The Great Medication Strike of 2017
Back in 1979, my older brother Luke advocated a novel solution to the Iranian hostage crisis. “We should all fly to Tehran. Planeloads and planeloads of us. Give them tens of thousands of hostages until they beg to let all of us go.” It was, to put it mildly, counter-intuitive. And kind of brilliant, when you think of it. He was an original thinker, my brother.
He died of AIDS in 1991. My own HIV progressed to full-blown AIDS in 1993, and I went on disability. I was evidently what they call “a slow progressor,” and by 1996 I was still alive and had accessed Social Security benefits, and most importantly of all, Medicare. After dealing with countless hassles with my private insurance, it was a godsend. It is a very efficient, well-run bureaucracy. When the “cocktails” came out, the Ryan White Healthcare act paid for my life-saving meds until Medicare Part D came along. These programs literally saved my life.
Returning to the job market in my 50s, during the Great Recession and with a large work gap in my resume, was not a formula for getting the kind of job that brings health benefits with it. I eventually returned to work, but as a freelancer, symptomatic of the “new normal” economy. I cobbled together an income doing work I love, but there are dry stretches between editing gigs and being able to stay on Medicare continues to save my life.
Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare is very savvy. In order not to galvanize seniors against it, changes exclude the over-55 demographic, who vote in large numbers. At 58, I am probably “safe.” I could creep into my retirement with other baby-boomers, slamming the door behind me. Sorry, Mr. Trump, but that is not okay with me. Some of us were raised with a conscience, by parents who fought against fascism in World War II. The “greatest generation” taught us a thing or two.
Tom Price, Obamacare’s biggest opponent in the House, is going to be named the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is one of the greatest obscenities of an administration that promises to be full of them. Millions of Trump voters, ironically, are most likely to lose the insurance the Affordable Healthcare Act brought them. I guess they will discover the hard way that karma’s a bitch.
I have been casting about for meaningful ways to effectively resist the disasters that are about to befall the country, and I have decided on this one. If a repeal of Obamacare and privatization of Medicare appear imminent, I am prepared to:
1) stop taking all of my AIDS medications;
2) stop refilling my prescriptions;
3) stop going to the doctor;
4) publicly document the descent of my health.
I am asking everyone on Medicare, regardless of their health challenges, to consider declaring they will go on a medication strike if Congress moves to gut it for anyone, period.
Imagine if ten of thousands of the disabled and the elderly joined me in this strike. Imagine the pressure of all of the doctors who weren’t getting seen, of all the pharmaceutical companies whose profits were being shaved. Most of all, imagine tens of thousands of those who voted for this despicable travesty named Donald Trump realizing that if they did not flood the offices of their Republican Congressman with phone calls and angry emails that their parents or brothers or sisters could actually die.
This is a very hard thing to ask, but meaningful resistance means the stakes have to be high and the risks very real. In the age of social media, enough people sharing that they are willing to go on strike if necessary could have an enormous effect. And it can’t just come from those people who risk losing their insurance, it has to come from people who don’t.
Boomers like me can’t just sit back and let the millennials do the hard work. After all, they are going to suffer the consequences of the world we have left them, in which fascism and global temperatures and intolerance are all on the rise. Those of us who voted and campaigned for Sanders or Clinton did something, but it wasn’t enough. And now we can’t just throw up our hands and wait for the next election. We need to show the people who put Trump into the White House that their actions were not some abstract protest, but have real consequences that could shorten the lives of people they love.
Hopefully we will never have to carry out the threat, but in the past month, I have gotten very clear on the person I want to be, and I believe many of you have as well. I want to be like the RAF pilots who saved England during the Battle of Britain, like the neighbors of my mother who hid Jews in France during the war, like the Civil Rights protesters who crossed that bridge in Selma in 1963 even as the batons came crashing down on them. Most importantly, I don’t want to be the German who plugged his ears on Kristallnacht.
Frankly, I would rather die of AIDS at 60 than of anything else at 85, if living those extra years meant I had to look back on a life where, when it counted, I was not willing to die for what I believed in.
This is a new idea, and a radical one. Please think about it, at least. If enough of you express interest in joining me, I will take the next steps to publicize it as a large-scale effort. So if you support this idea, please repost, retweet, respond.