This week’s message from Faith in Healthcare is written by Melinda St. Louis, who directs Public Citizen’s Medicare for All Campaign. Melinda has spent much of her activist career organizing among faith communities. As an organizer with Witness for Peace and Jubilee USA Network, she organized with congregations and people of faith and conscience around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice. Last year, she turned her focus to the inhumane, profit-driven private health insurance system in the United States that prioritizes profit for shareholders and massive CEO salaries over people’s health. We at Faith in Healthcare are grateful for Melinda’s tireless advocacy for healthcare justice, and for sharing this opportunity for local action with all of us:
By Melinda St. Louis
My Unitarian Universalist religious tradition lifts up the “inherent worth and dignity of every person”, which has motivated my organizing for Medicare for All.
If we truly believe that every person has inherent worth and dignity, we cannot support our current inhumane profit-driven health insurance system that leaves 30 million people in the United States without any health insurance at all, and another 40 million people with such paltry health insurance that they cannot seek the care they need because they can’t afford it.
If we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, then we must work to implement a health care system that provides comprehensive medical care to everyone -- regardless of their income, age, race, gender identity, zip code, or employment status.
That’s why the Unitarian Universalist Association and other denominations have endorsed Medicare for All legislation in the House and Senate that would improve and expand the popular Medicare program to everyone living in the United States. By removing the administrative waste and profit-seeking from our current fragmented, private insurance system and allowing the government to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs and medical devices, a Medicare for All system could provide comprehensive health care to all without spending any more than we already do for health care in the United States.
But we know that such a transformation of our health care system will require massive mobilization of voters across the United States to counter the money and influence of the insurance industry, Big Pharma and other corporations profiting off the status quo at the expense of our health.
That’s why we are building a movement from the ground up, and faith communities can play a pivotal role. Faith in Healthcare is part of a large coalition of organizations encouraging people of conscience around the country to urge their city and county councils to pass resolutions in support of Medicare for All.
Local governments must often deal most directly with the consequences of our unaffordable and inequitable health insurance system. Municipal budgets are increasingly strapped and local businesses struggle to make ends meet due to rising health insurance premiums. And local governments provide front-line response when community members face medical debt-related bankruptcies or become gravely ill or die needlessly because they lacked adequate health insurance.
By passing resolutions, local governments can help to shape the national public narrative and build political will needed to ultimately win guaranteed healthcare for everyone as a matter of right.
In just six months, our coalition effort has blossomed with advocates in more than 200 communities from coast to coast actively working to pass local resolutions in support of Medicare for All. We have step-by-step toolkit to help advocates get started and provide organizing support along the way. You can see if an effort is underway in your community on our coalition map. Already, local coalitions of advocates like you have won resolutions in Detroit, MI, Tampa, FL, San Francisco, CA, Chicago’s Cook County, IL, Cambridge, MA, Norristown, PA, and more.
To kick our efforts into high gear, this coming Monday, October 28 at 8pm ET/5pm PT, we will launch a Medicare for All Resolutions Week of Action with an exciting Virtual Town Hall featuring U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Mich.) and U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and national and local leaders. Advocates from around the country will tune in from their homes, church basements, and community centers to join this exciting conversation and learn how they can take action locally.
I hope that you can be a part of this momentous week by joining the Virtual Town Hall with Reps. Omar and Pressley, which will launch actions throughout the country. RSVP to get the details of how to connect. Even if you’re not sure if you are available, please RSVP and we’ll send you the recording of this historic event.
As people of faith, we work for what is morally right and just, not what is easy or politically expedient. It is time to build the movement to win guaranteed health care for all, starting right in our communities.
Faith and Healthcare Notes
Transparency Mandates Long Resisted by Pharma Companies Show (Surprise!) Huge Price Hikes. The first report generated by California’s groundbreaking drug price transparency law passed in 2017 confirms our fears and suspicions: Pharma companies raised their list price for wholesalers by a median of 25.8% from 2017 through the first quarter of 2019. Compare that to the annual rate of inflation during this period of just 2%. “Even at a time when there is a microscope on this industry, they’re going ahead with drug price increases for hundreds of drugs well above the rate of inflation,” Anthony Wright, executive director of the California advocacy group Health Access, told Kaiser Health News.
High Deductibles Lead to Patients with COPD Skipping Inhaler Treatments. Physician Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Plan, has frequently heard from patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that, no matter what he prescribed, they were forced to go without needed inhalers because of high copays and deductibles. So Gaffney and colleagues conducted a study, published earlier this month in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, confirming that patients with COPD and high deductible health plans are more likely to go without needed care and skip doses of medications, and more likely to need emergency treatment and hospitalizations, compared to those with better healthcare plans.
The Victims of Medicaid Red Tape Programs. The New York Times reports the data that a million fewer children are on Medicaid since 2016, and many of them now have no coverage at all. There is widespread fear that the Trump administration is more likely to deport families with children on Medicaid, and some states are creating red-tape requirements to verify incomes and addresses of families enrolled in Medicaid. “The way they are doing this seems clearly designed to throw people off this program,” Eliot Fishman, a former Medicaid official now with Families USA, told the Times.