A coalition of 10 national organizations sent a letter to Congress Wednesday imploring federal lawmakers to support the Medicare for All Act of 2019 and arguing that universal healthcare is “a racial justice necessity because communities of color, in particular, suffer from a lack of access to affordable health insurance.”
“Medicare for All, the only truly single-payer, universal healthcare system, guarantees that healthcare is a right and enables every person living in the United States to receive the healthcare they need to survive and thrive.” —letter to Congress
The legislation—introduced earlier this year by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—would establish a national health insurance program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services that would cover the medically necessary services of all U.S. residents.
As the letter (pdf) to lawmakers put it, “Medicare for All, the only truly single-payer, universal healthcare system, guarantees that healthcare is a right and enables every person living in the United States to receive the healthcare they need to survive and thrive.”
The groups behind the letter—A. Philip Randolph Institute, Action Center on Race and the Economy, Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Center for Popular Democracy, Color of Change, League of United Latin American Citizens, the NAACP, People’s Action, Policy Link, and United We Dream—collectively describe themselves as “organizations that represent people of color.”
Noting, as one example, that the country’s rising maternal mortality rate is even higher for black and Indigenous women, the letter charges that “racial bias mars the entirety of American healthcare.”
The letter details some of the ways the country’s current for-profit healthcare system impacts the communities that the groups represent:
“Communities of color need a healthcare system that rectifies these long-standing structural biases and challenges. Medicare for All is that system,” the letter declares. “Just as the passage of Medicare over 50 years ago helped spur hospital integration and improved health access, it can today usher in true universal healthcare.”
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is not a signatory to the letter, but shared a link to it and highlighted some of its main messages in a pair of tweets Wednesday:
“Our current healthcare system is marred by racism, sexism, and classism. The immense health and healthcare disparities among poor folks and in black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are a direct consequence of long-standing structural biases created by the profit-driven private insurance industry,” Jennifer Epps-Addison, co-executive director and network president of the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement Wednesday.
“We need a system where everyone is in, and nobody is out.” —Jennifer Epps-Addison, Center for Popular Democracy
“We need a system where everyone is in, and nobody is out. And a single-payer Medicare-for-All system is the only way that we can do that,” Epps-Addison said. “It’s the only way we will realize healthcare as a human right, and stop big pharmaceutical and insurance companies from profiting off the pain of our families.”
Deyanira Aldana, in the statement, shared how the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been essential for her to access life-saving healthcare:
Jayapal, the bill’s lead sponsor in the House, called the letter “an incredibly powerful reminder that any conversation on American healthcare is incomplete without a discussion of racial injustice.”
“There are long-standing structural biases and challenges within our current healthcare systems that create barriers for people of color and prevent them from receiving the care they need,” the congresswoman added, “but Medicare for All can change all of that.”
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