Dr. Miah: Patients Suffer Without Universal, Equitable Access

Listen to Dr. Rohima Miah's testimony as a practicing psychiatrist on the benefits of Improved and Expanded Medicare for All and how it will help address the inequities in our current system.

Why do we need Expanded and Improved Medicare for All now?

The US health care system is the most expensive in the world and is failing its patients and our country.

Despite the cost, the US has some of the worst health outcomes (life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality) of any industrialized nation in the world. - Currently, eligibility for insurance coverage will be taken away if one is unable to pay premiums due to illness, disability or unemployment.

Even under the Affordable Care Act, nearly 30 million are uninsured and 44 million are underinsured, meaning that while they have health insurance, their high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs impede their getting the care they need.

Core pillars of the NC Medicare for All Coalition

We recognize that Expanded and Improved Medicare for All is needed to achieve equitable health care access for all residents of the US.

We will support strategic and coordinated actions across organizations within our state to achieve this policy change at the federal level.

We recognize that Expanded and Improved Medicare for All is a critical step towards achieving equity and justice throughout all areas of our society, addressing the long standing discriminatory systems that create less access for African American, Latinx and other communities of color, LGBTQ peoples, and those with low income.

How do I join? 

Send an email to ncm4a.info@gmail.com to be added to the email list and receive information about our next meeting.

Visit www.ncm4a.org/form and fill out a brief survey to join a working group. We hope you'll join us in our campaign to achieve universal health care for all!


Megan: Our Current System Fails Patients, Including Children

As a pediatric nurse in an ambulatory setting, I spend much of my time fighting to help my patients to get insurance coverage for the medications, medical equipment, supplies, and therapies that they need. I have learned to submit prior authorizations, requests for gap exceptions, and appeals for the denial of covered services. It sickens me how difficult it is for parents to get their children the care they need. My clinic is located in an affluent area, yet so many families struggle because they are uninsured or underinsured.

I'm tired of watching our health care system fail my patients and loved ones. In 2010, when I was treated for a medical emergency while studying abroad in Spain, I first encountered universal healthcare. I was treated without delay, at no cost. In 2011, I began working towards becoming a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Through my coursework for this international certification, I became aware that the health care systems of many other industrialized nations support the health and well-being of their citizens so much better than the health care system of the United States.

Per capita health care costs are also much lower in these other countries, while the high cost of care in our country drives many families to start Go-Fund-Me campaigns in an effort to finance care, or simply not get the needed care. When my daughter was born in 2015, I worked part-time and was insured by my husband's employee sponsored medical plan, but the premium doubled in 2016, so we purchased insurance for my daughter and me through the health insurance marketplace. We were only able to afford those premiums for a few months, so I returned to work full-time the following year.


I was introduced to the idea of Medicare for All in 2016, around the same time I realized that the health care coverage I had thanks to Obama's Affordable Care Act wasn't serving my family well enough. Since 2016, the voices of organizations that have long called for universal health care have amplified, and the inadequacies of our current health care system have been been brought to light by the COVID-19 pandemic. I became active in National Nurses United's public facing campaign for Medicare for All this summer, and I led legislative visits with US House Candidate Cynthia Wallace and U.S. Representative Dan Bishop's office to discuss the need for Medicare for All.


I will continue to fight for health care justice - for my family, my patients, and for all people.


Megan: A Cancer Diagnosis Shouldn't Mean Financial Strain

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My mom became our family's main breadwinner and insurance carrier in 2001. Two years ago this summer, my mom was diagnosed with a recurrence of the breast cancer she originally developed when I was four years old. In 1992, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy. After about five years cancer-free, her health insurance stopped covering visits to the oncologist, and her primary physician stopped ordering routine imaging a few years later.

When my mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer in 2018, my family was devastated. My mom has a huge tumor in her chest, and the cancer is too advanced for radiation or surgical removal. Oral chemotherapy was prescribed to hopefully slow the spread of the cancer and prolong her life a few years. My parents felt immense grief and anger at the loss of the retirement that they had dreamed of and their hopes for the future.
 
In the wake of the diagnosis, my family operated in crisis mode for about one year as we learned to navigate the cancer journey alongside my mom. That year was a total blur and mess of emotions, and now the cancer experience has become our new normal. What has been more painful for me than the idea of losing my mother and witnessing my father's grief has been witnessing the injustice and cruelty of our nation's health care system. For months after my mom's diagnosis, nearly every surface in my parents' kitchen, dining room, and living room was covered with medical bills and financial documents. My mom's health insurance was tied to her employment and she was still a few years away from qualifying for Medicare.

When working full-time became too much, she went on disability, and now that disability has run out, she pays a high monthly premium for Cobra coverage. My mom's biggest concern at this point is that when she turns 65 next spring and applies for Medicare, her cancer treatment costs may not be covered if the provision in Obamacare that requires insurance companies to provide coverage for preexisting medical conditions is repealed. Her oral chemotherapy costs $12,0000 per month.

Watching my parents struggle with anxiety over finances, health care costs, insurance coverage, and fear of bankruptcy as my mother fights for her life against cancer has motivated me to join the fight to end the inhumane and unaffordable system of health care in the United States. In the midst of sadness, I am learning from my mother what bravery and strength look like, and how to keep on living with purpose in the midst of pain and sorrow.

Madi: HS Senior Draws on Personal Experience in Fight to Expand Mental Health Services

Three years ago, I was a high school freshman and I was holding on to this world for dear life, because parts of me didn't want one anymore. A year later I realized that I need some help and two years later I came to terms with myself to accept and welcome the help into my life. 

The journey of accepting that you need help, welcoming that in your life, and allowing yourself to grow for the good of your wellbeing is definitely not easy by any means. When I decided I wanted to help myself, I also decided that I wanted to help others as well. I wanted to help others who have experienced such situations similar to mine.

I started small by advocating in my school for better mental health resources for students and staff such as: yoga, a therapy dog, lessons on how to better manage our mental health, mindfulness classes, and meditations. I advocated for the need for less stress on students when it came to classes and better accommodations within the school to help those who need access to mental health flexibilities such as: late work, more time on exams, and mental health days.

Once I got myself started in school, I began advocating throughout my county. I joined my county's Human Rights Student Leadership Council on behalf of my school and community with the goal to advocate for better mental health equality and equity in the school system and the community. In addition, I spoke at the Human Rights Commissions Board meeting to continue to carry out that goal.

I decided to join the Poor People's Campaign of North Carolina while focusing on health equality and equity because of how I have seen those who are economically challenged oftentimes not be able to afford the health care they need. For instance, many teens in our community struggle with underlying mental health conditions, but treatment for these conditions are expensive and oftentimes most families can not afford the necessary and appropriate treatments.

After seeing too many teens suffer, and sometimes even take their own life, I decided that I must be an advocate for not only mental health and disabilities, but also for health care equality, equity, and rights. Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. It should be available to all, not just those who have the economic privilege to have it available to them.

I have continued my work in advocacy through an instagram and a blog with a focus on mental health and disability rights, equality, and equity.(@madi.paige.graham)


Amelia: Surviving-and thriving-after life-changing surgery, she faces being uninsured on her 26th birthday.

As I navigate adulthood, I find many opportunities for celebration. Graduating college, surviving a pandemic and second economic collapse, growing my first garden, moving in with my partner, pushing through therapy, and even baking the perfect loaf of bread. But one thing I’ll always be proud of myself for is simply making it this far. There were times when I couldn’t imagine what 

it would be like to take a walk around the neighborhood, to go on an incident-free trip to the beach, to make it through a full night’s sleep, to go to school without pain and embarrassment, to get close enough to someone to fall in love. 

I’ve lived with IBD all my life, having been misdiagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age five and enduring a subsequent decade of invasive tests, exploratory procedures, medical neglect and failed treatments. My adolescence was spent in alienation, anger and depression with low mobility, excruciating pain and lots of secrets to keep. My last year of middle school, I was finally correctly diagnosed with a similar form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease―Crohn’sa chronic autoimmune disease, considered rare and affecting less than 200,000 Americans a year. 

By the time I was a freshman in high school, my doctor told me something I never expected to hear, that he was out of ideas. I had tried every steroid, immunosuppressant and biologic, some only available to adults at the time. I was even forced to try alternative medicine: magnetic therapy, acupuncture, herbs, oils, and restrictive diets, again to no success. I was growing weaker, had dropped to 70lbs, and was in so much constant pain I couldn’t stand up straight. I was running out of time. I was left with a last resort optionto have a life-altering surgery and use a permanent Ileostomy. 

The change was very difficult to grapple with at 15, but now, 10 years, three surgeries and no colon later, I am so grateful to have the quality of life I always dreamed of as a child. I immediately reached surgical remission lasting 6 years. As is typical of Crohn’s Disease’s unpredictable nature, I came out of remission during college. I experienced a series of flares, resulting in multiple trips to the E.R., intestinal strictures, using a wheelchair for a few months, and having more intestinal surgery. Being an adult on my own, I finally understood the financial burden of being sick.

The cost of hospital stays, operations and doctors visits was far more than I could afford, even with insurance. I went into medical debt for years before being able to pay it all down. I am now on a medication that has put me back into remission, and I’m not suffering from the constant stress and fear of getting through the day. Instead, I worry about being kicked off my parents’ health insurance 4 months from now and no longer being able to afford doctors visits, preventative procedures, ostomy supplies, or even the infusion therapy keeping me in remission. I worry about another flare up and the cost of hospitalizations and medicine. I worry that I’ll be forced to sacrifice my health and safety.

When you’re fighting for your future, paying for healthcare should not be a part of the stress. It’s hard enough just being sick. Support Medicare for All. Make sure you are registered to vote. Request your ballot as soon as possible and then immediately send it back, or better yet, deliver it in person. Make your voice heard and then hold your representatives accountable so we can guarantee healthcare for those of us who can not wait.

Click to share Amelia's story on Facebook.

Youtube video: https://youtu.be/QmOHNTHVtCI

 



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