NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, May 11th, 2018

WA-08 hopeful Jason Rittereiser: How I got to single payer healthcare

Edi­tor’s Note: Jason Rit­tereis­er is a Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date for Con­gress in Wash­ing­ton’s 8th Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, vying to suc­ceed retir­ing Repub­li­can Dave Reichert as a mem­ber of Wash­ing­ton’s del­e­ga­tion to the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. In this guest post, he explains why he believes that our coun­try must have uni­ver­sal, sin­gle-pay­er health coverage. 

I believe that access to health­care in Amer­i­ca is a basic human right.

In pol­i­tics, this is still a mat­ter of debate. But to many Amer­i­cans, this isn’t an abstract ques­tion: it’s a ques­tion of life or death for mil­lions of fam­i­lies with­out access to afford­able health insur­ance. Watch­ing a close friend face this very ques­tion was what con­vinced me we must enact a sin­gle-pay­er system.

A few months before my col­lege room­mate was to mar­ry the love of his life, I got a call from Sam expect­ing to talk about wed­ding plans.

When I answered, I knew some­thing was wrong.

“I need to tell you some­thing,” he said, and then because there is no good way to break this news, he just said it: “I have a brain tumor, and they think it’s cancer.”

I was at work as a deputy pros­e­cu­tor for King Coun­ty. A thou­sand things raced through my head. I told Sam that every­thing was going to be fine, even though I didn’t know that, and that I would take care of what­ev­er he needed.

I knew he would need help han­dling many of his per­son­al affairs going for­ward, so when I hung up the phone, I began to make a list.

The first thing I wrote down was health insur­ance — with a big ques­tion mark.

Luck­i­ly, Sam had health insur­ance through his job. If Sam didn’t have health insur­ance or access to qual­i­ty health­care, his out­come would have been trag­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent. We were able to make some calls and add addi­tion­al health cov­er­age to mit­i­gate costs, found a neu­ro­sur­geon who spe­cial­izes in Sam’s con­di­tion, and after an incred­i­ble and deter­mined recov­ery, Sam is as healthy as ever.

Not every­one is as lucky. Our health­care sys­tem has failed in pro­vid­ing this most basic human right to all. Too often access to care depends on your abil­i­ty to pay. Even after pass­ing the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act, our frac­tured health insur­ance sys­tem still puts access to care out of reach, often for those who need it most.

My wife Michelle has seen the fail­ures of our health­care sys­tem play out first­hand as a health­care provider. With a Mas­ters in Clin­i­cal Nutri­tion and a Cer­ti­fied Dia­betes Edu­ca­tor, she start­ed her career in com­mu­ni­ty health, treat­ing many patients who can’t afford health insur­ance. Her patients often required cost­ly treat­ment because they did not have access to pre­ven­ta­tive care.

Con­se­quent­ly, they had minor con­di­tions snow­ball into major health prob­lems. These peo­ple had a far worse expe­ri­ence nav­i­gat­ing our health­care sys­tem than Sam did, for the sole rea­son that they just didn’t make enough money.

I believe that’s wrong.

We need a health­care sys­tem that unites us in our core belief that no one should go broke because they get sick, and no one should die because they can’t afford care.

Every day, we make a choice in Amer­i­ca to pro­vide health­care in the least effi­cient and most cost­ly way pos­si­ble sim­ply because our elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives have politi­cized health­care. We’re already pay­ing for every­one to receive care by man­dat­ing that hos­pi­tals treat every patient regard­less of their abil­i­ty to pay.

This floods our ERs, inflates the cost of care for every­one who can pay, and ruins the cred­it of any­one who can’t. To fix health­care, we must address access and costs and the most effi­cient and effec­tive way to do that is a sin­gle-pay­er system.

Con­trary to the polit­i­cal nar­ra­tive I hear from my right wing friends, pro­vid­ing health­care for every­body is not some­thing to fear.

Get­ting sick and not hav­ing the care you need is, and so is hav­ing to decide between pay­ing a med­ical bill or your rent.

Today, our neigh­bors rely on crowd­fund­ing rather than health insur­ance to make ends meet if they get sick.

GoFundMe even adver­tis­es its plat­form as “#1 for Health Insur­ance Fundrais­ing.” On that site alone, there are 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple in Amer­i­ca rais­ing mon­ey from friends to pay for can­cer treat­ments, 54,000 peo­ple wait­ing on dona­tions in order to pay for trans­plant surgery, and 32,000 ask­ing for mon­ey so they can treat their dia­betes. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In the wealth­i­est nation in the world, we have more than enough resources to guar­an­tee qual­i­ty and afford­able health­care for every per­son in America.

It’s time we invest on the front end of our health­care sys­tem. No one should be denied access to qual­i­ty and afford­able health­care because of how much mon­ey you make, where you work, or where you live.

In Amer­i­ca we have a rich his­to­ry of solv­ing the world’s most com­plex prob­lems, but we have fall­en behind on health­care. I refuse to accept a sys­tem that does not pro­vide every­one the same life-sav­ing care that my friend Sam received.

It’s time we fin­ish the job, enact a sin­gle-pay­er sys­tem, and guar­an­tee health­care to every­body in this coun­try, and it’s time for a new gen­er­a­tion to lead the way.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you Jason for this excel­lent post. This is exact­ly where Amer­i­cans need to be as the cost of health care sky­rock­ets, right along with the costs of pre­scrip­tion drugs. As of this morn­ing, the WH announced a new pol­i­cy on pre­scrip­tion drugs. How­ev­er, it is my belief his announce­ment will be a big noth­ing burg­er, to quote Ali Velchi, and as a result of his new pol­i­cy, the drug prices will sky­rock­et even further.

    # by Sandra Knauft :: May 11th, 2018 at 1:03 PM
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