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Medical students speak for rights of uninsured.

Bernie Fetterly has been working on promoting a single-payer plan since the 1970's.
Bernie Fetterly has been working on promoting a single-payer plan since the 1970's.

 Emily Becker never had to worry about her health. Both her parents had good jobs and every little toothache was covered. That was until her father, Bob Becker a former CEO of a HVAC company in Jersey, lost his job in August due to the recession.

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“When my dad lost his job, I lost my insurance,” the senior U-Albany student says. For Emily this drop in coverage couldn’t have come at a worst time. A few weeks after her father lost his job she was rushed to the hospital with abdominal pains. She needed to get her appendix out immediately.

“Luckily I was still covered,” she says, explaining that because it was in the same month her father’s insurance was terminated she was still under his coverage. The cost of getting your appendix out with recently terminated insurance coverage is $17,000, but because Emily is a student she was able to get the bill dropped to $2,000. Emily’s total medical debt that has accumulated in the last year is $5,000.

To make matters worse Emily was just diagnosed with HINI. Again she got lucky and went to the University Health Center where student’s who don’t have health insurance can get treated for free.
“I would go to the doctor more if I knew I wasn’t going to get a $2,500 bill. I’m the sickest I’ve ever been now that I don’t have health insurance.”

Although Emily has the option to go to the health center when she is feeling a bit under the weather, she still does not have coverage if something serious were to happen, and she cannot get the proper preventative care she needs.

“I have been filling out forms for Medicaid since August. I get one done and get another in the mail.” Once she can prove she is an Albany resident she will then wait 4-6 weeks to know if she has been accepted.

This is just one of many cases in Albany where a lack in health insurance has caused a negative effect on lifestyle. One in 13 Albany County residents do not have adequate health insurance. To raise awareness of the problems in health care we are facing today, groups across the country have been coming together to fight for better coverage for all citizens, regardless of income.

Two rallies have been held over the last week at Albany Med to get people involved in the nationwide issue. Saturday Oct. 10 over 100 people gathered in protest and last Thursday around 40 students and supporters held a vigil in honor of the thousands who die each year due to lack of insurance or underinsurance.

“Health care movements are going to be the civil rights movement of our time,” Naazia Husain, a second year medical student, said during the vigil. All the student’s want people to realize the 4,500 people who die every year are not just numbers on a page they are mothers and brothers, they are Americans.

The group of medical students leading the events have been pushing for a form of single-payer health care that is modeled from our own Medicare system and the single-payer system used in Canada. This plan would create a system in which one payer, the government, does two things: determines medical fee rates and pays the medical bills of patients. This would eliminate out-of pocket expenses, high deductibles, and high prescription drug costs, while only creating a 4.5% income tax increase.

“Although most of the bills going through Congress say they are deficit neutral none of them lower costs,” Rebecca Elgie, Co-Director of Tompkins County Health Care Task Force and single-payer advocate says. “We need to get to the point where we are thinking about other people.” Elgie, who attended both events, believes only a single-payer system will truly solve the problems of the uninsured.

Today the United States is one of the only leading industrial countries that does not have a universal health care system. The people fighting for this single-prayer health care plan do not believe the present Congressional plans, like HR 3200, will cut it without specific Amendments that include a single-payer plan.

“Health care is not something to be put into a profit sharing system,” Father Ratmeyer, an Albany Med clergymen, said during his speech. “We are not dealing with buying cars or batteries we are dealing with people.”

It is still too soon to tell what is going to happen in the area of health care, but one thing is clear; something needs to be done.

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