WASHINGTON, March 29, 2022 – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), a member of the House Oversight Committee, participated in the committee’s hearing on universal healthcare coverage, a historic moment and momentum for the Medicare For All Movement.
In the hearing, Rep. Pressley highlighted Medicare For All as a disability justice issue and questioned Ady Barkan, founder of Be A Hero and leading advocate for Medicare for All, about how tying health coverage to employment perpetuates deep inequities for people with disabilities.
A full transcript of her exchange with Mr. Barkan is available below and the full video is available here.
Transcript: Rep. Pressley Participates in Historic Hearing on Medicare for All
House Committee on Oversight and Reform
REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you, Madam Chair. And thank you to all the witnesses who have shared their testimony today.
I do want to just take a moment to offer special recognition for something that, at least to my knowledge, is the first time in three years that it has occurred while I’ve been a member of Congress, and I would like to acknowledge our ASL interpreters. Thank you for joining us today.
Mr. Barkan, my forever local progress brother and my sibling in the work of healthcare justice, I appreciate you so very much and Rachel and your beautiful children Carl and Willow for all that you give to the movement.
Like Leslie Templeton from my district, who testified on the previous panel of patients, you have highlighted how universal coverage and Medicare for All specifically is a healthcare justice issue and a disability justice issue.
The life and death consequences of our current health care system have been made tragically clear over the course of this pandemic. And it was the disability community in fact, that sounded alarms early on, warning that this crisis would be a mass disabling event.
With millions now suffering with the impacts of Long COVID, it is clear that they were right.
There is simply no way we can return to the pre-COVID status quo normal because that normal was fundamentally unjust to begin with.
Across the United States, folks with disabilities and chronic conditions, who are disproportionately people of color, are more likely to be uninsured and underinsured, creating a barrier to critical care.
This in part is a result of how our current health care system frequently ties one’s healthcare coverage to their employment status.
For many disabled people in particular, maintaining a full-time job with health insurance may not be feasible. And even if you have insurance, sky high co-pays and out of pocket costs can keep people with disabilities in perpetual poverty.
And Mr. Barkan, how does a system that ties health coverage to employment perpetuate deep inequities for people with disabilities? And how would Medicare for All help to address this?
ADY BARKAN: As of August 2020, 1 in 5 workers with disabilities lost employment during the pandemic, which does not include the 1.2 million newly disabled adults the coronavirus has created.
For many in the United States, health insurance is tied to employment. If you change or lose your job, you’re likely to lose your health insurance or have to start over again and build a new team of providers that exists in network. Patients who have medically complex conditions rely on continuity in their medical teams to monitor their health.
The disruptions that result from our patchwork system not only inconvenience patients, but endangers those of us who most need uninterrupted, high-quality care. And as you heard from the patient panel this morning, critical health needs can make it difficult or impossible to work, leaving the people who need care the most to either navigate being uninsured or do often work in jobs that are inaccessible or damaging to their health.
Additionally, despite the ability to earn interest in working, disabled people are often employed at much lower rates than people without disabilities, in part because of discrimination.
Barriers like ableism in hiring, inaccessible workplaces, and pay discrimination all contribute to the lower rates of employment for disabled people. By disconnecting health care from employment, disabled people who are already burdened by ableism and discrimination would not have to worry for their health care at the same time.
REP. PRESSLEY: Thank you so much, Mr. Barkan. Congress must stop enabling a predatory health insurance system, one that repeatedly fails our most vulnerable communities. Today in America if you’re poor, Black, brown, Indigenous or disabled, your very ability to live, to survive, is jeopardized by a broken healthcare system that puts profit over people.
We must stop allowing the greed of insurance companies to outweigh the health of our constituents, of our community members.
We must ensure that every person has access to quality care when they need it and where they need it.
Babies with heart conditions ending up with parents in bankruptcy is not healthcare justice.
A grandmother working the night shift so she can scrape together cash for insulin is not healthcare justice.
These are moral failures and policy choices, violent ones.
In fact, Coretta Scott King reminded us that “ignoring medical need is violence. Contempt for poverty is violence.”
Healthcare is a human right, and we need Medicare for all.
Thank you. And I yield back.
ADY BARKAN STAFF: Excuse me, I’m sorry, Congresswoman Pressley, but Ady, Mr. Barkan was going to add a little more.
REP. PRESSLEY: Oh, yes.
ADY BARKAN: One in four Americans live with a disability and this number is growing exponentially due to those who have become recently disabled because of the long term effects of the coronavirus.
Only a single payer system would possess the scale and resources necessary to guarantee care for all, detached from employment.
As one example, Medicare for All covers home and community based services for all who need it.
The Federal Government currently requires states to fund nursing home care for everyone eligible.
This is not the case with regards to home and community based services. And because states manage their own home care programs through Medicaid, eligibility requirements and services available vary widely across states.
It’s by default and design that so many Americans who require care are forced into unsafe institutions like nursing homes.
Patients overwhelmingly favor the option to receive care at home. But these services are prohibitively expensive and therefore inaccessible to most.
The government would actually save money covering the cost of home and community based services instead of covering nursing homes.
Under a single payer system like Medicare for All, home and community based services would be prioritized over institutional care giving patients the safe and dignified care they prefer and deserve.