I am a 42-year-old, hard-working single mama with a daughter who is 13. I agree with Bernie Sanders’s stances on many issues. However, the big carrot for me is his call for establishing a universal single payer healthcare system like the ones that exist in almost every other industrialized nation on Earth.
Under the Affordable Care Act, I am mandated to use the plans offered by the organization where I work as an Internet content and marketing specialist. Even if I wanted to use the health insurance exchanges created by ACA, I cannot. Of the plans offered by my employer, I chose the “High” plan. I did this so I could avoid multi-thousand dollar deductibles. If I get into a traumatic accident, I will be okay. But to fundamentally change my health, under the advisement of a doctor, I’m on my own.
This incomplete coverage still comes at a high price.
Every two weeks I lose 22 percent of my pre-tax earnings to pay for health insurance. This is on top of the nearly quarter of my income that goes to standard-tax withholdings and another 10 percent of my income that is garnished to pay the fees on my ever-increasing student loan debt I incurred so that I would have a better chance at a good job. Altogether, taxes, health care and student loan fees consume 54 percent of my income.
A Different Way
The Sanders single payer plan calls for a new payroll tax of 2.2 percent on workers and 6.2 percent on employers to guarantee free universal coverage for everyone. Hillary Clinton has vowed a Medicare For All single-payer system will “never, ever come to pass” and uses Republican talking points to deride the Sanders plan, noting that a worker making $50,000 a year would have to cough up $1,100 in new taxes. That’s true enough. However, what do you call the 22 percent of my monthly income that is currently siphoned away each month by my private health insurance provider? And let’s not forget that an unseemly amount of that money goes to bureaucratic paper pushing, marketing and advertising, shareholder dividends and the multi-million dollar salaries of top executives.
Health insurance companies exist to do only one thing, and that is to extract profit from everyone who comes into contact with a clinic, a hospital, a doctor, or even looks at a pharmacy. In my case, I currently owe an additional $500 for a co-pay that I recently incurred after spraining my ankle and going to the emergency room of a Brooklyn hospital that I have used for years only to later learn that it is no longer “in network.” I have also refrained from getting treatment for a long-time herniated disk condition because the $40 monthly co-pay would stretch my finances further than I can afford.
The only hope I have for stopping the economic abuse I endure every month is if Sanders is elected and single payer healthcare becomes the law of the land. And what a difference it would make.
If I did not have to pay 22 percent of my monthly income for health insurance, I would be able to afford to have a full complement of groceries in the house all of the time, and not just the two weeks that my daughter is with me every month. The rest of the time I live on a steady diet of coffee, eggs, peanut butter, granola bars, apples and cheap whiskey.
If I did not have to pay 22 percent of my monthly income for health insurance, I could get the braces that my kid needs. I could visit my family members who live out of state. I could have free time to help out with my daughter’s schooI. I could do a lot of things that are currently beyond my ability to imagine.
I am not unique. There are millions of other working parents coping with onerous healthcare costs and many others who have no health insurance at all. When we insist on a fair, humane health care system that we all pay into and all benefit from, we’re not being misguided idealists. We’re speaking from the reality of our own lived experience.
The Indypendent and The Occupied Wall Street Journal editorial group are teaming up to produce a 500,000-copy special edition that will be distributed in advance of the April 19 New York primary. It will feature voices from the grassroots like the one in this article. But we can only do this with your help. Please give to our crowdfunding campaign today!