Rachel Ventura participated in a Healthcare townhall meeting titled, “Medicare for All Mythbusters” that was put together by healthcare experts from the National Nurses Union (NNU), Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), and the Illinois Single Payer Coalition (ISPC).
Beth Rice who moderated the event referred to herself as a long-time healthcare reform advocate and she played a leadership role of assembling speakers. The panel of healthcare professionals all shared facts, statistics and stories from their experiences in the field. Ventura was invited to sit on the panel after the other three candidates running for the 11th congressional district declined to participate.
The first pair of speakers, Dr. Martin, an emergency room physician who works for the VA, and Medical student, Peter Lorenz, choreographed statistics with stories. Dr. Martin said that for the first 28 years of his practice he worked in the private sector. “It was frustrating that my patients couldn’t fill the prescriptions that I was prescribing because they couldn’t pay for them,” said Martin. “Now that I work for the Veterans Administration I don’t have that problem. The Veterans that come to me get the care that they need.”
Martin went on to say that he thought it should be a non-partisan issue. “If you ask me, this is a Republican idea,” said Martin. “We need to give the power to the patient and let the patient choose the healthcare they need, and their doctor prescribes.”
Lorenz said that “Medicare for All is a system that is accountable to voters, not to shareholders.” He also addressed what he described as the elephant in the room question. “How are we going to pay for this?” To which he responded, “We already are. We are paying twice as much as any other country. Even the Koch Institute found that there would be a net savings under a Medicare for All system.”
“So if it is popular, people want it, then why don’t lawmakers pass the bill?” asked Rice rhetorically while introducing the next speaker.
Kaytlin Gilbert an organizer with Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) highlighted the pay to play system that leaves the for-profit healthcare system in charge. She said that to get change we need lawmakers to vote for Medicare for All legislation, but many of those lawmakers have been bought off by companies who donate millions of dollars in political contributions every year. She described it as, “the best congress that money can buy.” Gilberts said that in 2018 Health insurance companies and HMO’s spent $84 million in political expenditures while pharmaceutical companies spent $43 million in the same cycle.
Furthermore, Gilbert said that health insurance companies spend over $30 billion a year on healthcare marketing. During the Iowa primary election, she said that half of the political advertising was spent by Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future. “They are spending all of this money to scare us away from freedom, freedom to make our own healthcare decisions,” she added.
The final medical professional, Judi Lukas, a nurse, talked about how she lost two nephews to suicide. Neither of the young men had health insurance and were suffering from depression tied to job loss and relationship challenges. “I know that if they both had access to healthcare and the medication that they needed that they would still be alive today," said Lukas.
Rachel Ventura wrapped up the panel discussion by talking about her time as a military spouse. “I had access to the highest quality private healthcare through the military Tricare system and it was affordable,” she said. “When I had complications during the birth of my twins, I remember that the total bill was only $18.”
She also talked about how her recent experience as an uninsured mother had caused her to encourage Bill Foster to support Medicare for All. After his office said that he would not be supporting the bill, Ventura did some research and learned that he was one of the lawmakers who was taking campaign contributions from pharmaceutical and insurance companies. “This is why we need to change who goes to Washington and make sure that they are not bought and paid for,” said Ventura. “I am not taking corporate campaign contributions or SUPERPAC money.”
The audience was composed of supporters of the plan and some who came with questions. The panel answered audience questions like one from Urszula Tanouye, "will Medicare for All create long waiting lines?" Lorenz fielded the question first and said that "emergency rooms would function exactly the same as they are with high quality immediate care." Dr. Martin talked about how one of his past patients needed an ambulance ride that took him by two nearby hospitals because only the third hospital was in his network. The patient died because of the long ambulance ride. An audience member even chimed in to say, "the long lines exist under the current system. People are just waiting at home because they can't get access to our healthcare system."
The well moderated event went forward without disruption and all audience questions were answered. The last question went to Ventura when an audience member asked, "how will we pass this if you get elected, but the majority of congress is bought off?" She said that it would take a lot more discussions like the one being held tonight in the 11th district and across the United States. "Millions of dollars are being spent to create fear of something that is good for us. It doesn't make sense, so we need to have more discussions like these these that challenge the lies and break down the myths."