Medicare for All is the only solution to the U.S. healthcare crisis

I met a woman on the campaign trail who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Her prognosis was positive, however, pending the traditional treatment regimens of radiation and chemotherapy. I wished her luck with the process, and then she told me she was not pursuing treatment.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because no matter how much time I have left, I refuse to spend the rest of my days fighting with my insurance company, stressed out about what’s covered and what I can afford. I’m going to live out my days in peace,” she said.

Here is a woman with insurance, diagnosed with cancer, with a positive prognosis and “access” to treatment, choosing to forgo that treatment so that she can spend the last of her days with those she loves instead of arguing with her insurance company.

How many of us have spent hours on the phone or online with our insurance providers? How many of us — including me — have spent hours on the phone or online trying to sign up for insurance via the insurance exchange, only to find that even the lowest level plans are unaffordable and include ridiculous deductibles, co-pays and in/out of network restrictions?

The healthcare system in this country is working as it was designed. It’s not broken. It’s “fixed” in such a way that our health is the least of industry’s concerns. It is designed to generate profit for the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

It is unconscionable that in this country that we allow this industry to buy our politicians and our elections to maintain a system where their CEOs rake in millions while everyday Americans go bankrupt because someone in our family gets sick, is involved in an accident or needs round-the-clock care. This is not healthcare, it is wealthcare.

Medicare for All is the foundational change we need. It covers everyone and every illness. It will cover long-term care, hearing aids, glasses and dental care.

And what industry fat cats and middle-of-the-road politicians don’t want you to know is that Medicare for All saves all of us and the country money. A conservative estimate is that Medicare for All will save us $2 trillion from what we spend now.

Medicare for All is not a pie-in-the-sky idea. It is simply transforming our current healthcare system — one that we are all currently paying for in multiple ways — into one where no one has to decide between paying rent and seeing a doctor.

“But some people love their private insurance and they don’t want to lose it” opponents say. Not true. What people fear is losing the care that health insurance affords them. The truth is, the only things any of us will lose under Medicare for All are premiums, co-pays, deductibles, out of network charges, and hidden fees.

“But how will you pay for it?” opponents ask. The answer: with a fair taxation system. We will start by making corporations like Amazon, Netflix and General Dynamics start paying taxes. We will stop allowing insane profits for the pharmaceutical companies. What I want to know is how will proponents of a “Medicare for those who want it” system pay for what they are proposing? Without the savings from Medicare for All, how does Medicare “for those who want it” work? How does it lower Medicare costs and private insurance costs? How does keeping a for-profit model in the system ensure every single person is covered? The answer: It doesn’t.

Medicare for All is the only comprehensive option that will cover every one of us while actually saving money. Don’t fall for the fear mongering and lies from those who benefit from the current system. Know that the insurance, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries — along with the politicians they pay for — wouldn’t be fighting so hard to stop Medicare for All if they knew it wouldn’t turn out to be one of the most popular pieces of social legislation this country has ever seen.

I will continue fighting for a healthcare system that puts people before profit and that includes each and every one of us. I hope you’ll join me.

This column originally appeared in the Portland Press Herald