Editor’s Note: This column by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, is part of The PuLSE Institute’s ongoing series, “Coronavirus and Poverty,” about how health inequities impact COVID-19. For information about this public health series contact Bankole Thompson, the editor-in-chief of the Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib
In the midst of this global pandemic, the last few days have shown a light on our vulnerability as humans and have highlighted why access to health care must be a fundamental human right. Right now in America, 27 million of our friends and neighbors are uninsured, millions more lack adequate coverage, and countless others have to travel farther for care because 120 hospitals were closed throughout the past decade because they did not produce enough profits for their owners. While we all are doing what we can right now to keep one another safe and stop the spread of the virus, we can all agree that our country was not as well prepared as we could have been to tackle this crisis from the beginning.
So we must ask: what changes can we make right now to turn the tide against this disease and better prepare ourselves for future outbreaks? While no one has all the answers, it is clear that major reform is needed to fix our broken health care system.
It is a uniquely American experience to have to worry about feeding your family when you may need medical treatment because of the massive price associated with being sick in our country. Right now, nearly 40% of American’s can’t afford a $400 emergency expense. The average emergency room cost not including additional charges for drugs, blood tests, and other treatments – $1,389. Your net worth should not determine whether you get tested for Coronavirus or not, or whether you can receive the medical care necessary should you test positive.
Our current system is built to generate profit, plain and simple. If there is one thing that this pandemic has exposed, it is the glaring shortfalls of a for profit health care system. We must build a system that puts people first, regardless of their bank account balance.
That system is Medicare for All.
The reason we need a Medicare for All system is simple: every human being has a basic right to health care. I firmly believe that the vast majority of Americans agree that, in the richest country on Earth, no one should die because they couldn’t afford health care.
The truth is simple: America’s leaders – regardless of party – are failing her people by not taking the necessary steps to ensure that every one of us has health care as a basic right. Not only does our government fail to provide this basic human right, but it continues to force everyday Americans to prop up and subsidize the single most expensive health care system on Earth which is failing us when we need it most.
It is time for the United States to join the rest of the world in guaranteeing good, quality health care as a human right for everyone in our country. It is time for a system that puts people before profits, and lives before corporate bottom lines. It is time for Medicare for All.