I am a retired nurse and nurse practitioner of 40 years, and I was raised in Montreal, Canada, then moved to Southern California during a nursing shortage in the ’70s. I’ve lived in Athens since 1986.

After working as a public health nurse in Idaho during the early ’80s, and experiencing the Reagan cuts to public health, I formed an opinion on politicians dictating health care.

I discovered that while the tax burden in Canada and the U.S. are about the same, part of the taxes (based on income) in Canada go toward health care. When you’re sick or in an accident while living in Canada, you don’t have to worry about health-care costs when you need medical attention. Don’t believe the lies that people don’t receive timely and good health care.

However, in Canada you do have the option of purchasing supplemental health insurance, which, for example, would allow you to pay for a private room versus a shared hospital room for something like gall-bladder surgery. 

As a family nurse practitioner, working at a Federally Qualified Community Health Clinic and a free mobile-health clinic serving 12 counties in southeast Ohio, I saw many people who could not afford medication, lab work or treatment for illness. I saw people die prematurely, who couldn’t afford surgeries, buy insulin for diabetes, or get an inhaler for asthma. Trying to get health care and medications for the uninsured people of Appalachia was an enormous task.

As a breast-cancer survivor, I had my own unsatisfactory experience with our health-care system. Even with health insurance, three years ago I had to pay a $12,000 deductible for my breast-cancer surgery and treatment over two years.

So what does Medicare for All mean to me? I have been a member of Single-Payer Action Network (SPAN) Ohio, which has been lobbying for Health Care for all Ohioans legislation with our supporting Ohio representatives. SPAN Ohio has completed an economic impact study on single-payer health care in Ohio (available on-line at spanohio.org).

At the federal level, on Feb. 27, 2019, U.S. House Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, introduced HR 1384, the Medicare for All 2019 Act (medicare4all.org). So I joined the National Nurses United and Fight to Win Medicare for All. I know people over 65 are satisfied with Medicare, which is national health-care coverage so they aren’t bankrupted from medical costs. Take Medicare away from the baby boomers, and you’ll see a lot of disgruntled voters!

Medicare for All is an expanded and improved single-payer health-care system for all residents of the U.S. Recent polls show 84 percent of Democrats, 52 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of people in America overall support Medicare for All.

No, health care is not free, but the money that will be saved on administrative costs, high monthly premiums, co-pays and high deductibles will no longer exist, and a progressive tax (based on income) will save billions when Medicare for All is fully implemented. In its first year, Medicare for All will shave $829 billion from the total current U.S. health-care spending of $3.42 trillion. That’s almost a 25 percent savings on health-care costs. (healthcare-now.org).

In its first year, Medicare for All will cover people 55 to 65 and those under 19 years old. In the second year, the program will cover all residents of the United States. It will not affect the VA or Indian Health Service programs.

It can be done, and all the developed countries in the world do it, except for the U.S. It’s time for health care for all, and not for the for-profit health insurance and drug companies to determine treatment costs, who is covered, what’s “ in network” and the costs of medications.

Medicare for All saves money with one biller, a single payer, cost savings on medication, and no denial for health care for any U.S. resident. You can still buy private health insurance if you travel out if the country or want the red carpet treatment as some Canadians do.

If you believe healthcare is a right and not a privilege, you need to vote for change. Otherwise, watch your health-care costs rise, while health-insurance companies raise premiums, copays and deductibles, and refuse coverage. Meanwhile, more than 29 million people will not be insured due to health-insurance costs, even with the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Big Pharma will continue to charge hundreds of dollars for medications such as insulin when it can be bought for one-fifth of that cost. And if you’re lucky to have any savings, you’ll spend it on health care, medications and long-term care should you need them in the future. One caveat though: our politicians won’t worry because they have great health-care coverage!

Please call 202-858-1717 and ask your U.S. House representative to co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act of 2019.

Editor’s note: Melanie Moynan-Smith, RN and retired FNP, is an Athens resident, a U.S. citizen, and has worked in health care and education for over 40 years. Full disclosure: She is married to the editor of this newspaper.

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