The provision of healthcare in America has been a major policy issue for many decades. From the establishment of Medicare & Medicaid to the Affordable Care Act, we have struggled to find a solution for not just providing access to healthcare -- but also becoming a healthier population. Some people may believe that we are a healthier population because we live longer today than, say, my great grandparents did, but that isn’t necessarily a measure we can take stock in. My mother is 83 and gets around in a wheelchair. She is in a wheelchair because a badly-needed knee replacement surgery just didn’t come soon enough. I realize that one day her medical needs will increase, and I realize that many families face similar challenges. What we do now with healthcare will, in the future, make people’s lives easier or harder.
When we think about healthcare today, we think about things like markets, benefits, and subsidies. All of these things matter, but they’re only small pieces of the puzzle when it comes to healthcare. The ACA gave millions of Americans healthcare, when they had never had it before, and gives many people the post and preventative care they need. We need to go further; however, when we think about things like the role processed food plays in a healthy society, and the need to support small farms and local growers; our environment and access to clean water, or social determinants like poverty, race, and generational oppression.
Today, we find ourselves at a significant crossroads. Stuck between the strong reforms of the ACA and the terrifying prospect of nothing at all, now is the time for us to think beyond plans and insurance, and build a vision for healthcare that moves the dial on the overall health and wellbeing of all Americans, including paid family leave, sick leave, and maternity leave. I’m proud to share with you my commitments and a few ideas that I will champion if elected to Congress.
Healthcare must be universal
Healthcare is a human right. No one should face bankruptcy or death because of lack of healthcare. All Americans -- regardless of their health or residential status -- should be able to access the healthcare they need, whenever they need it. We are a prosperous country with the ability to choose how and where we invest our wealth, and a universal healthcare system for all Americans should be priority number one. I am committed to supporting and championing legislation that establishes a universal healthcare system.
Healthcare must be patient-centered
The health of Americans must no longer be a commodity to be traded, bought, or sold for profit by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. We must promote medical and Medicaid home models to provide comprehensive care for body, mind, and spirit. To get here, in the short term we need to shore up the ACA (and not repeal it) with fixes like cost transparency, better subsidies, and a public option in the marketplace.
Patient-centered means removing barriers to low-cost prescription drugs and increasing access to alternative healing methods. The big pharma-FDA revolving door seems to drive profits to the pharmaceutical industry, so it’s no surprise that big pharma is one of the largest opponents to cannabis legalization. Cannabis should be legalized, regulated, and promoted as proven effective treatment for substance abuse disorders, HIV/AIDS & chronic illness, pain management, PTSD and other mental health issues. It is also the kind of revenue generator we need to help fund a universal healthcare system, a by-product of which would ease overburdened court systems and prisons.
Patient-centered also means self-determination over the decisions we make about our bodies and families. We must ensure full access to all reproductive health services, including abortion. We must also provide for our aging population, ensuring our parents and grandparents have the care they need. We must defend Medicare, expand Social Security, and provide tax credits for families who care for their elders and loved ones with disabilities.
Healthcare must be prevention-focused
Prevention is more than just annual exams. Our current healthcare system is acute in nature, treating injury and illness as they occur. When we consider prevention efforts to improve our health, we must consider the breadth of factors that may hurt our health -- the air we breathe and water we drink, highly processed food, poverty and traumatic experience, historic oppression, war and violence, to name a few. These determinants of health are a real threat to our ability to thrive and must be addressed with the same fervor and investment as disease. To get to here, we need more opportunities for education, starting in early childhood.
Let’s change the conversation about sexual health -- starting with comprehensive sex education that de-stigmatizes, promotes consent, and reflects the many genders, sexualities, and relationships that exist in the world. Sexual health is a critical factor for the health of our population, and shouldn’t come with fear or shame, but respect and acceptance. We all lead different lives, and we all have a place in our society.
Last, I will promote public health approaches to prevention; meaning, efforts that provide the maximum benefit for the most number of people. Public health is intersectional and thus takes into account a wide range of risk and protective factors in addressing population-based health problems. We need to move beyond just offering a bandage and work toward mitigating root causes.
Healthcare is a multi-layered problem. There is no silver bullet or plan yet proposed that solves all of the issues that we face as humans. Nevertheless, we have the tools and the resources to build something better for our future. We need a vision; because it will take generations before we find the right combination of promise, effort, and perseverance in order to truly become a healthy population.
I’m running for Congress because I am invested in the belief that we can create a future where our children and grandchildren thrive. We need more than a plan -- we need a vision for our nation’s health. I have one, and I invite you to join my campaign for Congress today by pledging your support for universal, patient-centered, and prevention-focused healthcare.