Growing up in Wayne County, it’s hard not to be affected by our nation’s broken healthcare system.
I didn’t see a doctor until I turned 18; I saw a physician’s assistant. I remember this because I’d always call him “Doctor,” and he’d always correct me: “I’m not a doctor, I’m a physician’s assistant.” I didn’t know this was unusual and a symptom of a broken system.
Reproductive and mental healthcare were also difficult to access. Too many people in my family and those I grew up with chose to forego these types of crucial, lifesaving care not only because of cost, but because geographic distance and long wait times were too much of a burden for our working-class community.
Demographic trends are not making the accessing of care any easier, either. The rising age and growing lack of EMTs and ambulances services in Oswego, Cayuga, Wayne, and northern Onondaga Counties means that, in some places, the wait for emergency care may become upwards of 30–45 minutes.
In the city of Syracuse, where hospitals and providers abound, it can still be difficult to access care if you are black, brown, or disabled. Wait times, cultural competency, and a lack of transportation effectively prevents the very people who need it from accessing care. And worse, when they do arrive at a hospital, these patients often report receiving substandard care or not understanding confusing insurance requirements.
This is unacceptable.
And it is why I am tired of the same, tired, poll-tested lines from candidates and wannabe-politicians who do not understand the reality of healthcare in CNY.
These are the candidates who want to talk about a “public option” or “the market” driving down cost to make it more accessible. They talk in vague generalities about a “crisis” and “problem solving.” But they don’t talk about the families in CNY who would still be denied care under these milquetoast plans.
The era of half-measures is over. The time to overlook the marginalized and underrepresented communities in our district and their real challenges in accessing healthcare was yesterday.
It is time for something different.
The struggle for universal healthcare in our country has been long. It started with union members taking to picket lines and negotiation tables to fight for healthcare benefits as part of labor agreements. It continued with Roe v Wade and the fight for safe, accessible, and just reproductive care in our country that remains unfinished. And it continued under the Affordable Care Act with coverage for people with pre-existing conditions — like my mom, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis more than a decade ago.
These were bold advances taken by real leaders willing to sacrifice things like political campaign donations to advance the cause of true, universal healthcare. Today, the next logical, bold step in our long national struggle is single-payer healthcare.
Single-payer removes the impetus from insurance companies denying care in order to make a profit, and places it on making people healthy and whole again.
Single-payer is not a comfortable solution for the well-off or politically-hopeful, but the most impactful for those in our communities actually facing debilitating medical conditions and the economic calamity of health insurance debt right now.
Single-payer is an investment in the people of this country — ALL people. We know that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy and homelessness in our country. We know that medical debt can lead to significant stress on families — between parents, caregivers, and children. We know that medical debt removes good people from the workforce, our education system, and our national defense. A country that is healthy and free from backbreaking medical debt is a country that can be more economically productive, more secure, and with stronger, happier families.
Single-payer is also the most cost-effective healthcare plan because it doesn’t subsidize billions of dollars in pharmaceutical and insurance middle-man profits. It doesn’t force the government into some sort of competition with “market forces” in a vainglorious attempt to keep costs down. It treats healthcare as a public good — one that is as important as education or national defense.
The idea that single-payer removes choice is wrong. People love their doctors, not their insurance plans. Single-payer ends the tyranny of “in-network” plans so that people can choose a provider, not a corporate profiteer.
We need only to look at the dozens of advanced nations around the world thriving under single-payer systems. In the United Kingdom, under the National Health Insurance Program, healthcare spending as a measure of GDP is a fraction of what it is here in the US. Their example also shows us that union members who have fought hard for health insurance benefits would also be able to continue to use them — in the UK, 10–20% of the population maintains additional insurance coverage.
The difference in healthcare policy in NY-24 could not be more stark. The stakes are clear. We cannot afford the same types of politicians and candidates who only talk in political-speak. We cannot afford the same types of politicians and candidates who fail to see the real people here at home struggling to make ends meet, foregoing care, and living with secret pain because of a morally bankrupt system.
On this campaign, we believe it is time for something different. It is time for true, universal, single-payer healthcare for ALL people in CNY and across this nation.
The era of half-measures in healthcare is over. It’s time for a member of Congress who gets it.
Roger Misso is a candidate for Congress in New York’s 24th Congressional District (NY-24). He is a husband, father, and veteran — a former naval flight officer and advocate for military sexual assault survivors. He has advocated for veterans and small business in Central New York. He is running to become just the second rural Wayne County kid in history — and the first in 192 years — to represent New Yorkers in Congress.