The Bernie Sanders’ Campaign held a “Medicare For All” Town Hall Dec. 8 at the main branch of the Las Vegas Public Library on E. Flamingo Road. It was moderated by Keenan Korth, Nevada political director of the Bernie Sanders’ Campaign.
Speakers for the afternoon event included: Michael Lighty, widely regarded as the father of “Medicare For All” and Healthcare Constituency director for the Sanders’ campaign; Brianna Westbrook, trans-activist and former congressional candidate from Arizona; and Amy Vilela, Nevada surrogate for the Sanders campaign and former Nevada Congressional candidate.
Vilela began by sharing the story surrounding the senseless death of her 22-year-old daughter, a nursing student, from a problem that began as swelling in her right leg. Due to her lack of insurance coverage, she was unable to secure medical treatment and died in her mother’s arms – a painful and preventable death.
Second to be introduced was Westbrook who shared her story about growing up in a home riddled with substance abuse that caused her to move out at age 15. She spoke about seeking medical treatment to transition (M-T-F) and the difficulties securing treatment from competent doctors in Arizona. The inadequate treatment received, along with the associated problems, moved her to run for Congress in the conservative, “Red,” Eighth District of Arizona. In that election she took almost 40 percent of the vote, spending very little money against a well-funded incumbent.
Finally, Lighty covered the history of private health care from World War II forward. He said that people were offered health care in exchange for not striking for higher wages. So began employer provided or subsidized health care in America.
He discussed healthcare and the effect of the AIDS epidemic on the LGBTQIA+ and the healthcare community, including the effects Ronald Reagan had on its treatment.
He pointed out that AIDS took nearly 80,000 U.S. lives in the first three years. Even with the treatments that have rendered AIDS a chronic rather than a fatal health problem, we have still lost over 300,000 more due to “targeted” neglect from inadequate or nonexistent health care.
Lighty said that guaranteeing health care to everyone through “Medicare For All” we would be improving the quality of many people’s lives, significantly improve our health outcomes and actually save the system the funds necessary to pay for that very benefit, by insuring the timely and cost effective delivery of health care to all. He made the point that healthcare, or the lack thereof, is a form of oppression.
The average annual cost for health care coverage for a family of four, that is NOT considered catastrophic care in Nevada, is roughly $8,000 per year, which comes to 14 percent of the average pretax income for that family of four.
This is a real test for our community, as so many have poor to no coverage. Lightly also said that a significant benefit for anyone who has sex with more than one partner is PreP, which is covered under Program 340-B as part of an HIV drug prevention program. PreP, if fully implemented, could conceivably eliminate the transmission of HIV, thus reducing the cost of health care. However, at an annual cost of $22,000, it is not something that has been seriously considered due to the deficiencies our current system of delivering care. Under “Medicare For All” out of pocket drug expenses would be $200 annually, per person, showing how comprehensive Sander’s plan is.
John J. Delibos is vice president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of Southern Nevada.