On the afternoon of May 27, 2015, single-payer advocates including myself watched as the New York State Assembly voted overwhelmingly (89-47) in favor of the New York Health Act. This marked an important occasion, as this statewide universal healthcare bill had not been voted on in the Assembly since 1992. This event highlights the rare, intermittent successes that come from repeated lobbying and advocacy. However, the bill faces a significant uphill battle in passing the Republican-controlled State Senate.
I had the privilege of spending my last real summer break doing antibiotic resistance research and a mini-rotation at a hospital in Bogotá, the capital city of Colombia. This was actually my second stay in Colombia – I had spent 10 weeks studying Spanish there before my first year of medical school and fell in love with the culture, the food, and most of all, the amazingly kind and welcoming people. Despite this prior visit, I knew practically nothing about the country’s health care system when I arrived for a second time this May.
I feel like I need to start off this post with an apology: to all the wonderful teachers I had growing up: I’m sorry. I have done you a great disservice. It’s not because I was an insufferable know-it-all (although I definitely was), or because I often ignored your sage advice (also guilty).
Our goal can be easily guessed by our name: “Students for a National Health Program.” We are a group of students who believe the United States should implement a national, universal, single-payer health care system. Whatever you’d like to call it, such a system would entail that all citizens of the United States essentially pay into a national health insurance program for all other citizens. Everyone would chip in, nobody can opt out, and everyone gets covered for nonelective health care. Several other developed nations have successfully implemented such a health care system, Canada and the United Kingdom being perhaps the most representative countries. Our goal is simple, and we know based on the example of other countries, that our goal will also work.
In my faith tradition, we have a story about Jesus’ baptism. At this point in his life, Jesus has not started his ministry – no sick people have been healed, no one has walked on water, five thousand people have yet to be fed with loaves and fishes. Before any of his work challenging the brutal economic and military oppression of his people by the Roman Empire, Jesus goes to his cousin, John, and is baptized in the Jordan River. The heavens open up and the voice of God says: “This is my child, with whom I am well pleased.”