Medicare For All means more than you think and is a pragmatic answer to how to effectively transform public safety in this country
The call to “Defund the Police” is a righteous one, but one that commentators and spectators have 1) a hard time understanding and 2) a hard time envisioning how to do it exactly. In reality, the police are an inexpensive band-aid solution to a truly expensive problem: systemic poverty. Defunding a hundred million dollars from the police will not fill the tens-of-billion-dollar challenge of the social ills that underlie criminal activity.
In this brief article, I would like to propose that the policy that effectively enables alternative and restorative responses and prevention of crime is the policy for a single payer heath system, the most progressive version of with is called Medicare For All.
In order to understand how Medicare For All works to effectively defund the police, one has to first begin to see that what we now call major policing issues are actually personal and public health issues.
Mental Health Emergencies
Police are called in to deal with mental health emergencies. Many police and defund-police advocates have pointed to this as an excellent first place to transform public safety. However, the question is who will pay for the far more expensive medical and long term case management of underprivileged people who are having mental health emergency?
Under a Medicare For All system, the federal government will pay local mental health professionals to do the short term emergency AND the long-term healthcare and case management of all Americans. Moreover, this constant and universal financial support for mental health treatment will incentivize creating community-based mental healthcare networks that prevent mental health emergencies from happening as frequently in the first place. Preventing these emergencies is much cheaper than responding to them with police and EMTs.
Drug Addiction and Drug Overdoses
Police are called to deal with the fallout of drug addiction and drug overdoses, two issues that are clearly medical problems. Booking drug addicts and having them sweat it out in a jail cell is much cheaper than providing real and comprehensive treatment for the addiction. Who would pay for this far more expensive response to drug addiction and overdose? The answer is no one, unless we establish some sort of single payer system such as Medicare For All.
Under Medicare For All, doctors and nurses can bill the federal government to provide treatment for drug overdoses and addictions. This means that everyone, no matter what their background, can get comprehensive treatment for their substance addictions. Moreover, paying for this treatment incentivizes making evidence-based policy changes to reduce drug addiction and overdoses.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published an article that collected various evidence-based research papers suggesting strongly that gun violence ought to be seen as a major public health issue rather than a major criminal issue. The same way smoking or head injuries in football are public health issues.
Imagine today that your son is shot and you don’t have health insurance? He is rushed to the ER, they operate and save his life. Who pays the emergency room and surgery and subsequent medical bills? The family of the person shot. What kind of burden must that be for them financially and emotionally when their child has already been reduced so by a gun already. How can this be the reality we live in?
Under Medicare For All, the consequences of gun violence — people being shot by guns — becomes a cost for the federal government, rather than for the individuals who are shot. That means that, first of all, everyone receives treatment for gun violence, with no bill afterwards. So if your son is shot by a gun, your family is not thrown into bankruptcy to boot. Second of all, it means that there becomes a multi-tens-of-million dollar incentive for the federal government to create common sense gun regulations to reduce gun violence.
Economic Development of All People
You and your family being healthy are prerequisites to you and your family going to school, starting a career, and building wealth. I am a university professor, and there is nothing more disruptive for any of my students’ progress education as a medical issue — their own or one of a family member. The priveledged students in my classes might have sick uncles or parents, but they are able to stay the course at school with only the stress of the anxiety and fear that an ill family member brings. The less priviledged students, often black or brown, that same sick family member — without insurance — becomes a life-changing crisis. Since they are one of the college-going members of their family, they are often the one with the most resources to help the family during this crisis. It leads to falling behind in class, lower grades, and leads to or contributes to dropouts.
That same illness of their family member might lead to their family losing their home, their car, their job, being evicted, any of which cause further downward spiral of mental and physical health problems with further cost in medical bills or lost opportunity.
With Medicare For All, every single person receives treatment for medical issues with no bill at the end. Not even a copay. This means all of my students, if they fall ill or if one of their family members falls ill, they can continue with their schooling and have a much higher chance of success.
Healthcare is the first step to all people preserving and building their wealth and becoming powerful and free members of society. Healthcare is the first step towards a justice and prosperous society.
How to Help
So how can you help get Medicare For All passed? Here’s a list:
- Donations — Support organizations with money that endorse Medicare For All — here’s a list. Withdraw support from organizations that do not explicitly support Medicare For All.
- Promote Medicare For All — Do what you can using placards, flyers, sharing periodically on social media. Explain to your family and friends why you support M4A and see it as a root solution to police brutality.
- Volunteering — volunteer for politicians that support Medicare For All. Withdraw support from politicians who will not explicitly endorse Medicare For All.
- Voting — Vote for politicians in PRIMARY ELECTIONS and GENERAL ELECTIONS who support Medicare For All. These are usually “Progressive Democrats”or “Justice Democrats” like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and many others. Here’s a list of 2020 Justice Democrat Candidates