Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
Today, it is official. Two amazing and courageous elected officials stood with nurses and patients to introduce legislation that moves beyond the current health reform effort and forward to a healthy system for all.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-WA, have been allies in the cause for decades. There are not young fellows in terms of legislative or life experience. Both stood together to introduce the American Health Security Act of 2011 – single-payer, Medicare for All style coverage that would be administered by the states. S915 and HR 1200. Sound policy. Sound thinking. Perfect timing.
We can all look at the statistics and the motivations of those who offer the numbers, but these two elected officials stand with us —the patients, the nurses, the workers, the people – as surely as night follows day. It is rare to see moments when the people’s business intersects with the political moment. And it is even more rare to see those elected officials who look to the needs of their constituents and the nation and stand up for policy that uplifts – even if some powerful financial interests see things another way.
The work ahead may be daunting, but with advocates like National Nurse United, and co-president Jean Ross, RN, standing in support of AHSA of 2011, S915/HR1200, the path seems navigable, if challenging. Jean was convincing and committed today as she mentioned her own son and his struggle to secure healthcare in the midst of the current for-profit system that often leaves patients left behind and nurses holding hands and hearts. “We hear the stories,” said Ross, “We hear what others do not.”
The American Health Security Act is also backed by the AFL-CIO and its 13 million members. Arlene Holt-Baker, executive vice president, spoke on behalf of the national AFL-CIO at today’s press conference.
This was not an effort to criticize or condemn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, said Sanders and McDermott, but the opportunity to move beyond and to finally realize the goal of workers all over this nation to provide healthcare as a basic human right to all.
As a patient and as someone who went broke (though supposedly fully insured), I watched today’s events with a combination of wonder and worry and praise. I continue to believe – even in the face of all evidence to the contrary – that with the help of the nurses we will achieve healthcare as a human right and we will do so without outright revolution because of lawmakers like Sen. Sanders and Rep. McDermott. We can do it if we stand together with enough clarity and enough solidarity.
My worry related more to the wonderful man I married who is in every way my partner in this struggle who was at the moment of the press conference in consultation about his own most recent health crisis. Even with full coverage, it is still up to his supplemental insurance carrier to determine if the care his doctor wants to give will be approved. My worry for him would be so very much different if we would change the motivations from profit first to healthcare first. The American Health Security Act of 2011 reaches ever closer to that day.
Finally, I stood with labor leaders – and I am not one of their stature – who has worked so hard to advance anything related to healthcare reform and with whom I have sometimes had differences. But today, we stood as Americans who believe that working class people and our kids and our grandkids deserve the right to healthcare as a human right provided under the social insurance model and not as some privilege granted only to the wealthy and the powerful.
Great day. A celebration of life. The American health Security Act of 2011. S915/HR1200 – Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jim McDermott. We can do this.
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