured patients must have access to medical debt protections, such as forgiveness. In other words, patients with outstanding medical debt must be protected from facing home foreclosure, eviction, arrest, lower credit scores, and loss of life savings. They may file for bankruptcy however.
Practices such as employee waiting periods, COBRA, Association Plans, high deductible plans, lifetime limits, preexisting condition exclusions, Medicare Advantage plans, and private supplemental health co-insurance must be banned.
Private insurance provider networks must be abolished. Thus, all private insurers must provide coverage to whoever the patient chooses.
Healthcare providers must accept all insurance plans. In other words, providers must not be able to discriminate which patient plans they accept and which they don’t.
Private equity firms must be banned from purchasing any form of property with a medical facility whether it be a hospital, medical center, medical practice, physical therapist, rehab center, or a pharmacy. So we won’t have an incident like what happened to Hahnemann.
Ban on stock buybacks for health insurers or any other public corporate entity affiliated in the medical industry.
No employer can terminate a worker for experiencing a life-threatening illness or injury of which they’re not directly responsible for.
Permit patients to sue their health insurer over unsustainable medical debt they cannot afford to pay as a civil rights violation.
Permit patients to sue their healthcare facilities and pharmaceutical and device companies for overcharging products and services as a civil rights violation.
A cap on health insurance executive compensation at $300,000, shareholder dividends at $500,000, and profits at $1 million per year.
All medical facilities must have price transparency so patients will know what they’re paying for when they seek healthcare services.
Healthcare executives must be criminally liable to a criminal felony for price gouging their products and services that should constitute at least a month in prison for abuse of power. Raising healthcare prices is an abuse of power that ruins people’s lives and should be dealt with accordingly.
What I list shouldn’t constitute as a plan per se but as a set of minimum criteria I’m willing to accept should a Medicare for All candidate not win the Democratic presidential nomination 2020. If it resembles such plan, then that’s because drafting a universal healthcare plan that’s not Medicare for All includes a ton of regulations. Nor does it follow any other economic philosophy other than that the healthcare industry must put the patient’s interests first in regard of paying for healthcare and that healthcare shouldn’t cost as much of a car to the average American family. The criteria list isn’t perfect nor will satisfy everyone. In fact, I don’t think it goes far enough. And many might not think these are achievable. But I list these points nonetheless because I think these are things all Democrats should agree upon regardless if they believe in Medicare for all, Medicare for all who want it, Obamacare Plus, or something else entirely. Even so, making healthcare a right should protect Americans’ access to medical care from Republican efforts to take down whatever system’s in place (though I’m not sure It’ll be able to hold off a court challenge).
While I may not have any healthcare industry experience beyond that as a patient and reading countless news horror stories, I am a 29-year-old female college graduate on the autism spectrum who knows that elections have consequences. And that should Donald Trump win reelection in 2020 as predicted, things will not get better. Rather, they will get much worse. Sure, Trump and the Republicans will promise to protect Americans’ healthcare from the scourge of liberal Socialism, but they have no intention to. And you can bet that should Trump and the Republicans sweep 2020, Obamacare repeal will be on the table again, healthcare prices will rise, less Americans will be able to get the medical care they need, and thousands more will die without it. If that happens, I will declare my healthcare a right and insist that society treat it that way, regardless of the policy on the matter. And I don’t care if I have to tear it all down. Because I’m tired of seeing my healthcare as something that can be taken away from me and as an American, I won’t tolerate that. After all, illness and injury don’t discriminate. Why should our healthcare system?
Yet, I also know that healthcare is an issue the Democrats can win on since it affects Americans’ lives and the fact Republicans have lost all credibility on the issue. Democratic politicians like US Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania of whose special election to Congress I gladly participated in, Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and others wouldn’t have won their elections if they didn’t run on healthcare. The healthcare issue has also made Democrats more competitive in red districts, sometimes winning races no one thought possible. Though Democrats may not always have the same vision on healthcare, we can all agree that our current healthcare system isn’t providing affordable medical care for all Americans and that every American should be able to access healthcare without suffering some kind of financial catastrophe. And most of America agrees with that. To make healthcare a right will not only guarantee Americans some legal protection in regards to their medical treatment, it also sends a message that on healthcare policy, the federal government will put the American people’s interests over that of companies, hospitals, insurers, or any other entity. We can debate Medicare-for-All all we want during the primary season. But once the general election season kicks in, Republicans won’t care whether you support Medicare-for-All, Obamcare Plus, or any other plan meant to grant or improve healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.
Republicans may call what I believe and preach Socialism but I don’t give a damn. I have learned the lessons of Obamacare that while bipartisanism may be nice, we shouldn’t try to come to a compromise with them. This is especially the case if Republicans don’t intend to vote on the finished product and instead challenge it with lawsuits and repeal efforts, one of which would’ve become the law of the land if it wasn’t for the late US Senator John McCain. Besides, despite that Republican healthcare ideas only enjoy popularity in exclusive country clubs, corporate board rooms, and right-libertarian convention halls, they’re willing to instill them on Americans anyway. To ask a Republican to support measures ensuring healthcare access to all Americans will only end in a futile effort. Their idea that any form of universal healthcare is illegitimate and Un-American is extremely repugnant and revolting to me and I absolutely won’t stand for it. Hell, I could write to my congressman Guy Reschenthaler about making healthcare a legal and civil right but he’ll just leave my letter to him sitting unread in his inbox as he flees from concerned constituents requesting he just do his job and hold a townhall meeting once in a while. I’d be better off writing to Santa Claus. So I’d rather not waste my time and effort.
I don’t know what most Americans believe nor do I care. But I see my healthcare as a fundamental right which I intend to freely exercise as such and demand everyone else respect it whether society decides that or not. It’s up to you to decide as our representatives in government whether I end up in prison for insisting that society treat my healthcare on my terms should my Medicaid coverage be dropped for a more expensive but inferior plan. While many Americans may believe the same as I do on healthcare, what sets me apart is my headstrong nonconformity with aspects of our society that vehemently riles my bleeding Catholic heart. I am tired of being unable to change what we seemed to decide our healthcare system is as a society. Call me an entitled millennial brat all you want, but I will not spend this coming election season watching you grandstand your promises because I saw my dreams dashed before. And I will not let that happen again because I will have to live with next year’s election results, which for me can be a matter of life or death for all I know.
I can live with not getting my way in politics since as a progressive Catholic living in a red district, I’ve had to get used it. But I can’t live with not getting my way if it means having to put up 4 more years with people I don’t respect making decisions that could severely and adversely affect my life that I can’t do anything about. I no longer have patience for a parasitical for-profit corporate healthcare system run by profit-seeking shareholders and businessmen who’d screw cancer patients out of their life savings so they can buy their next superyacht. I can no longer put up with a fundamentally Un-American and oppressive healthcare system that wantonly discriminates against the poor. And I can no longer stand strangers who’d see me as a leeching freeloading Medicaid recipient mooching off the system despite that on some days, I work longer and harder than most folks.
Furthermore, if we want our country to remain a champion of liberty, equality, prosperity, and opportunity, Americans’ healthcare must be a right. If we want to honor the words and vision of the Founding Fathers to make sure all Americans have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, healthcare must be a right. If we want America to continue being a champion of human rights and live up to its democratic values and ideals, healthcare must be a right. If we want to make life affordable for most Americans and relieve our problems in society, healthcare must be a right. If we want to tackle the problems of the twenty-first century, healthcare must be a right. And if we want to keep the American dream alive, healthcare must be a right.