“They don’t have to pay anything, but working people like us have to pay hefty co-payments and deductibles,” said the nurse. A while back, I was attending to a sick newborn and my conversation with a nurse somehow veered off to the issue of medical insurance. To my surprise, the nurse started haranguing me about welfare dependency and the Medicaid dependent mother to whom the baby in question was born. I was flabbergasted by the tone of resentment and sheer hostility on display but chose not to respond, privately wondering how this attitude would impact her nursing care to this baby.
During my many years as a medical practitioner, I frequently noticed that almost all physicians carefully reviewed the face sheet of a medical record to know about the health insurance status of admitted patients. Why is this significant? Well, the sad reality is that consciously or subconsciously, the medical decisions about possible courses of treatment are often shaped by it. This is at the heart of the problem that plagues our healthcare delivery system in the United States of America.
We have systematically created a bizarre system where patients are compartmentalized into first class or desirable upper class (predominantly white patients), and second class, undesirable, often minority populations. It is common knowledge that patients who have “undesirable” insurance always get relegated to the back of the line.
How do we remedy this situation? The answer lies in universal access to healthcare for all residents of the U.S., regardless of socioeconomic hierarchy. Generations of Democratic leaders have pushed for health care reforms leading to Medicare for senior citizens and Medicaid for disadvantaged classes and children. Their continued efforts have led to the expansion of healthcare access for all people in spite of stiff resistance from privileged classes and Republicans in the legislative arena and court systems. Many Democratic presidents starting from Harry Truman, LBJ, Clinton and up to Barack Obama have been visionaries who contributed to the advancement of healthcare access for all, with varying degrees of success.
Its culmination can only be achieved by a Democratic president, supported by a Democratic victory in the legislative branch at the national level as well as state levels. This urgent and difficult task, leading to universal access to health care, is indeed a norm in all advanced western democracies around the globe. One can legitimately state that establishing access to affordable care for all is a necessary prerequisite of civilized society. Absolutely no one should fear becoming bankrupt by falling sick and seeking a decent level of medical care.
The central question remains, though: how do we achieve this goal? First and foremost, we need to start with the White House. We need to restore credibility, decency, integrity and moral leadership in the presidency, replacing crude, rude, embarrassing and juvenile behavior that has become the norm for the last four years. We need to replace chaos emanating from bigotry, hatred and a divisive attitude – a hallmark of this president – with empathy, compassion, dignity, steadfastness and equanimity. The constant drumbeats of tweets and retweets, narcissistic self-glorification and justification for boorish behavior must be silenced by a responsible, responsive and calm melody, leading the nation to the unity of common purpose. The race-baiting and Bible-thumping cacophony need to yield and move toward a harmony of integration of race, religion, gender and class in the America of 2020.
Besides the presidency, a legislative victory to enhance a progressive agenda is a vital tool in a democratic society. The Democratic Party has a long history of striving for equality and equity sharing among Americans from all walks of life. They have lent a helping hand in the struggle of oppressed classes for the last several generations with varying degrees of success. Democrats have persevered and pursued the issue of equitable resource allocation among all strata of society for a long period of time. Granted, this nation has a prolonged history of minority subjugation and Southern Democrats were indeed the chief proponents of this suppression, but Democrats since Lyndon Bains Johnson have successfully altered the course in the last six decades, advancing the cause and process of integration of American society in a meaningful manner.
Democrats have waged a struggle for Social Security and have enlarged the safety net for the elderly and poor over several generations since FDR’s presidency nearly 90 years ago. The enhancement of a safety net in different categories for children, poor citizens, as well as differently abled and elderly folks, has been a relentless pursuit of the Democratic Party. All of us have reaped benefits from this because of the establishment of a fair and just society in the long run. These efforts can be greatly enhanced by the active participation of the Asian and Indian American community in the electoral process, thereby providing a winning margin to Democratic candidates all over the country.
Democrats have been at the forefront of establishing civil rights, voting rights and immigration reforms that have led to the emergence of a multicultural, multiracial and polychromatic society, firmly rooted in the principles of fairness and social justice.
The right wing in the U.S. has put up a fierce resistance to the progressive agenda of the Democratic Party with a vengeance – leading to a reversal of progress on many fronts – but the struggle can be reinvigorated by the active participation of all diverse groups in American society, especially the South Asian population. Benign indifference, sometimes bordering on malignant hostility, by conservative right-wing groups toward historically disadvantaged and minority populations can be countered by our active involvement in democratic processes at all levels, starting with our local elections
A Democratic president can and will appoint judges in federal courts, and most importantly, to the Supreme Court, who understand and advance the cause of equal justice for all and not solely for privileged classes. These judges coming from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will invariably have viewpoints that will nullify the preferential treatment for a select few and alter the prevailing status quo that has existed since the emergence of this nation on the world stage.
Democrats have made sincere efforts to propagate basic human rights in our country as well as abroad in all countries around the globe which has improved the quality of life of many marginalized groups here and abroad.
Participation in the democratic process leads to a fair and just society, and goes beyond the preferential treatment of a select few. In the present scenario, equity for all can only be achieved by electing Democrats to all levels of government. It is important to defeat the conservative majority led by juvenile leadership in the White House to achieve a progressive agenda for all citizens regardless of race and economic status. The citizenship rights we have acquired after a long struggle for equality will be squandered away by remaining indifferent to the electoral process. The outcome of all these elections eventually come to affect us as citizens of this wonderful country.
It is a sacred duty of all citizens to advance this cause of establishing and maintaining a society firmly rooted in the principle of morality and equal justice for all. It is important to recognize that the lack of participation does not exempt us from adverse outcomes in policy formulation that may come back to haunt us. It can be attained only through our active involvement in free and fair elections by registering to vote and actually voting for progressive and fair-minded candidates in forthcoming election cycles.
As a retired pediatrician and Medicaid specialist, the single most important issue that I wish to emphasize is the health care delivery system in our country. Absolutely no one should fear financial ruin by falling sick and seeking a decent level of medical care. Universal access to health care is a basic right and not a privilege. This concept has been a longstanding goal of progressive Democrats and our active participation in the electoral process will accelerate and provide momentum in order to achieve this cherished goal.
(The writer is a volunteer with the TheySeeBlue-Austin chapter,