The Importance of Healthcare

The Importance of Healthcare.

A debate is raging across this country over who deserves healthcare. Is it only the people who are able pay for insurance or who have a job that offers it, or should the rest of us do what we can to make sure as many people as possible are protected? Even among union members there is disagreement.

Many of us have bought into a belief system where large numbers of Americans are moochers, who demand health care at the expense of the rest of us, but I urge my brothers and sisters to consider this further. The current version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that passed the House and is working it’s way through the Senate will strip healthcare coverage from 24 million people. The vast majority of these people are the human beings who serve us coffee at our favorite restaurants. They hand us our meals in the drive through. They stock the shelves and work the check-out lanes in the grocery stores and collect the carts in the parking lots. The shopping malls, big box stores and other retail outlets employ thousands right here in North Dakota. They are the people that we laugh and joke with as we make our way through our busy days. The majority of them work full time across our nation.

Don’t we all know someone who is working in the service industry? In retail? Don’t we all know someone who is working two or three part time jobs just to make ends meet for their families? Does that middle-aged person working at McDonalds really not deserve our respect? As union members, can we really disregard the health of another person just because they clean hotel rooms for a living?

These are our neighbors and our friends. These are family members and loved ones. They deserve better.

I was at a healthcare roundtable on Friday. In attendance were multiple hospital and nursing home representatives along with disability and health advocates and the Chamber of Commerce. Regardless of their differences, the entire group was unanimous that the AHCA was going to be a disaster for North Dakota. Rural hospitals would face closure and others would have to reduce services. Economies of smaller towns would be severly affected.

Understand that if both the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce agree that something is going to be bad, people should listen. If healthcare experts from all sides of the issue agree that the AHCA will harm North Dakota, we need to pay attention.

The AHCA will take over $800 billion dollars out of Medicaid in the next ten years, and the very richest will get a $200,000 yearly tax break… And people will certainly die from a lack of healthcare. One doesn’t get cancer treatments in the emergency room.

Understand that we are not just talking about the people who have been covered under Obamacare. With likely caps on Medicaid and block grants to the states, there is going to be a whole lot less money for everyone, young and old, able and disabled. Have no doubt that this will affect our families and loved ones all for a tax cut to those who least need it. When did America’s war on poverty become a war on poor people?

Unions have always been about making the world a better place for the working people. We have always demanded that all work is respectable and needs to be honored, and we have always stood up for all working people.

It’s time to stand up again. It’s time to protect the working poor’s access to healthcare. Time is short, and the coming weeks are critical. We need to let Senator Hoeven, who is taking a poor position on this, know that we are watching and we care.

In Solidarity,

Waylon Hedegaard

North Dakota AFL-CIO President