ELY— Candidates and activists from a number of organizations offered a consistent message on the issue of health care in the U.S. and how to pay for it during a town hall forum held here last week. …
ELY— Candidates and activists from a number of organizations offered a consistent message on the issue of health care in the U.S. and how to pay for it during a town hall forum held here last week.
The event, sponsored by the DFL’s Third District Operating Unit, drew a sizable crowd to Vermilion Community College, who heard from DFL congressional candidate Joe Radinovich and others about the importance of reforming the health care system in the U.S.
Health care, and its future, has become the top issue in this year’s midterm elections, according to Radinovich, and the candidate talked personally about how the issue has affected him and his family over the years.
In the wake of family tragedy, Radinovich openly expressed the difficult times he had coping, and relayed what mattered the most was that his dad had a good job and good wages, and had health care when the family needed it the most. “If it hadn’t been for that, I probably would have been lost,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there who deal with routine problems in their life. Rich people, poor people, and everyone in between. Too often, what makes a difference in whether people can make it through those situations or not, is that someone in their life has a good job and can access health care for them.” He continued, “I don’t think that in the wealthiest and most productive country in the world, that we can afford to let people slip through the cracks because they can’t get affordable health care.”
Joining Radinovich on the panel were Rose Roach of the Minnesota Nurses Association, Bruce Miller representing the Minnesota Farmers Union, and United Steelworkers union negotiator Mike Maleska. Also in attendance was state Rep. Rob Ecklund, DFL-International Falls, who supports a single-payer health care system. The panelists talked about the impact of health care concerns from their represented sectors, but voiced solidarity in moving forward with universal health care coverage for all.
Miller said the Farmers Union has been hosting rural conversations and he relayed the sense of frustration felt by many. “Farmers are paying $25,000-$45,000 in premiums and deductibles right now. The Farmers Union has believed for decades in universal health care coverage. It dominates everything we hear in rural discussions. It’s driving farmers off farms and preventing young farmers from entering.”
Rose Roach, Executive Director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, reiterated her organization’s support for a universal system. “Nurses have been insistent that we enact single-payer, an improved Medicare for all in this country, so health care is finally recognized for what it is— a basic human need, a public good, not a consumable good.” Roach said the American health care system is not only the most expensive in the world by a wide margin, but trails dozens of other countries in terms of outcomes. “Even spending more per person, the United States is last in health care outcomes, access, and equity when compared to other industrialized countries,” she said. “We are penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to how he finance health care in this country.”
Roach explained that thirty cents of every health care dollar is going to something other than health care.
Radinovich expounded on that point. “It’s more than insurance companies It’s executive bonuses, lobbyists, and PAC contributions to politicians.” By not taking corporate PAC money, Radinovich contends he steps out of the “bought-and-paid-for” cycle many politicians have fallen into. “What I really care about is getting to a single-payer health care system in this country,” said Radinovich. “What I mean by that is that we need to have a health care system in this country where everybody has access to health care by virtue of being a citizen of this country.”
Mike Maleska, from the Steelworkers, said a universal, single-payer system would benefit workers, even those who currently have health insurance through their employment. If healthcare was off the table in negotiations, he said, “we could really get down to some serious issues with our contract.” He also waded into the delivery of the message of universal health care. “Inevitably we get asked if we are talking about socialized medicine. The Veterans Administration is socialized medicine.”
Roach helped distinguish the two. “The V.A. is truly socialized. It is government-run and owned. The difference between Medicare and the Veterans Administration is that people on Medicare go to whatever doctor they want to, and that is the health care model the nurses are moving forward with.”
Roach said taxpayers are already paying for most of the cost of health care in the U.S. “The fact of the matter is that health insurance companies, more than sixty percent of their revenue is taxpayer dollars. It’s our money already, we are practically paying for a universal health care system, we just aren’t getting it.”
Organizers said the large turnout at last week’s forum, which nearly filled Classroom 104 at VCC, was indicative of the support for a single-payer health care system.