Healthcare-NOW grieves the brutal deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Trayford Pellerin at the hands of police. They are just the latest victims in a despairingly familiar pattern of state-sanctioned violence against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Police brutality is just one manifestation of the racism in our criminal justice system, a system which has overpoliced poor and BIPOC communities; disproportionately punished BIPOC in the pretrial, bail, and sentencing systems; and resulted in the financial and civic disenfranchisement of those churned through it. We stand firmly in solidarity with calls to Defund the Police, Abolish ICE, and confront the living legacy of white supremacy more broadly in every place it shows up, including our education, immigration, housing, economic, healthcare systems, and in society at large.
Racism is a major reason that the United States didn’t establish a universal, public National Health Service during the mid-century, as our peers in Europe did. Modern medicine’s legacy of eugenics, discrimination, and medical experimentation on BIPOC, incarcerated, and detained communities reverberates today. Our healthcare system is particularly failing those who are affected by intersecting systems of oppression, based on race as well as immigration status, mental health needs, or gender identity. Our healthcare system remains “a textbook example of institutional racism—a system that looks ‘neutral’ but that produces and reproduces the racial inequalities of the labor market.” We commit to challenging the white supremacy that has upheld our system of racial capitalism, and specifically, corporate healthcare, for too long at the expense of too many lives lost needlessly.
Medicare for All is a racial equity project. Providing every resident, regardless of documentation status, comprehensive cradle-to-grave coverage, financed through a system of progressive taxation, would mean stable and consistent access to health services, thereby reducing racial and socioeconomic healthcare access disparities. Reproductive justice - from abortion access to guaranteed quality preconception care for all mothers and birthing persons - is inequitable under the current system, disproportionately withheld from women and BIPOC women in particular. Similarly, systemic barriers to mental healthcare disproportionately affect BIPOC communities, iniquities that have been amplified this year as the COVID crisis has become, for many, a mental health crisis as well.
Equitable planning of the healthcare system would enable us to address issues such as safe staffing ratios, medical deserts, and underfunded hospitals and clinics, all of which disproportionately impact communities of color, and rural and low-income communities. Instead of hospitals closing or being sold to the highest bidder, struggling facilities would thrive with adequate funding based on community need rather than profitability.
Single-payer healthcare reform is necessary. But by itself, Medicare for All won’t address many of the inequities that impact health outcomes. Racial discrimination, which has been repeatedly linked to high blood pressure, higher stress hormones, higher maternal and infant mortality, and myriad other physical conditions that impact ones life expectancy and quality of life, won’t be resolved through more equal access to healthcare services. A history of racist policies in housing, education and other areas that exist outside of the health insurance system further impact the health of Black and Brown patients. We recognize that racism and inequality have played a major role in producing vastly different COVID-19 outcomes, with up to three times higher rates of infection and deaths in Black and communities of color. Many had to place themselves at risk at work just to keep health insurance for their families, and this false choice may have come at the cost of their own life or the life of a loved one.
Single-payer healthcare reform also can’t address the toxic stress experienced by BIPOC patients and immigrants and the poorer care they receive because of the biases held by medical providers themselves. Additionally, BIPOC are vastly underrepresented among physicians, making it much more difficult for people of color to find a physician from their community. While Medicare for All can help by providing the same reimbursement rates and incentives for each and every patient, it will not stop many instances of provider bias or mistreatment and the distrust and harm that is created as a result.
This is why it’s so necessary for advocates of Medicare for All to stand in solidarity with the interlocking movements to Defund ICE and the police, Fight for 15 and other workers’ rights campaigns, a right to housing, water, and other basic determinants of health.
Healthcare-NOW commits to standing in solidarity with the broader fight for racial justice and racial equity in the United States - we will turn up and turn out for allied movements. We also commit to addressing racial equity within our own organization, and in the work we carry out nationally. We will launch a free online training on racial equity and healthcare, for use by our activists and trainers at our local affiliates. Every HCN staff member and volunteer will be trained. We will apply a racial equity lens to our hiring decisions and organizing priorities, and pro-actively work to center activists who might otherwise be marginalized within our movement. Finally, we will work to support our local affiliates in making these same commitments.