In 2018, a typical household in America with health insurance spent more than $12,000 on health care premiums, co-pays, uncovered expenses and deductibles. The squeeze is real: an estimated 40 million people didn’t see a doctor because of the costs in 2018, and, even for those who went, 37 million people couldn’t afford to have their prescriptions filled. For people with serious medical problems, online fundraising and bankruptcy lurk just around the corner. In one of the richest countries in the history of the world, that is wrong. Ady Barkan knows that, and he gets up every morning leading the fight for Medicare for All.
For Ady, just getting up has become a chore harder than most of us could imagine. In 2016, Ady was diagnosed with ALS. Even as the disease has robbed him of movement and even the capacity to speak, Ady uses every last breath to stop drug and insurance companies from standing between Americans and the basic health care they need. He fights from the heart, both for his own family—his wife Rachael and his babies Carl and Willow—and for millions of families across America.
And right now, during the COVID-19 crisis and the following economic collapse, Ady has been a powerful force for good: drawing attention to our broken health care system, supporting frontline health care workers and pushing for relief for working people as they get sick and lose their jobs.
I keep a picture of Carl, Ady and me on my bookshelf. Their smiles are a constant reminder that none of us knows what could happen tomorrow, so we embrace life fully as it comes, and we make purpose where we can.
In the fight for social justice, change never comes easy. But Ady and the movement he has behind him bring us closer than we have ever been to making health care in America a basic human right.
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