2021-03-07 Mission Hospital Fails OpEd

Mission Hospital fails Asheville’s freelancers, artists and families on Medicare For All

Asheville Citizen Times OpEd

Jenny Andry and Andrew Paul Guest columnists 

Mission Hospital and its associated clinics are where most of us in Asheville go when we’re sick, injured, or need preventative care. And you’d think that Mission would be happy if more of us would enter their doors and seek their services when we need medical help.

So why is Mission giving support to a big money lobbying group that fights tooth and nail against expanding the ability to get medical assistance to more people?

Mission’s parent company, HCA, is a member of a group called the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, or PAHCF. This coalition of big business has one objective: to prevent Medicare For All from becoming a reality. The sick truth is that Mission, HCA, and PAHCF don’t want you to be able to get well. They would rather that you not be able to afford health care.

Medicare For All (M4A) is a vision for healthcare that will put the United States on par with the rest of the industrialized world, instead of having some of the worst health outcomes of any comparable nations. M4A would not put Mission, or any other hospital, clinic, or independent physician or special-ist, out of business. Medicare For All only eliminates the middleman, the insurance company. Under M4A, Mission would likely see an increase in patients; anyone could go to Mission Hospital or its associated clinics.

We say “anyone” because Medicare For All would eliminate the barriers to seeking care that still affect countless Americans. Even among those that hold insurance, millions are underinsured, which means that deductibles and outof- pocket costs are too high to use whatever policy they have.

M4A would eliminate premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and bills, for all necessary medical and preventative care, and that would include dental, mental, vision, and reproductive health, too. No one would be too poor to get help, and no one would go into poverty because of illness – unlike today, where medical bills are the prime cause for bankruptcy filings.

We can only speculate as to why Mission Hospital (HCA) has decided to spend money that it earns from treating our city’s residents by handing it over to a group dedicated to keeping our community unwell. One reason that Mission and HCA oppose Medicare For All might be that under a “single-payer system,” HCA would no longer be able to pit insurance companies against one another. This is one of the reasons that costs for care are so high in this country. If the government becomes the lone payer for most health services, it will be a powerful check against the greed of hospital CEOs as well as drug companies and medical supply manufacturers.

Another reason why corporations like HCA are opposed to M4A is that under universal healthcare, workers will no longer have to rely on their jobs for insurance, and that means they might be more willing to leave jobs that otherwise exploit them. In short, M4A will empower workers, and big corporations are always opposed to this. That’s why the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future attracts such big money from across the country.

After all, it’s not a coincidence that Mission’s nurses have formed a union with National Nurses United, a union that will empower them in their workplace, and that National Nurses United is one of the loudest voices fighting for M4A.

In Asheville, we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. Estimates suggest that as many as one fifth of our residents lost a job last year, and that means we lost our health coverage too. At the same time, this town has long relied on the labor of a wide range of gig workers, artists, drivers, musicians, bartenders, and restaurant workers who were never offered employer-based coverage in the first place, and are often shut out of the plans offered by the Affordable Care Act marketplace because the plans are too expensive and the deductibles too high. Asheville’s mayor, Esther Mannheimer, declared the city’s support for Medicare For All in 2019. That means that HCA and Mission Hospital, one of the city’s largest employers, is deliberately opposing the city and its people by contributing to a corporate lobbying group that knowingly spreads misinformation and sows fears about single payer healthcare.

As a community, we need to stand up against such maliciousness.

The truth is that not only will Medicare For All save money, as the recent Congressional Budget Office report has shown, but it is also popular. Even Fox News reported that most Americans would prefer a government-run system. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for a program to be popular.

In the face of corporate opposition, we need an organized movement. Organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America and National Nurses United understand the strategy behind turning the popular preferences of individuals into coordinated campaigns. If you believe that all of Asheville’s residents deserve health as a human right, consider joining the fight for Medicare For All, and join us to demand that HCA cut all ties with PAHCF.

Jenny Andry and Andrew Paul are cochairs of the Asheville chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America