By Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President & Co-Executive Director Center for Popular Democracy
This month, Trump has publicly attacked everyone who doesn’t fit the status quo, from individuals and families seeking asylum at the border, to Puerto Rican leaders over hurricane relief aid and transgender people serving in the U.S. armed forces. His latest efforts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act is also misguided. It hurts families and puts our care at risk while distracting us from a wildly popular health care proposal that is not getting the attention it deserves as a core piece of the fight for racial justice: Medicare for All.
Women of color didn’t put our blood, sweat and tears into delivering the most diverse, most progressive Congress in our country’s history to maintain status quo “profits over people” politics. We are standing up for more — more representation in elected office, candidate platforms and policies that transform America into a country where we all have the freedom to thrive.
As a result of our activism, racial justice policies aimed at dismantling white supremacy and racial capitalism are picking up steam. Candidates like Kamala Harris, Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren are raising the issue of reparations for slave descendants. Bernie Sanders is urging an end to private prisons, mass incarceration and the drug war.
For decades, health care activists have fought to eliminate the health disparities plaguing communities of color. Finally, with the Medicare for All Act, introduced with more than 100 co-sponsors by Representative Pramila Jayapal, there’s a Congressional health care bill worthy of our families.
Any candidate strategizing to win the Democratic nomination in 2020 — and the White House — by securing the votes from communities of color needs to do more than use the catch phrase Medicare for All. They need to clarify their support for Rep. Jayapal’s bill.
Like other institutions rooted in white supremacy, our current, corporate health care system allows billionaires to profit from the pain, illness and death of our people. Only Rep. Jayapal’s bill removes the profit motive from our healthcare system.
Half measures like the ACA and “public options” are not enough to ensure racial justice. The 30 million people still uninsured under Obamacare are disproportionately Black and Latinx — and the leading cause of death is simply inadequate health care, largely because those without health care insurance, even many with, cannot afford to prevent illness, let alone treat or manage more serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
Uninsured patients are more likely to die during hospital stays and 25% more likely to die prematurely than their insured counterparts. And for those with insurance, for-profit companies are rationing life-saving care based on their own gains.
People of color are even less likely to receive preventative care and typically get lower quality care under the current system due to discrimination. Our healthcare system is literally killing us. In addition to being denied quality care by cost, America continues bearing the burden of some of the world’s worst health crises, including the epidemic of Black women dying during or after birth.
It’s time to double down. If you believe in racial justice, you simply can’t leave health care out of the equation. It’s clear that as long as insurance and pharmaceutical companies can profit off our pain, our families will never have the health care we need. Only Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare for All Act kicks the profiteers out of our heath care system.
Medicare has a history of fueling social change. The original institution forced hospitals to desegregate. In its current limited form, Medicare has reduced health disparities and racial discrimination by influencing safety and quality of care through its regulatory roles. If that isn’t enough, Medicare For All is wildly popular — 70% of Americans support it, including a majority of Republicans.
There is no path to the Democratic nomination that doesn’t begin and end with deep and enthusiastic participation by communities of color. With the 2020 election cycle heating up, Democrats and progressives are deliberating and strategizing about how to win the votes from our communities because we are critical to the nomination.
Medicare For All will play a key role in dismantling the systems of white supremacy that have excluded communities of color from the freedom and economic security that comes with having access to quality care.
Our votes are valuable on Election Day. Any 2020 candidate claiming to fight for communities of color must include Rep. Jayapal’s Medicare For All Act in their policy platform. Anything less, and they don’t deserve our support.
Jennifer Epps-Addison is the Network President & Co-Executive Director for the Center for Popular Democracy, which works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.