“Government is simply a word for the things we decide to do together”.-Congressman Barney Frank
I just finished my first year of medical school. I have learned about the intricacies of the human body and how disease develops. We have already started seeing patients in clinics throughout Rochester and are lucky to have this sort of exposure early on in our education. But, perhaps more importantly, I have seen up close how a failed healthcare system affects patients.
The statistics are appalling. 47 million Americans have no insurance. Every 30 seconds someone in the US goes bankrupt because of medical debt. 101,000 die each year because of lack of access to necessary medical procedures. The list goes on. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to address these problems but it only tweaks them around. We spend way too much on healthcare (though a lot of it is paperwork, marketing and profits not actual care) and yet it doesn’t translate to good health as we rank 37th among developed nations. In fact, we are the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide universal healthcare to its citizens.
We all know in our hearts that people’s health comes first, not insurance company profits. There is a growing movement of people in the state of New York patients, doctors, nurses, medical students that are advocating for a single payer system by supporting the New York Health Bill which would make a state run organization to collect all fees and pay out all healthcare costs. This would cover all New York residents and there will be no premiums, deductible copays or out of network charges. We will also have free choice of doctors, hospitals and providers. We already do this for our older residents through Medicare, so why not for all our residents regardless of age, health status, unemployment or ability to pay? People will also visit their doctor regularly and get preventive services, not waiting until the last minute when their health is in jeopardy. Doctors will benefit too, because with no insurance companies and lowered administrative costs, they can focus on treating patients instead of fighting for reimbursements.
As medical students and future physicians, we are taught to do what is best for our patients and to advocate for them. In my opinion, this does not only entail mastering medical knowledge and being up to date with “best practices” but also being aware of our patient’s struggles with a failed system, and fighting for a better one.
Currently, the NY Health Bill passed the State Assembly, then it will soon go to the Senate for a vote. But it is up to us who live in New York to make this a reality. In the end, this is a moral question, is healthcare a basic human right or is it a luxury? Reflect on this for a little bit. Find more information (at www.singlepayernewyork.org ),attend rallies, think about your experiences with the current system, ask friends and relatives, and share your testimony, if you can.
André Renaldo Fernández was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is currently a first-year medical student at the University of Rochester, where he is also a member of the Latino Student Medical Association (LMSA). He received his bachelor’s degree in Biology from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, where he was heavily involved with the Latino community. He will like to continue this interest through LMSA by raising awareness of the health issues surrounding the Latino population in the United States. In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, swimming, and going for long walks.