RALEIGH, NC – On Thursday, December 10, a grassroots coalition of frontline workers, including physicians and city workers, along with human rights advocates from around North Carolina will hold an emergency press conference at the N.C. General Assembly in light of the staggering increase in COVID-19 infections in the United States as the national death toll approaches 300,000.
December 10 also marks the 72nd anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In the midst of the worsening coronavirus pandemic with one person dying every minute in the U.S. from COVID-19, International Human Rights Day is an opportune time to highlight the intrinsic value of every person and the tragic results of denying people their basic human rights, including rights in the workplace, the right to economic security from unemployment and deprivation and the right to healthcare.
Dr. Uma Tadepalli, a physician and health advocate from Durham, said, “Our healthcare system was a rip off before COVID-19, but now that millions have lost their jobs and their job-sponsored health insurance, it is an utter failure. We’re already paying for everyone to have healthcare, and then some, but we haven’t been getting it. As a physician, I want people to have the peace of mind that they won’t break the bank when they do what they need to take care of themselves.”
Lawmakers’ egregious refusal to guarantee healthcare to all Americans during the coronavirus pandemic not only shows how out of touch they are with their own constituents but constitutes a direct violation of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including…medical care and necessary social services…”
Despite deep political divisions, most Americans share similar human values. As a Fox News poll recently demonstrated, the majority of people – 72 percent – regardless of their political affiliation, are united in their desire for a publicly-funded universal healthcare system, more commonly known as Improved and Expanded Medicare for All.
Medicare for All would cover every American regardless of income, occupation, disability, gender or immigration status and eliminate financial barriers like exorbitant deductibles and copays. Medicare for All is how we move away from job-sponsored health insurance that has failed us, and a punishing medical system that enriches the few at the expense of the many.
Dominic Harris, a utility technician and president of the Charlotte City Workers Union, chapter of UE Local 150, said “We work too hard to turn around and give a bunch of the money we make to people that don’t want for anything. While COVID-19 is causing pay cuts and job losses, insurance companies are making billions off of our pain and suffering. Medicare for All is a cheaper and better way of doing insurance in America.”
In addition to revealing the inadequacies of our current healthcare system, COVID-19 also underscores the interdependence of basic human rights and the tragic results of denying these rights. Without essential workers’ human right to “just and favourable conditions of work,” they have been denied access to COVID-19 testing, proper protective equipment (PPE) and physical distancing.
We have seen that as Americans age, they often lose their basic right to safety and security. Though tragic, it’s not surprising that many nursing homes become funeral homes during the pandemic.
In some states, if people with disabilities make more than a certain amount of income per year, they are at risk of losing their Medicaid eligibility. With the pandemic, their very lives are now at risk by the very people who are caring for them – frontline and domestic workers who didn’t have the right to proper testing and safety protocols.
As the number of coronavirus cases surge, our families, friends and neighbors will continue to die, but our healthcare system was a catastrophe even before the pandemic. We don’t only have a common predicament, we have a shared answer: Medicare for All, a healthcare system based on meeting human needs instead of private interests.
Please join us on Thursday, December 10 at 10:00 AM in front of the N.C. General Assembly Building at 16 West Jones Street in Raleigh.
Speakers will address these and other demands and take questions from the press.
As a follow-up action the North Carolina Medicare For All Coalition will be holding a series of Medical Bill Burns in Charlotte, Asheville and Durham where participants will burn their medical bills and share their stories in opposition to our inhumane for-profit health insurance system.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.