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American Healthcare System Failed Black Americans

NOTE:  Check out the Toolkit on racism in the US healthcare system and how National Improved Medicare for All would be a step toward addressing it.

Medicare for All is the Most Pro-Black Policy Platform.

Black Americans have been preyed on and allowed to die under our current failed system.

There are certain policy positions that are such a slam dunk that if someone does not support them, I can’t take anything they say seriously, nor can I trust their judgement. Medicare for All is one of those polices. It is the most pro-black legislation in mainstream political discourse right now. Our black leaders, such as Jim Clyburn, teaming up with health insurance companies and Big Pharma, are why the state of healthcare in the African American community is so bleak, as I laid out in my previous article

Liberals, for good reason, hold social wedge issues as their primary litmus test. Can you imagine a standard liberal Democrat supporting someone who is openly against gay marriage and abortion rights? Those are important issues. The impact that Medicare for All would have on the black community is exactly why I hold this policy up to that same scale.

Our black leaders selling us out is a tale as old as the slave trade. Barack Obama is a Wall St megastar and Jim Clyburn has been made untouchable by his big pharma money. The health insurance companies are rewarded greatly for their investment. The Affordable Care Act was a boon to health insurance companies. Now we have Joe Biden and Democrats walking back on healthcare promises in order to advance COBRA, which is another massive win for health insurance companies.

Big Pharma’s investment in Black leaders bought their opposition to Medicare for All.  Jim Clyburn has been a vocal advocate against it. Barack Obama worked behind the scenes to stop it and continues to undermine it at every turn. The leader of the Democratic Party, President Joe Biden, said he would veto it if it somehow magically passed through the House and the Senate. 46% of Republicans support Medicare for All. Our Black Leaders and Democrats are to the RIGHT of almost half of Republicans voters on healthcare.

Our Current Healthcare System Fails Black Americans

What has been the result of our leaders cozying up to health insurance companies? Black Americans suffer some of the worst health outcomes in the country. Despite being only 13% of the population, we hold 31% of the recurring medical debtBlack men have the lowest life expectancy and it’s not even close. Black women face intense racial bias in the healthcare field. Black women suffer from the highest rate of infant mortality in America, a rate 3-4 times higher than white women. How can liberals so easily ignore the grim reality that our healthcare system has brought upon black Americans?

Covid-19 has made things even worse in terms of racial health disparities for African Americans. 31% of Black Americans know someone who has died because of Covid-19, compared to 9% of White Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionBlack Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized due to Covid-19 and 2.8 times more likely to die. Despite this fact, I was shocked to find out Black Americans are less likely to die than white people once hospitalized with Covid-19. This fact is actually really damning for our healthcare system. Dr. Gbenga Ogedegbe explains in this study that black populations are dying because they are forced to stay at home, and thus die at home because they lack health insurance and access to hospitals. Racial bias in the healthcare field has resulted in a higher rate of death among Black Americans because we are more likely to be turned away and denied care.

One of the biggest failures of the healthcare system is how it deals with mental health. Mental health care is a privilege in America. I have literally never seen a therapist because of the cost, and it is the same for many Black Americans. Mental health care for the Black community is so important and not valued enough. We are more likely to experience mental health episodesbut are least likely to seek treatment or be diagnosed properly. There is a stigma in the African American community when it comes to seeking help for mental health, even though I believe that is going away with the new younger black generations. I believe the biggest obstacle is cost. Black Americans like myself cannot even afford to go to the doctor. So why would we spend a fortune on mental healthcare? Medicare for All covering mental healthcare would have a tremendous effect for the black community that would be felt all over black culture. It is something I’ve been preaching the black community must take seriously, but we cannot even do so without Medicare for All making it affordable.

Why Medicare for All is the Only Way Forward

Obamacare was a regressive healthcare policy which boosted profits of health insurance companies and did nothing to control the cost of healthcare. Obamacare imposed harsh fees that were unaffordable to the working class and concurrently did nothing to prevent 68,000 Americans from dying each year due to lack of healthcare. Medicare for All would prevent all of this.

Medicare for All is the only solution to this problem because it is a policy that is based on progressive economics. This key distinction is why it is the most pro-black policy and why I have no tolerance for alternatives like a public option, which is flawed. A public option just creates a multi-tiered healthcare system that, of course, Black Americans will see the worst of.

The public plan would have a large group of poor and sick Americans who cannot afford private plans. This would leave a bloated pool that is completely unsustainable. This would restrict freedom of choice because many doctors and hospitals could choose to only accept private plans. That results in longer wait times and lower quality of care. Public options plans are also still unaffordable for many Americans and would leave millions underinsured or uninsured. This is already seen in practice in states like California where state sponsored plans suffer from lack of choice in their healthcare and lower quality of care.

The progressive economic impact from Medicare for All is so important for Black Americans. Medicare for All would save the average American household money, it would boost the economy and wages. You would see all of these benefits in the black community as opposed to us being victims of the predatory health insurance system that seeks to take advantage of us.

Despite the inadequacies, a public option would still be preferable to our current system, but the Democrats can’t even keep their promise on that. The Democratic Party lies to black people all the time because they know there will be no consequences. Joe Biden and the Democrats ran on a public option, yet now they are backing a plan that would be insanely unaffordable for Black Americans. The average deductible for a bronze plan is nearly $5,900. On this bronze plan the healthcare premium is $321. How can Black Americans afford this? Only 39% of Americans can afford a $1,000 emergency bill. This means we have created a healthcare system the vast majority of Americans, especially black Americans, cannot afford to use. That is a completely failed and fraudulent system, and Democrats endorse it

Now compare that to Bernie Sanders’ bill. Bernie’s plan would impose no cost on families making $30,000 or less per year. The wealthiest Americans would pay more into the system to provide high quality healthcare to the poorest Americans. This means the wealthy white families that have stolen wealth from the black community for generations will now be subsidizing our healthcare. It is disastrous that Black Americans, under our broken capitalist system, have less than 1/10 of the wealth that white Americans have. However, this unfortunate fact means under Sanders’ plan, Black Americans would save the most on average because of Medicare for All while reaping a massive number of benefits.

This direct financial impact and savings for Black Americans is why I call Medicare for All the most pro-black policy platform in mainstream political discourse. I think a lot of people would assume Reparations for African Americans would be the number one pro-black policy. Reparations and Medicare for All are programs that we must implement. Reparations is a policy designed to heal though.

If we pass reparations now without passing Medicare for All, our money will essentially be funneled to Big Pharma and our broken capitalist system. Black Americans hold nearly one third of the nation’s medical debt. Passing Reparations before Medicare for All puts that money in medical debt collectors’ hands. Doing it without cancelling student loans puts our money in student loan debt collectors’ hands. Passing it without rent control hands it to the landlords and the banks.

This dynamic is why you can convince a neoliberal capitalist to support Reparations, but it’s much harder to get them behind canceling all medical debt, student loans, and implementing economic policies that stop capitalists from preying on Black families. I see some activists make the argument that reparations are necessary because our racist, capitalist system has always discriminated and preyed upon Black Americans and thus reparations will set that straight. The idea that reparations are enough to override our racist capitalist system is crazy. Reparations and Medicare for All are programs that we must fight for. There is zero reason for the Black community to ever stop making demands of the ruling class.

The Covid-19 virus made Medicare for All an even more crucial issue for Black Americans. Covid-19 has ravaged the black community and our health disparities were put on full display. We saw the ruling class air-lifted to receive emergency treatment, while we see poor and black patients turned away. We live in a multi-tier healthcare system and Black Americans see the worst of it. Even now, the vaccine rollout appears to be focused on the privileged first while disenfranchised communities have limited vaccine access.

This is why it’s very important for black leftists to frame the issue of Medicare for All in this way. If we really care about standing in solidarity with black lives, we MUST crank up the intensity on this issue and the sense of urgency. There are elements of the privileged progressive left that argue for the long game, but people of color cannot afford the long game. There is a healthcare genocide of our people in America. People are rightfully concerned about 440,000 Covid deaths, but 68,000 people die per year due to lack of affordable healthcare before this pandemic. That number is disproportionately Black Americans and other disenfranchised communities.

This is why I fight for Medicare for all so fiercely and why I look at public figures who do not support it with disgust. Black Americans are suffering because of our predatory and broken healthcare system. This represents the real struggle the African American community goes through in our daily lives. Why do you think Black men have such a low life expectancy? We cannot afford to go to the doctor. I know I can’t. We rely on “home remedies” in order to cut healthcare costs.

We have all seen the tragic consequences of this in our lives. My grandfather died, in his 70s, way too early, because he did not detect his cancer fast enough. This is quite typical considering the life expectancy of a black male is 69.1 years old, 5 years lower than other men. Medical debt is keeping many of my Black relatives in my life in poverty. My sister is facing medical debt for having the audacity of seeking mental healthcare after a mental health crisis.

I don’t need theory to tell me why I should fight for Medicare for All. I have real life experience. The Black community needs to stop allowing the Democratic Party to placate us with ridiculous platitudes. The Democratic Party claims they believe Black Lives Matter. They claim to be the party that fights white supremacy. If you are not challenging Big Pharma and the racist institutions that lead to the disparities of Black Lives you do NOT believe Black Lives Matter nor are you fighting white supremacy.

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