In a nation as wealthy as ours, an individual’s financial resources should not be a barrier to living a long, healthy life. Yet too often, Americans forgo essential medical treatment because they cannot afford it. Our for-profit healthcare system has turned health care into a privilege for those who can afford it, rather than the basic human right that it truly is.
Americans deserve a fair shot in all aspects of life. That means that your income, socioeconomic status, or employment status should not determine whether or not you can access quality health care. For that reason, I cosponsored the Medicare for All Act, which would guarantee health care as a human right. Specifically, this legislation would expand health coverage to all Americans for medically necessary care, including primary care, maternity care, hospital visits, and dental and vision care. Under this universal plan, medical devices, lab services, and prescription drugs would also be covered.
Passing the Medicare for All Act is not only the government’s moral obligation — it’s also fiscally responsible. Under our current system, the United States spends more on healthcare per person than any other advanced nation in the world, yet millions of Americans still are unable to access medical care. Today, nearly 10 percent of all Americans are uninsured and therefore unable to afford the care they need to live. Americans deserve a healthcare system in which they are not forced to choose between life-saving care or avoiding bankruptcy. Private insurance corporations have no right to determine which Americans live or die.
To guarantee the right to health care for all, we must prioritize equity. As a cofounder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, I have worked diligently to craft policy that invests in culturally competent care. Women, especially Black women, have unique health care needs that require special focus and attention. Medical care that takes these needs into account should be a necessity, not a luxury. For that reason, I’ve made it my mission to author legislation that advances health equity. My Healthy MOM Act, for instance, would create a special health coverage enrollment period for expectant mothers, ensure comprehensive coverage of maternity care for dependent children, and guarantee a year of continuous Medicaid eligibility for postpartum mothers. Our nation has a maternal health crisis, and Black and Indigenous women suffer at disproportionate rates. My legislation would address this crisis head-on by ensuring that underserved mothers receive the care they need.
My commitment to health equity extends beyond physical health. In 2019, I launched and chaired the Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. Our report found alarming increases in suicide rates among Black youth, in part due to racial disparities in access to essential mental health care. The report was a stark call to action for me. In direct response to the Taskforce’s findings, I authored the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act, which would invest in all aspects of our mental healthcare system. That means not just funding additional mental health research, but also creating stigma-shattering community outreach programs and directly addressing racial disparities in access to care by building a larger, culturally competent care workforce.
The fight to secure health care as a right is personal to me. When my doctor found a cancerous tumor on my lungs during a routine visit, I shared the fear that many Americans face. Fortunately, I had treatment options that saved my life. Millions of Americans don’t have those options. My lived experience is proof that disease has no regard for status, wealth, race, or sex. Illness does not discriminate, and neither should access to care.
Americans deserve to live healthy lives that are not jeopardized by partisan politics. Health is necessary to guarantee our nation’s promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am a living representation of the benefits of quality health coverage. It’s long past time we secured those benefits for all Americans.
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