Open Question to Senate Candidates Who Don’t Support Medicare for All

by Jason Frerichs

Five candidates are running to unseat Joni Ernst and win her senate seat. Of those five, only Kimberly Graham wholeheartedly supports Medicare for All. In an interview with Iowa Starting Line, Graham described it as “a basic human right in a moral and wealthy nation. Human rights are not commodities to be marketed, bought or sold. Therefore, health care shouldn’t be a commodity.”

For the others, I have a question. Under for-profit private insurance, a Harvard study found that 45,000 Americans die every year due to lack of coverage. How many deaths do you find acceptable to keep the for-profit insurance industry intact? Is it 1000? Maybe 5000? Or perhaps 10,000? As a taxpayer, potential volunteer/donor, I would appreciate an exact number.

Theresa Greenfield states on her website that she supports “strengthening our existing laws like the Affordable Care Act, creating a public health insurance option for Iowans to buy into, and working to bring down the cost of co-pays, prescription drugs, and health care as a whole.” This still doesn’t guarantee coverage for everyone. Co-pays prevent many people with coverage from being able to afford to use their benefits. In the age of $10,000 deductibles, it doesn’t make any sense to keep that system intact.

Michael Franken said that “Banning private health insurance is not the direction needed to ensure every American has access to quality care.” Really? Would Mr. Franken like to explain his policy to the mother of Alec Smith, a 26-year-old who died after being kicked off his mother’s insurance? He couldn’t afford the $1300 a month for his insulin because if you don’t have insurance you are forced to pay exorbitant prices of healthcare.

To his credit, Eddie Mauro has said that if Medicare For All came up for a vote in the senate he would vote in favor of it. That said, he still supports the failed policy of Pete Buttigieg using the same moniker of “Medicare for those who want it.” Still, his stance is far superior to that of Theresa Greenfield or Michael Frank.

Cal Woods has said, “Don’t outlaw private health insurance. Rather, offer a public option.” He thinks that the free market public option would “out-compete” private insurance by offering a more affordable and efficient option. The problem with this approach is that people will still die from lack of coverage and the insurance companies are not going to allow a protracted fight that will slowly vote their wealth away. The issue with the ACA was that insurance companies played a role in writing that bill. Like Mauro, Woods had said he could vote for Medicare For All if it came up for a vote.

Some estimate that as many as 25% of Americans delay getting medical care due to rising costs. There numerous stories of people losing their employer-based insurance due to a layoff and dying due to lack of coverage. A study done by the American Cancer Society found that 56% of Americans report at least one financial medical hardship. Researchers say that this will likely worsen unless immediate actions are taken. The US spends a higher percentage of its GDP on healthcare than any other developed nation for worse outcomes. Private health insurance is robbing us blind, killing people, and creating an unnecessary barrier solely to drive up costs and turn a profit. There is no reason they should exist and refusing to take action to dismantle them is kicking the can down the road for others to solve. If a global pandemic isn’t enough to open your eyes then you have no business serving Iowa. I will ask the question again. How many deaths are acceptable to you to allow private for-profit insurance companies to exist?

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