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A nurse tells why we need Medicare for All

“Treat the whole family.” This is one of the most important things Izzy Baldo learned in nursing school. It’s always at the front of her mind. But over the years, she’s realized it’s easier said than done.

As a young nurse working in oncology, Izzy was struck by the struggles many families face in paying for treatment. It often meant the non-patient worked two, sometimes three jobs while caring for young children and supporting their spouse through treatment, which inevitably took a toll on their own health. “I felt completely helpless,” she said. “And it’s unnecessary. With a Medicare for All system, no one would have to endure that kind of stress.”

Healthcare is as essential as food, water, and shelter. It should be prioritized by all levels of government.

This is Izzy’s 16th year as a registered nurse. She lives in Olympia with her 12-year-old son and works at a local hospital. A member of National Nurses United (NNU) and Olympia Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Izzy was invited by Our Revolution Thurston (ORT) to speak at their recent Plan to Win party for Bernie Sanders, whom ORT has endorsed.

Izzy supports Sanders because she believes he will fully implement universal healthcare without caving to industry lobbyists given his decades of advocacy for it. National Nurses United endorsed Sanders in 2016 but has yet to endorse for 2020. Democratic Socialists of America has endorsed Sanders for 2020 and has been working to get Medicare for All, the bill he wrote and sponsored, passed in Washington state.

Izzy and local DSA members started by going door-to-door and tabling at places such as Wal-Mart, the food co-op, and libraries in support of Representative Pramila Jayapal’s universal health care bill (HR1384). Since Sanders’ bill (S1129) came out, they’ve been canvassing for it, too.

Washington’s Representative Denny Heck does not support Medicare for All

In August 2019, canvassers of DSA requested a meeting with Representative Denny Heck. In response they were granted a meeting not with Heck but his district representative in Lacey. Eventually they were able to discuss their support for the bills with Rep. Heck directly at an event hosted by Indivisible Tacoma.

Izzy recalls his response as “I’m not there, and I don’t believe I’ll ever get there.” Izzy supports Joshua Collins, Heck’s opponent, in the 2020 election.

The DSA is now trying to get Medicare for All resolutions passed locally in city councils. “It sends the message that this is a grassroots majority response to the national healthcare crisis,” said Izzy. If mayors and governors come together on this issue the way they are on the climate crisis, we can make progress toward providing healthcare as a human right.

How Medicare for All would lessen homelessness

The impact Medicare for All could have on people experiencing homelessness is another big reason Izzy supports it. With vision, dental, and mental health care coverage, including covered support for substance abuse recovery – at no cost beyond taxes – could mean fewer people ending up on the streets. And those who are currently on the streets would have more support when getting a roof back over their heads. Medicare for All would also probably decrease the number of people becoming substance-dependent as a result of homelessness, further containing the crisis.

With Medicare for All, Izzy anticipates a big improvement in patient outcomes. Currently, resources are spread thin in the hospital where she works because of the increase in substance abuse and mental health crises. If people with chronic issues are better supported in primary care, hospital staff can redirect their time toward other patients, thus increasing quality of care.

Profit-driven health care: too few people doing too many jobs

On top of everything else, the current healthcare system maximizes profit by minimizing hiring. While insurance companies and for-profit healthcare providers rake in billions in profit, Izzy and thousands of other nurses are forced to care for patients without proper support staff. This scenario would be unlikely in a fully-funded nonprofit system.

What does Izzy say to opponents of Medicare for All? She hasn’t met many, but speaking hypothetically: “Medicare for All is not radical. Not even for the US. We already have Medicare for people over 65, and Medicaid for those with low income.” She points to Washington’s Apple Health program, which ensures that all low-income children under 18 receive free care, with affordable care available for all families. Healthcare is as essential as food, water, and shelter. It should be prioritized by all levels of government.

Most distressing are individuals who need care who aren’t covered and whose lives may depend on whether they can scrape enough money together for treatment. Depleting their retirement. Working two jobs, if they can. Going bankrupt. Crowdfunding.

And what about the campaigns that don’t bring in enough money? It happens all the time. No one should live or die based on how many likes and shares their fund gets on social media. Implementing Medicare for All would eliminate this injustice. Until it happens, Izzy will keep working to support it and the families in her care.

Eleanor Steinhagen has lived in Olympia for 11 years. She works in communications.

 

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