Gender And Sexuality Column

Why ‘Medicare for all’ is the best health care plan for Syracuse women

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has spent Congress’ recess advocating for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan

Congress may be out for summer, but Democrats are turning up the heat on a new federal health care plan to combat Republican Party’s failed efforts to repeal Affordable Care Act.

With Congress on recess until Sept. 5, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., took her vacation as an opportunity to raise awareness for a single-payer program to help the United States’ struggling lower and middle classes.

Not only would a single-payer program aid lower-class Americans, but it would provide women across the country — especially in high-poverty areas like Syracuse — the comprehensive care they’ve been lacking. Under a single-payer program, Medicare would cover breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraception, domestic and interpersonal violence counseling and various sexually transmitted diseases and health screenings.

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In a statement, Gillibrand said the time for skyrocketing premiums and copays is over.

Health care is a right, it should never be a privilege,” she said during a Facebook Livestream with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). “We should have Medicare for all in this country.”

In New York state alone, more than 1.9 million women depend on Medicare for basic health insurance coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing information about health policy. With women listed as nearly 49 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries, it’s clear to see that basic health care isn’t just a social rights issue, but a women’s rights issue as well.

Gillibrand isn’t the only Democrat pushing for a revamped “Medicare for all” system. Progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) referred to the GOP’s proposed plan as a “knockout blow” to working-class citizens, promoting single-payer systems as an appropriate successor to Obamacare.

While Obamacare was considered by many progressives a step in the right direction for affordable health care, a universal Medicare system relies primarily on government funding to cover American citizens. Under the Medicare for all model proposed by 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Medicare would eliminate copays and expensive deductibles, covering long-term care and sparing citizens the burden of skyrocketing premiums.

Sanders’ plan would “cover the entire continuum of health care,” including emergency care, mental health treatment and diagnostics, according to a statement posted on his website.

Christopher Faricy, a political science professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, said a Medicare for all system would help reduce the number of uninsured Americans in the country. It can also potentially lower the costs of treatment through the government’s supply power.

The main drawback? Its cost.

“The federal government would pay the full cost of medical treatment under a true single-payer system, eliminating the need for premiums,” Faricy said. “But it would be tremendously expensive, and there would have to be a tax increase on everybody in the U.S. to pay for it — or a huge increase in the national debt.”

By reimagining Medicare as a system inclusive to nondisabled civilians and citizens under 65, a single-payer system would thrive off a combination of federal funding and taxes primarily from citizens making more than $250,000 per year. Taxing the wealthiest Americans would be a financial relief for lower-class Americans in need of access to health care, Faricy said.

The fact that the majority of Medicare subscribers are women making less than $20,000 annually — according to America’s Health Insurance Plans — makes it obvious that something needs to be done to alleviate the fiscal burden plaguing the American health care system.

Pairing that with Syracuse’s average per capita income of about $19,000 — per Sperling’s Best Places — shows just how important this bill would be to this city.

After the failure of the GOP’s health care plan — and its many flaws — American women simply cannot afford to place their lives in the hands of white, male congressmen and senators who consider pregnancy and menstrual irregularities “pre-existing conditions.”

Apparently, if it doesn’t come in a blue pill, male politicians aren’t interested.

But despite Democrats taking the reins in promoting Medicare for all, Gillibrand said the proposal is anything but a partisan issue.

People want affordable health care, and (Medicare for all) is the solution, and it makes sense to people even in my two-to-one Republican district,” Gillibrand told New York Magazine in April.

So while Congress may be out on summer break, Gillibrand is making sure that with single-payer health care on the horizon, the doctor is in.

Kelsey Thompson is a junior magazine journalism major. Her column appears biweekly. She can be reached at katho101@syr.edu.

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