It was a tearful moment in the U.S. Congress this week as Ady Barkan testified from his wheelchair, speaking through a computerized voice. “Some people argue that although Medicare-for-all is a great idea, we need to move slowly to get there. But I needed Medicare-for-all yesterday. Millions of people need it today.”
At the age of 35, Barkan has Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has slowly robbed him of the use of his body. Desperate for help, he become one of 250,000 Americans who had to use GoFundMe to raise money for medical needs.
Barkan had insurance, but his provider refused to pay for his in-home care. There wasn’t a dry eye in the hearing room as Barkan testified on Tuesday on how to he had to beg friends and family to help cover his out of pocket expenses, which were $9,000 every month.
“I’ve learned that...our time on this earth is the most precious resource we have,” he said.
"A Medicare for All system will save all of us tremendous time. For doctors and nurses and providers, it will mean more time giving high-quality care. And for patients and our families, it will mean less time dealing with a broken health care system and more time doing the things we love, together.”
It was the first-ever Congressional hearing on Medicare for All, a proposed single-payer healthcare system that would cover all Americans. And while Barkan was speaking inside the Capitol, over 1,500 nurses and advocates were hitting the streets on Capitol Hill calling for the same thing: a system that leaves no one behind.
Most of us know that West Virginia and America need a better approach to healthcare. On average, American healthcare costs about twice per person than what it costs in other industrialized countries that have a government-run health system.
The U.S. system has administrative costs as high as 14 percent. And it is dominated by profit-hungry insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and does not allow the government to negotiate on drug prices.
West Virginia needs solutions. We are fighting an HIV outbreak and the highest rate of overdose deaths in the country. We rank at the top of the 50 states for obesity and other chronic diseases.
Too many West Virginians are going without critical healthcare because they can’t afford it.
Too many people are checking into the ER for problems they could have prevented if they’d been able to afford a doctor.
The Affordable Care Act helped many more people get coverage, but premiums and drug costs are still skyrocketing. That’s why Barkan and many others are calling for a next step such as the Medicare for All bill, to which over 100 members of the House of Representatives have already signed on.
We salute Ady Barkan. In his last days on earth, he’s standing up for the freedom of all Americans to live a healthy and dignified life.
We need to be just as brave.
If our current leaders won’t protect us from the greed of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, let’s elect new ones who will.