National Nurses United has been a leading voice in the Medicare for All movement, bringing the moral power and practical insight that comes from their members’ daily service on the front lines of healthcare. Faith in Healthcare is grateful that Zenei Cortez, RN, president of National Nurses United, is the latest advocate to join us for a Five-Question Interview:
- What do you consider to be the most important healthcare work that you and National Nurses United do?
Right now, NNU is working hard to pass Medicare for all - health care for all, where everyone is in and no one will be left out. We are also working on federal legislation that will require safe nurse-to- patient ratios and workplace violence protection for nurses and other health care workers. California is the only state that has passed both the patient ratio and violence protection laws.
- What motivates you to do your healthcare work?
I was born and raised in the Philippines. I migrated to the US with my parents and siblings in 1974, and I have been a bedside direct care RN since 1980. I am motivated to fight for these issues because I see how human suffering is worsening under our current system. I see patients who are suffering because they are unable to seek early preventive care due to the high cost of insurance deductibles, co pays, or premiums.
- What are the biggest challenges you and NNU face in your efforts?
Our biggest challenges are the deep pockets of the insurance industry and pharmaceutical companies. They use their money to launch campaigns and ads opposing the reforms we are fighting for. They use their money to lobby or donate to the campaigns of legislators who should be working for the people.
- What do you think the U.S. healthcare system should look like?
The U.S. health care system should be for the people. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and yet we have poor health outcomes. The people should be able to have easy access to health care when they need it and for however long they will need it. They should have access to whatever care or tests are necessary to get better. No insurance company should dictate who gets care and what care they need.
- What role do you see people of faith and faith communities playing in making the needed changes?
People of faith should live their faith. As sisters and brothers, we should be reaching out and help one another. As for me, I am Catholic. For the past fifteen years, I have been working with the nuns from the Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco feeding the homeless once a month, and I conduct health screenings with volunteers in our community who work in the field of health care.
But people of faith can do more: we can put pressure on our elected officials and legislators to pass Medicare for all. Maybe that means making phone calls or legislative visits in our local offices—whatever it takes to let Medicare for All be the model and the answer to end human suffering.
Faith and Healthcare Notes
Democratic 2020 Candidates Invoke Their Faith--But Do They Walk the Walk? The Christian Science Monitor says more candidates are talking about their faith. The same article also quotes Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign saying the candidates’ policies need to reflect that talk. “An orthodox view of Jesus sees how, even in his first sermon, he lifted up the poor, the broken, and the unaccepted,” Rev. Barber says. “So if a person’s spirituality does not produce a quarrel with the sins of injustice, then one’s spirituality, or claim of spirituality, is at least suspect.”
Why Healthcare Corporations Oppose Medicare for All. Zenei Cortez’s patients may be struggling under our current system, but healthcare corporations aren’t. A dozen healthcare companies had net profit margins above 30% in the first quarter of 2019, per Axios’ analysis of quarterly financial statements. Most of those were pharmaceutical corporations, with Alexion Pharmaceuticals leading the way with an eye-popping 52% profit.
What if We Funded Schools Like We Fund Hospitals? Adam Gaffney, MD, of Physicians for a National Health Program, writing in Jacobin: “Assume that teachers had to issue bills for every episode of instruction provided to each pupil daily, using a complex fee schedule incorporating the length, complexity, and/or intensity of every interaction . . . (I)magine that the tsunami of resultant bills went not just to the local government, but to a welter of different “educational insurance” plans, with varying rules and requirements; that these insurers frequently contested the charges; and that schools were required to collect co-pays and deductibles from parents, which varied depending on how much education a child “consumed” and their particular insurance plan.”