Friends, there are two parts to what I have to say to you today. The first is humanitarian, the second is political—but also humanitarian. It’s about the coronavirus silently making its way through our communities and the obligation of government to step up and protect public health.
Health professionals agree on the most important measures that need to be taken. We need a *lot* more testing, and the testing should be free for everyone, period. Treatment should also be free, not only for reasons of fairness, but also because it’s not in anyone’s interest to have people with symptoms avoiding or even just delaying seeing a doctor about them. We need a big increase in government’s commitment to researching potential vaccines and therapies. The federal government should make sure that testing kits are effective and produced and distributed as rapidly as possible. And finally, in a country where so many of us live precariously paycheck to paycheck, we need a guarantee that no one who is laid up or quarantined has to forego the income they depend on. In other words, we need paid leave for the coronavirus.
I appeal to President Trump, to the health officials within his administration, and to the nation’s governors to use all the powers our system of government gives them to take these steps immediately.
Now, the second part of this talk is political. Consider again what is absolutely necessary in the face of the coronavirus: free testing, free treatment, public responsibility for comprehensive and affordable health care. And paid leave so no one has to choose between getting care and paying the bills. This is Medicare for All, and it’s also about ensuring that all workers in this country have their basic rights recognized and respected. This virus has cast a piercing light on America’s fragmented, inefficient and grossly unequal health system, and what we have learned from it should set us on the path to real solutions—not just for this epidemic, but for the next, and the one after, and for all the health care needs we face as a society. So: begin today to implement a sensible and inclusive program to meet the coronavirus challenge, and see it as the start of a new era in American life, the first pieces in Medicare for All and government support for essential worker rights.
Yes, I am making a political appeal here. I want you to support the movement to finally deal with the health care mess, the mistreatment of workers, rampant economic injustice and the other failures that have been allowed to fester unattended in this country, decade after decade. I’m asking for your vote, and beyond that, for your personal participation in this movement. But, as the coronavirus reminds us, fighting for these things is also a struggle for humanitarian values. The health of our people and the health of our economy depend not only on containing this virus and the damage it does, but also on addressing all the other preventable illnesses, the scourge of opioids, and the dental, vision and hearing problems that constitute their own epidemic among the un- and underinsured. They also depend on providing care and support for the health needs none of us can avoid: maternity care and care for newborns, elder care, and the injuries and diseases that come with just living one’s life. For a healthier society we also need a fairer economy, one where diagnosing and treating an illness is not a financial catastrophe for any worker.
The coronavirus is a dangerous threat, but it’s also an opportunity to see clearly what this country needs so all of us can live healthier, happier and more productive lives.
Medicare for All. Workers rights. Economic fairness. Thank you.