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No More Status Quo: How Rhode Island Guarantees Healthcare as a Human Right

From Samy Amkieh: No one should be refused the right to live a dignified and healthy life just because they don’t have enough dollars in their bank account. Unfortunately, millions have been fired during the pandemic and lockdowns, losing their health insurance, struggling to survive in a system that was not designed to preserve their mental and physical health let alone their financial well-being.”

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Have a job with inadequate COVID-19 workplace protections? Live in a home where you can’t socially distance from others? Do you or your family suffer from “pre-existing conditions” like COPD, diabetes, or heart conditions? Even if you get COVID-19 and survive, your problems may not end there.

Once the state of emergency is over and COVID-19 becomes a fixture just like the flu, you might be hit with a “surprise bill” for treatment and hospital stays. So, on top of being sick and maybe losing your job, you could be faced with premiums, co-payments, deductibles and caps that you probably cannot pay.

Going into debt, taking on multiple jobs, and having friends run Go Fund Me campaigns may still not be enough. Costs related to medical problems are the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States. Medical costs do not cause bankruptcy in any other industrialized nation in the world. Even if you do not go bankrupt, medical debt could haunt you for the rest of your life, thanks in part to the current President’s actions back in 2005 when he voted against easing bankruptcy requirements for Americans drowning in medical debt. You borrow money, take on multiple jobs, have friends run Go Fund Me campaigns. Is this what the richest nation in the world forces the sick to do?

This was, and is, the story of millions of Americans before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now however, as millions fall ill and many hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and slammed with huge bills, it has become horribly clear that our system was not designed for our health. It was designed to turn a profit, and that is exactly what it has been doing. Embedded in the greed of insurance companies, the story of Sherry Seidman stands in sharp contrast, a woman who beat COVID and did NOT have to foot the $125,000 hospital bill because she was on Medicare

Most Americans, especially those who don’t qualify for Medicare or fall through the gaps of our broken system, are not as “lucky” as Sherry. No one should be refused the right to live a dignified and healthy life just because they don’t have enough dollars in their bank account. Unfortunately, millions have been fired during the pandemic and lockdowns, losing their health insurance, struggling to survive in a system that was not designed to preserve their mental and physical health let alone their financial well-being. 

Fortunately in Rhode Island, Senate Bill 0233 and House Bill 5628 are the answer to the human misery that for-profit healthcare is causing in our communities. I urge everyone to start organizing, to testify in support of these bills, to go out and knock on doors, and to talk to your neighbors about how we the people can change our destiny! The Providence chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has just launched its statewide Medicare for All campaign to make the majority who support single payer even larger and better heard at the statehouse and Congress. Learn more at our website and help us make Medicare for ALL a reality in Rhode Island! 

About the Author

Samy Amkieh is happy to be reached for comment at samy_amkieh@brown.edu

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