My Turn: Medicare for All would honor our health care workers

For the Monitor
Published: 7/15/2020 6:00:20 AM

New COVID-19 infections and deaths have risen alarmingly in many states. Fortunately, today in New Hampshire we are holding down both. That success is due to health care workers and to the concerted effort by individuals across the state to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and wash hands.

It is too early for a victory lap, and we must continue effective science-based practices. Containing the virus requires the continuation of proven practices across the state. We are all in it together.

Everyone applauds the professional dedication of frontline health care workers. What may go unrecognized is that those workers – from doctors, nurses, paramedics, and long-term care staff to assistants, cooks, and cleaners – are all risking their health and their lives to care for patients during the pandemic.

How can we honor those many workers in a lasting way that would make a difference?

Medicare for All would do just that. Everybody would have health coverage, regardless of age, income, or employment. Everyone would have the chance to improve health outcomes and lessen the chronic conditions that can increase risk of illness or death from COVID-19.

Medicare for All would speak to the needs of about 275,000 health workers with high-risk conditions who are uninsured, including 11% of those with diabetes, and 21% of those with chronic lung disease.

Medicare for All would speak to the needs of predominantly low-wage nursing home staff who work with a most vulnerable population. Nationally, more than 600,000 health workers have family incomes below the federal poverty line.

In fact, Medicare for All would speak to the needs of all minimum-wage workers in New Hampshire who cannot afford health insurance.

Today’s fragmented and profit-driven health system does not serve those on the front line fighting the COVID-19 virus. Nor does it serve anyone who does not have adequate health insurance or any at all.

A majority of New Hampshire doctors, I believe, agree with my diagnosis and my proposed remedy. The time is now for Medicare for All.

(Kent Hackmann lives in Andover.)


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