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Like water, health care is a basic need denied to many Baltimoreans

Medicare For All may offer an opportunity for many uninsured or under-insured Baltimore residents to get adequate medical care. File.
Medicare For All may offer an opportunity for many uninsured or under-insured Baltimore residents to get adequate medical care. File.(Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd Fox)

We are outraged and ashamed that our fellow Baltimoreans who live at Poe Homes had gone without water for 10 days as we wrote this letter (“City officials say water pressure largely restored at Poe Homes in West Baltimore,” June 25). We appreciate The Sun’s recent editorial, “In Poe Homes water main break, Baltimore failed its most vulnerable” (June 25), about the Poe Homes’ water failure and applaud The Sun for framing the problem broadly as a public failure to ensure "a basic human right" to water.

The Sun wrote that “Baltimore is not a developing nation. People should not have to beg for basic needs.” This sentence brought to mind another circumstance in which vulnerable members of our community have to beg for a basic need. We refer to those desperate people who turn to crowd-funding to pay enormous medical bills when a family member gets sick. In 2017, one-third of the donations raised through “Go-Fund-Me” were for medical care. Even many of those with employer-sponsored health insurance policies face deductibles in the thousands of dollars. High out-of-pocket costs lead many to avoid or ration needed care which often leads to financial crisis, worsening and more costly medical problems and even premature death.

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This does not happen in other developed nations, just as people do not go without water in other developed nations. Yet in Baltimore, the infant mortality rate, a major indicator of community health, ranges from 20 deaths per 1,000 births in one low-income community, to zero deaths in two affluent communities, according to the University of Baltimore’s Neighborhood Indicator’s Alliance. Easy access to good health care alone will not eliminate these kinds of disparities which are an outgrowth of racism and poverty. But good health care is a necessary pre-condition to ensuring healthy lives and communities.

Health care, like water, is a basic need and a fundamental human right. That is why we support a national, improved Medicare For All health insurance program in which everyone automatically receives the same, high-quality, comprehensive care. Several other health care reforms are being proposed in Washington, but Medicare for All is the only one that would automatically cover everyone. And unlike the other proposals, it would do so without sharply increasing the already-high public cost of medical care. In fact, it would reduce overall healthcare costs, primarily through administrative savings.

Jackie MacMillan and Ann Gordon, Baltimore

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