Chicago Sun-Times Opinion, Marie Newman: “Death toll of COVID-19 says that America, more than ever, needs Medicare for All”

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Every day, COVID-19 clearly and tragically demonstrates the dire need for significant change in our healthcare system.

Millions of newly unemployed Americans have lost their coverage, millions more will face healthcare insecurity due to financial instability, and the toll of COVID-19 has unquestionably exposed the inequities in our current system of care.

We can and must do better for the sake of the health of our people and of this country. The time to change is now.

Our current healthcare system is incredibly impractical for a 21st Century economy and, worse, it does not increase the quality of care for Americans. For the first time in recent history, American life expectancy has decreased.

The faltering healthcare system under the strain of this global pandemic is the single strongest argument for a universal, single payer healthcare system in our lifetime. Medicare for All is a practical, cost effective, and equitable solution that will help us build a stronger and healthier America.

A system where a majority of Americans rely on their employer for health insurance is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of a global pandemic, but equally unsustainable and inefficient under normal conditions.

Healthcare costs have skyrocketed and our system has grown increasingly difficult for small businesses to navigate. As a former small business owner, I understand how difficult it can be to manage payroll while planning for future growth. Removing this burden from employers’ balance sheets would give small business owners in the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois a desperately needed cost reduction, and guaranteeing universal coverage would give more than 156 million Americans who receive health insurance through their employer the freedom to go back to school, to change jobs, to change careers, or to start their own small businesses.

Medicare for All will save money, an estimated $300 billion a year in administrative costs alone. It will increase the quality of care, expand access to everyone and give Americans financial security, peace of mind and freedom from ever increasing co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Central to the argument for Medicare for All is health equity. People of color are less likely to receive preventative care and, when they do, the quality of care is often worse. This is an insidious reality of our for-profit healthcare system that is further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on black and brown communities is stark in Illinois. In Chicago, 25% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the Latinx community and statewide 40% of all deaths have occurred in the black community. Until we recognize that a for-profit system will always reflect the drag of institutional racism, we can’t solve this problem. We need a system that we can trust will provide the highest quality of care possible to every single American.

There has never been a better time to advocate for Medicare for All. If we are to emerge from this crisis a better country, we must adopt a single payer, universal system of care that reduces costs for everyone.

Marie Newman is the Democratic Party candidate for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District of Illinois.