As I begin this new column and a new way of engaging with Access Press readers, it’s exciting to think of all the topics that I can talk about with you and share my thoughts on. But here at the beginning of March in this election year, it seems like there’s only a few big topics that I’m thinking and reading about. Guess what? The first one is the presidential election. Then there’s the virus. And there’s how they might come together.
Who is going to be the Democratic nominee for president? Even as I’m writing this (before Super Tuesday), things are changing. I’ve been watching all the debates, like I hope you have, and the only candidate I’ve seen talk about the shortage in home care workers is Amy Klobuchar. I hope she’ll pass on her policy ideas to Joe Biden, along with her endorsement. It made me feel better to know that at least somebody was talking about the shortage and what we can do at the national level. It would be good if the media would tell us more about the details of each candidate’s policy proposals on healthcare. All we hear is “Medicare for All” or “Obamacare” or “keep private insurance.” In fact, though, if you go to their websites, you can find a lot more about the candidates’ ideas on important policy matters.
• Joe Biden wants to stop reversals in the Affordable Care Act, offer “something like Medicare” for all, and encourage “innovative solutions that improve quality of care and increase wages for low-wage health care workers, like home care workers.” (Check out http://joebiden.com/healthcare.)
• Bernie Sanders has been talking about Medicare for All for a long time. But did you know that Bernie’s plan says that “Medicare coverage will be expanded and improved to include: dental, hearing, vision, and home- and community-based long-term care? (See https://berniesanders.com/ issues/medicare-for-all/.)
• Elizabeth Warren, like Sanders, has a plan to offer Medicare for All, expanding healthcare benefits. She says that “Medicare for All will finally ensure that Americans have access to all of the coverage they need – not just what for-profit insurance companies are willing to cover – including vision, dental, coverage for mental health and addiction services, physical therapy, and long-term care for themselves and their loved ones.” (Read about it at https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/m4a-transition.)
• Mike Bloomberg seems to offer a little bit of everything: keep your private insurance; expand on the Affordable Care Act; make available a Medicare-like public insurance plan. But there aren’t any easy-to-find details on home care or long-term care. (Find more at https://www.mikebloomberg. com/policies/health-coverage-plan.)
I’ve spent so much time over the years asking readers to contact our legislators, but right now I think it’s important to contact the campaigns of these candidates and ask, “What will this plan do for me?” Now that the field is narrower, I’m starting to do that this week. And I don’t intend to take easy answers. As much as I’d like Medicare for All, I want to hear how we can pay for it and ensure that the benefits will really be there for people with chronic and long-term health care needs. It’s not like Medicare doesn’t already have its own shortcomings in benefits. I’m sure that many of my colleagues would be upset to hear that I would be hesitant about Medicare for All. I’m not hesitant about the idea, but I’m worried about whether it can actually be all we need, and I think it’s a hard sell to many Americans.
And now the pandemic is raising havoc in the economy, and may soon be causing chaos in the world of health care. Many in our community could become very ill. But even if people don’t get the flu, we may all soon be dealing with issues of healthcare providers not being available, and people being very distrustful. If there’s an outbreak in Minnesota, it could aggravate the shortage of healthcare workers for many months. It’s hard enough to protect ourselves from everyday colds. This may be the challenge that finally gets more of us to really wash those hands and fingertips, as well as keep our hands (and caregivers’ hands) away from our faces.
The COVID-19 epidemic could even cross paths with politics. I’ve started thinking about polling places. If they’re already talking about staying away from crowds, how many people will avoid the risk of voting? I hope some of our candidates and their campaigns will take this into consideration in the remainder of their campaigns, and encourage early or absentee voting. I understand that the 1918 influenza epidemic slowed down during the summer and then picked up again in the fall. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen right when we need to get out to our polling places. A low turnout won’t help anyone except the incumbent.
Stay safe, stay away from possible sources of the virus and have a healthy month. Let me know if you have some ideas on topics you’d like me to cover in this new column.