Nurses, physcians step up Medicare for All campaign

The day after the Supreme Court upheld the Obama Administration’s health care reform law, nurses on a 19-city “Medicare for All” bus tour of California pulled into San Rafael with this message: the Court’s decision is a good step toward fixing our broken health care system, but it won’t be enough to get the job done. The next step should be the adoption of the only plan that can achieve universal health care coverage at a reasonable cost–the expansion of our highly successful Medicare program to everyone, not just to seniors and the disabled.

“Medicare is far more  effective than the broken private system in controlling costs and the waste that  goes to insurance paperwork and profits, and it is universally popular, even  among those who bitterly opposed the Obama law,” said Karen Higgins, co-president of the National Nurses Union (NNU) in a statement about the Court’s ruling. “Let’s open it up  to everyone. No one should have to wait to be 65 to be guaranteed  health care.”

NNU, its California affiliate the California Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Campaign for a Healthy California are conducting the tour to raise people’s awareness about the Medicare for All legislation, HR 676, that is pending in Congress.

During the tour, nurses and physicians conduct free health screenings in the afternoon and then hold a town hall meeting in the evening to hear people’s stories about problems they’ve encountered with the current health care system.

In a statement issued shortly after the Court upheld the health care reform law, NNU said that the reform act will expand health care coverage and end some insurance company abuses such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions and capping lifetime coverage. It also allows children to remain on their parents’ health care plan until the children turn 26, increases funding for community health centers, and expands Medicaid coverage for some low-income workers.

However, too many people will still be without coverage and access to health care must still go through for-profit private insurance companies, said the nurses. Because for-profit insurance carriers play a leading role in providing health care access, co-payments will still be high and health care will remain expensive

“We will continue to see  patients who postpone filling prescription medications, or delay  doctor-recommended diagnostic procedures or even life saving medical treatment  because of the high out of pocket costs, or families faced with the terrible  choice of paying for medical care or food or clothing, or who delay payment on  medical bills at the risk of bankruptcy or a destroyed credit rating,” Higgins said.

“We will continue to see  hospitals, insurance companies and drug companies engage in price gouging and insurance companies refusing to authorize treatment recommended by a doctor  under the pretext (that) it was ‘experimental’ or ‘not medically necessary,’ euphemisms  for care that (don’t) meet the real test of a profit driven bottom line,” she added.

Health care in the US is more expensive than in other countries with developed economies. In fact, the US spends about double the amount per capita on health care than do other developed countries, but dozens of other countries have higher health care outcomes.

The difference between the US and the other countries is that the other countries provide health care either through a government operated national health care system or non-profit, highly regulated insurance companies.

The California bus tour will continue  through July 12 when it will make its last scheduled stop in West Covina.

But that’s not the end of the Medicare for All campaign. NNU will be joining Michael Moore in holding a national Medicare for All town hall meeting later this summer.

‘Nurses experience the  crisis our patients continue to endure every day,” Higgins said. “That’s the reason we will  continue to work for reform that is universal, that doesn’t bankrupt families or  leave patients in the often cruel hands of merciless insurance companies.”

The court’s ruling shouldn’t be seen as a signal to end the Medicare for All campaign, said Jean Ross, co-president of NNU. “It’s not time to stop,” she said. “It’s a reminder to begin that effort anew.”

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