Medicare for All brought into mainstream

By Alexandra Yetter, Staff Reporter

Grace Senior

The possibility of 18 million people losing health care coverage if the Affordable Care Act is repealed piqued the interest of University of Michigan professor Beza Merid, who held a lecture on the issue at the University of Chicago.

Also known as “Obamacare,” the bill was passed in 2010 to provide all Americans with affordable health care. Republicans have tried to repeal the act on more than a few occasions, but have been unsuccessful.

However, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by the previous Republican-led Congress repealing parts of the act, including a clause requiring all citizens to pay for health care. A Texas judge ruled Dec. 14, that without this clause, “Obamacare” is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court may vote to repeal the law if it hears the case, likely in 2020.

Trump said in a Dec. 14 tweet he wasn’t surprised “Obamacare” was ruled unconstitutional by the Texas judge, and that it was “great news for America!”

“We’re seeing a lot of calls for Medicare for All both growing louder and also becoming more mainstream,” Merid said during his March 7 lecture called “Worlding, Writing, Illness Narratives as Health Activism: Telling Stories About Precarity to Save the ACA,” held at the University of Chicago Wilder House, 5811 S. Kenwood Ave.

On the presidential campaign trail, many Democratic candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are campaigning on Medicare for All while threats to “Obamacare” from Republicans continue, Merid said.

“Even with the Affordable Care Act, our health care system still needs fixing,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a Dec. 30 tweet. “There are nearly 30 million Americans who still don’t have health insurance and plenty more who have insurance but can’t actually afford the rising cost for health care. We need #MedicareForAll.”

Sanders has been a long time proponent for Medicare for All, campaigning on it during his 2016 presidential bid and touting the idea in the early stages of his 2020 run.

“Medicare for All is not some crazy idea,” Sanders said in a Feb. 27 tweet. “It’s what we must do to end the international disgrace of being the only major country not to make health care a right.”

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld called for an end to cross-party fighting on health care in his Feb. 15 presidential bid announcement.

“Consumers should be permitted to establish personal health care savings accounts, and to choose their health care provider,” Weld said in the speech. “They should be free to purchase pharmaceutical drugs across state lines and also in other countries. Their choice, not the government’s.”

In some European countries, health care is free to all citizens.

“As a European, I’m always shocked that Americans aren’t furious,” Vinh Cam, doctoral student of English language and literature at the University of Chicago, said at the lecture. “If we were charged [for health care] in the U.K., we would literally burn down the House of Parliament.”

One of the most pivotal aspects of “Obamacare” is a clause stating health care providers cannot turn people away for having pre-existing conditions, which can include epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, lupus, sleep apnea and pregnancy.

It also allows college students to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. However, the repealed requirement for everyone to pay for health care was under scrutiny by many young people because they do not use health services as often as older people, making the regular payments seem unnecessary if they are not visiting health providers that often.

“There are a group of people who have a sort of reliance on the Affordable Care Act,” Merid said. “People were sharing these deeply-intimate narratives about having pre-existing medical conditions and being uninsurable. Being able to have this relief from the fear and the constant strain of knowing that they may suffer catastrophic financial circumstances [is important to them]. They may suffer a premature end of life because they couldn’t get this care.”