By Eva McBride I attended one of the seven Medicare for All Rallies that happened in Iowa this past weekend. They were to support HR 676 (The Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act) which was proposed again in February. There are 110 Democrat co-sponsors so far and hopefully more will come on board. On May 20th there were rallies in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux City, Iowa City and Davenport. On Sunday May 21st there was a rally in Dubuque.
The one I attended in Iowa City was sponsored by Our Revolution and the local Democratic Socialists of America. Because of the rain it moved from The Pedestrian Mall inside to a local Iowa City eatery and bar, The Mill. Chris Laursen and Nora Taft organized this event and they found a line up of speakers who also feel passionately about Medicare for All . I enjoyed seeing candidates and average citizens all support a push for Medicare For All and demanding it right now. This is something I have also longed to see happen for US citizens for a long time so it was inspiring to think it could happen with enough support.
Music from local musicians Matt and Jamie Kearney fronting Pigs and Clover started things out. They played one song that Jamie had written about single payer healthcare.
The first speaker in the lineup was Rod Sullivan who’s on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. He talked about his time working for Medicaid in Iowa and what citizens qualify. Most of them are children and elderly adults living in nursing homes. A single adult would have to make $12,000 or year for less to qualify. The poverty level in Iowa is unbelievably low and even though the Affordable Care Act (ACA) made that number go a little bit higher he would like to see it expanded to three times that. The changeover from state-run Medicaid to the Managed Care organizations hurt a lot of people in this state and despite what Branstad has to say it’s hurt our most vulnerable citizens. He shared a story about his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer and the issues they had dealing with private insurance.
The second speaker was Elizabeth Dinschel, head of Action Iowa who is on the Johnson County Democrats Executive board and is running for the Coralville City Council. She talked about an experience she had after being burned while pregnant. She was taken to a bigger hospital on a Life Flight, spent a week in the ICU and then needed wound care and physical therapy afterwards. After a few weeks of this process she found out that her insurance company was rejecting or reducing what they were paying for some of her medical care. This hurt her financially for years because she couldn’t pay it all off.
The third speaker was Joe Bolkcom, Iowa State Senator. Medicare was a wonderful blessing for our country. He thinks scaling back the age to qualify for Medicare could be one solution (originally proposed by Tom Harkin). Having people on Medicare would also relieve the burden on employers. We need to continue to keep fighting for Medicare for all.
Next up was Mazahir Salih who is the Former President of the Center for Worker Justice and running for the Iowa City city council. She fought for workers rights and also works in healthcare. Her experience in medicine led her to believe that Healthcare is a human right. Her family came to the US because they weren’t safe and wanted more opportunities. She first lived in Virginia but after living in Iowa City she feels like it’s home. All workers and immigrants deserve to have health care.
Steve Siegel, running to oppose Mark Chelgren Iowa State Senator for District 41 spoke next. He believes the ACA doesn’t solve the problem. We need to get rid of insurance companies and have Medicare for All.
Starry Nights led by Kate Kane played during a break.
Daniel Clark, who is running for the 2nd District US House seat (currently occupied by Dave Loebsack-D) as a Green party candidate spoke next. HR 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare-for-All Act was created in 2003 and has been proposed every year since then. It was reintroduced in February and has the most sponsors it’s ever had in this incarnation. He asked that we also support the healthcare bill that Bernie will be proposing as he usually follows up with his own. He shared a story about a friend who found out at age 36 that he had an undiagnosed heart condition. If he hadn’t had insurance it would have cost over $500,000. He reminded us that we should be thinking of people over profit.
Jodi Clemens, a Candidate for State House District 73 was up next. When she counsels people about their budgets sometimes she sees people having to choose medical insurance or medical bills over getting making sure their housing paid for. Housing always used to be the priority. She discussed people having to choose to go into deep debt to make sure they live. She described Trumpcare, the ACHA as a cruel bill. We need to seek out bipartisan support for Medicare For All.
Mike Carberry a Johnson County Supervisor believes that Obamacare was a bridge to where we need to get but we need to move past that to medicare-for-all. The AHCA is a tax cut for wealthy people and will not be good for the working class. We need to insist on Medicaid for all.
Liz Bennet, State House Representative, Assistant Minority Leader/ District 65 spoke after Mike. She thinks that Healthcare is the number one issue for her constituents. She believes Healthcare is a human right. She thinks everyone having Health Care could release a lot of innovation in America. People could leave their jobs and do things that they might not have done before like open a business. Fear of not having health insurance keeps people in jobs and they remain stagnant.
Jaime Allen stay at home mother of four, originally from Canada spoke about how much better healthcare is in Canada. Jaime is also running to oppose Mark Chelgren Iowa State Senator for District 41. She dispelled myths about healthcare in Canada like that they have longer wait times and have less choice about their healthcare somehow even though insurance companies are already very restrictive. People pay their premiums in their taxes which also means Canadians know exactly how much their Healthcare is going to cost every year ahead of time. And it’s a great deal less than what we pay here. She urges us to tell others about how much it will benefit them. It will benefit everyone.
Sandy Dockendorff is a BSN/RN and IDP 2nd Congressional District Central Committee Chair and State Rules Chair. In her role as an RN she has seen how even life and death health care decisions are now dramatically affected by how much a patient’s care is going to cost. That is pretty sad that it might be the first thing a patient has to consider before thinking about life saving care. She said that no matter what insurance card you have in your pocket you shouldn’t have to worry about getting care when you need it. We will all be paying for the people that would be left uninsured if the AHCA passes. Employers should not have to be involved in providing us with health insurance.
Rob Hogg, State Senate Minority Leader/District 19 was the keynote speaker. He talked about the Iowa Medicaid System changeover to managed care and calls it the Branstad/Reynolds Mismanaged Medicaid Managed-Care mess. He iterated that the wealthiest people and insurance companies get big tax cuts with the AHCA and it would take away insurance from 24 million US citizens. He is repeating these things that have already been said because we need to educate the public about this.
Iris DeMent provided music after the speakers.
Maybe Paul Ryan and his cronies did us a favor by introducing such a terrible healthcare bill. With public outrage over Trump Care right now this is the best time for us to demand Medicare for all. By expanding on Medicare we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and it’s been a successful program for decades. HR 676, The Expanded and Improved Medicare-for-all Act has 110 Democratic co-sponsors and could be our way forward to sensible and humane health care legislation. Eighty-three house Democrats have yet to sign on so they made need some pressure to get there. I would love to see my fellow citizens be able to live their lives unafraid to see a doctor when they need to or fret about pre-existing conditions.