Rep. Pramila Jayapal was joined by citywide Seattle City Council members Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda, as well as state Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, Saturday morning as she implored a packed house at The Summit on Pike to speak out on the importance of Medicare for All.
“It is time to transform our health care system in America,” said Jayapal, who introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019, H.R. 1384, in February. “It is time to make sure that health care is a right and not a privilege reserved only for the luckiest few.”
The Washington Seventh Congressional District leader’s bill, which has 107 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, aims to create a universal Medicare program to cover all Americans with one government-run health plan. This plan would cover hospital visits, primary care, maternity care and prescription drugs as well as dental benefits which came up several times Saturday as a source of financial hardship.
— Devesh Madhav Vashishtha, MD (@DMVashishtha) April 6, 2019
A big question remains for critics: How do you pay for it?
During the event, Jayapal, whose district includes Capitol Hill, suggested raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans or a stronger financial transactions tax.
Several Democratic candidates for president have thrown their support behind Medicare for All and Sen. Bernie Sanders has his own single-payer bill in the Senate.
The four panelists were met with testimony from the crowd with deeply personal stories of devastating health care costs.
Susan Russell was a union cement mason before a car accident forced her to lose her career and dropped her into a spiral that resulted in homelessness. She couldn’t get major surgery for her injuries because she didn’t have a clean bill of dental health. It eventually took 10 years for Russell, who sells Real Change newspapers, to get into affordable housing and a fellow community member took her to the dentist, which cost $1,733. She finally got the surgery she needed.
“I’m speaking because there are so many people across, not only in our state, but in all of the United States that are suffering on the streets because they need medical help that they cannot access,” she said. “Please do not drop the baton on this.”
Gina Owens, 61, has Social Security Disability Insurance and is raising three grandkids. In her remarks Saturday, she said that she doesn’t understand how some lawmakers can cut citizens’ health care coverage, while theirs is publicly-funded.
“I don’t get how I and all of us in this room and millions outside these rooms are mandated to pay taxes for theirs while ours gets cut in the blink of an eye,” Owens said, referring to a recent choice by the Justice Department to back invalidating the Affordable Care Act.
Jayapal’s plan would cover long-term care services for nursing services, a benefit not included in the current Medicare program.
Robby Stern, of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, said that one of his organization’s members had very little support, without Medicare coverage for long-term care or Medicaid assistance, as his wife struggled with Alzheimer’s, so the husband decided to care for himself. Stern says this took a toll on the husband’s health, even putting him in a neck brace and unable to walk.
“They had been together for 56 years, and he was not about to put her anywhere; he was going to care for her even at the cost of his own physical wellbeing,” Stern said.
The Seattle City Council passed a resolution in March in support of Jayapal’s Medicare for All measure.
“It is about how much we, as elected officials and leaders, are willing to invest in your condition, in your safety, in your health care. This is about you,” said Gonzalez, who sponsored the Seattle resolution. She added, “Medicare for All is our solution at the city level, and at the state level, and at the national level to make sure we take care of our own.”
Jayapal, a second-term Democratic Congresswoman, says she has been assured by congressional leadership that the bill will receive a hearing, the first ever for a Medicare for All proposal.
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