Leslie Templeton is 25 years old.
The Boston resident has epilepsy, kidney disease, ADHD, familial hypercholesterolemia and depression.
She’s a walking commercial for universal health care.
“While many of my friends are worried about their careers, finding life partners and what they are doing next week, I have the added worry about what my future holds regarding my health,” Templeton told a House Oversight Committee during a public hearing on March 30.
“I wonder if I will always be able to access my healthcare and treatments. If heaven forbid something goes wrong and I don’t have access to healthcare, what will happen to me?” Templeton asked.
U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) held a hearing to examine legislative solutions to expand access to affordable health care and move toward universal coverage.
The committee has sifted through proposals like the Medicare for All Act co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
The proposal establishes a nationwide, single-payer health insurance program.
“The pandemic has made it clear now more than ever that we must guarantee healthcare as a human right with no copays, no deductibles and no premiums,” said Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“We need Medicare for All now when nearly 100 million people are uninsured or underinsured in the richest nation on the planet,” the congresswoman insisted.
“There’s no excuse for this broken system, where parents have to choose between taking their kid to the doctor or paying rent. The path ahead is tough but Medicare for All is necessary, popular and most importantly, will save thousands of lives,” she said.
In response to a question from D.C. Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Dr. Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund described how the success of the Affordable Care Act has improved the economic security of patients and families who’ve struggled to gain health care.
“The Affordable Care Act has not only led to enhanced insurance coverage and dramatically reduced uninsured rates – but it’s lowered barriers to care, reduced people’s medical debt burdens and reduced out-of-pocket spending for a lot of people who had pre-existing conditions prior to the Affordable Care Act’s reforms,” Dr. Collins testified.
“So, this has been a substantial change – both for coverage rates and improving people’s financial security,” she said.
Maloney noted that Democrats in Congress have spent decades fighting for health care expansion.
In 2010, under President Obama, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, the landmark law that made affordable health care accessible to more than 30 million people across the U.S.
Maloney said that included 14 million people with lower incomes who finally received high-quality health insurance thanks to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.
“This also includes millions of people who had previously experienced obstacles to obtaining health coverage – including people with pre-existing conditions, older Americans and women,” she stated.
“Unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle not only opposed this law but over the last decade, they have voted more than 60 times to repeal or weaken it. Republican attorneys general sued in federal court, trying to strike it down. And the Trump Administration refused to defend the ACA in court. Despite these relentless attacks, and thanks to the tireless work of patients, caregivers, and community advocates, the ACA still stands,” Maloney said.
Lawmakers must take the next step and approve universal health care for individuals like Templeton.
“Being sick is expensive and that expense can make treatment inaccessible to so many people. So being able to access healthcare is not enough. It’s being able to afford it too,” Templeton said. “To put it bluntly, I don’t want to die. I want to live a long life without the constant worry of whether I will be able to afford my meds each month or if I’ll have insurance to cover my doctor visits.”
“Medicare for All would give every American that peace of mind, especially those who rely on the healthcare system the most to stay alive,” she said. “No one should go broke because they have a life-threatening illness. No mother should have to choose between getting her medication or her kids’ medication because of affordability. No child should have to watch their parent suffer through pain and ailments because they are not insured.”
“We Americans are counting on you to change this reality for us because, again, to put it bluntly, we don’t want to die,” Templeton concluded.