The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I am heartened by the possibilities with a new President. While President-Elect Biden has not supported Medicare for All, there continues to be considerable support among Americans. A Fox News exit poll found that 72% of voters favor switching to a government-run healthcare plan. This gives us hope that, over time and with our efforts, the will of the voters will prevail.
Recently, I watched a panel on racial inequities featuring Dr. Don Berwick (founder of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a member of the Biden-Sanders Joint Task Force on Health Care). And in November, our parent organization Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) held its annual (virtual) meeting.
I want to share some highlights from the Berwick presentation and the PNHP conference:
Dr. Berwick listed the following criteria for evaluating health care reform:
* provide universal coverage
* improve quality
* improve the social determinants of health (social and economic factors, such as poverty, housing, education that impact health)
* reduce per capita costs
Berwick noted that we also need to focus attention on COVID-19, future 20th century threats, and structural racism.
Many speakers spoke of the role that structural racism has played in creating and maintaining our inequitable and non-universal health care system.
Dr. Rhea Boyd, the keynote speaker at PNHP, gave the most compelling talk I’ve ever heard on this topic, Pandemic + Policing + Protest. She noted that many of the risk factors associated with COVID-19 disease are rooted in racism. One example is the directive for frequent hand washing. Race is the strongest predictor of water and sanitation access, which make following this simple instruction possible. She also talked about the relationship between police violence and poor health, and "underlying conditions” such as hypertension and obesity that are risks for severe COVID-19.
Medicare for All will address racial inequities by leveling the playing field for access to health care. It is a necessary, but not complete, part of the solution. That is why Health Care Justice—NC is working on dismantling structural racism, as we promote Medicare for All.
New opportunities lie ahead. I invite you to join us as an active member. Let me know if you would like to be more involved in this important work. Together we can create a just, quality healthcare system for ALL!
Jessica Schorr Saxe, MD
Chair, Health Care Justice - NC
Click HERE for the health policy video update from PNHP co-founders Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein. It is an excellent review of the political environment and Medicare for ALL.
For full access to all of the PNHP conference sessions and workshops, click HERE to purchase access for $10 (or access and Continuing Medical Education credit for $50).