Health professionals, patients demand expansion of Medicare
Chanting “55 is not enough, Medicare for all,” 9 protesters were arrested at a sit-in at Sen. Schumer’s office in mid-town Manhattan this morning.
Referring to Schumer’s push to lower Medicare age eligibility to 55, advocates for Medicare-for-All state that opening it up to only one portion of the population is not enough and will not begin to tackle the real culprit of skyrocketing costs of the whole healthcare system: private health insurance.
“We need to spread out the risk pool and take out the profit motive of private health insurance. That’s the only way to cover everyone and control costs,” says Laurie Wen, an organizer at Healthcare-NOW!, which organized the action.
Those arrested include patients who have experienced abuse from private health insurance companies as well as a doctor, a nurse, and a medical student.
Sen. Schumer has been the center of attention since news broke Tuesday evening that Democrats had reached “broad agreement” on certain parts of the Senate healthcare reform bill. He led negotiations among a group of ten liberal and moderate Democrats, where a key proposal emerged to lower the age eligibility of Medicare from 65 to 55.
Bev Rice, a retired nurse who was arrested, says “Throughout my career I’ve seen so many people suffer and die prematurely because insurance companies denied the care they needed. I have Medicare and it works. Making Medicare available to people from age 55 on is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. It should be open to everyone.”
“I want a publicly funded healthcare system because my life should not be in the hands of insurance CEOs who profit from denying me care,” says Kate Barnhart, whose doctor ordered a brain scan for a tumor in early September, but the procedure’s approval has been repeatedly delayed by her insurance company. Barnhart was one of 17 people arrested at a September sit-in protesting against an insurance company’s frequent and sometimes deadly practice of denying care. “I had been paying $900 a month for my premium,” she says. “Last week, my insurance company terminated my policy. Does my senator think this is OK?”
Medicare was established in 1965 and has since become one of the most popular government programs. It’s financed through taxes, and seniors have the freedom to choose their doctors. Advocates say a Medicare-for-All system is the most cost-effective way to deliver health care.
“It’s very simple: you take out the private middleman, and what do you get?” asks another arrestee, Dr. Laura Boylan, referring to the private health insurance industry. “$400 billion worth of profits, CEO salaries, stock options, and administrative waste.”
A neurologist who is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program, Dr. Boylan sums it up, “Expansion of Medicare to everyone would save money and lives; we’d all be better off.”
The New York sit-in was organized by Mobilization for Health Care for All, a national civil disobedience campaign advocating for a Medicare-for-All system. The campaign has organized over 35 sit-ins across the country in the last two months. On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, 20 actions are taking place at senators’ offices in 16 states and Washington, D.C. For a complete list of participating cities, go here.