Stories About the Need for Medicare For All

Jestin Samson is a working-class disabled Medicare For All and housing justice activist and a radio host. His mother’s story drives him to act.

PTLN 3.29.21

Stories About the Need for Medicare For All

By Jestin Samson

ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA — By March 17, 2020, each state in the US had seen at least one covid case. Stories of the impact of the pandemic on frontline workers are common and dominated headlines every other day. Be it teachers, nurses, Lyft drivers, grocery store workers, janitors, or other essential workers they were not receiving hazard pay or hero pay. 

However, something that we often forget is that the Coronavirus pandemic also impacts health. Public Citizen released a study that a third of all COVID deaths were from a lack of healthcare, being uninsured or underinsured. 

And all of this just underscores the need for Medicare For All, especially in districts like mine, for people that don’t have a choice of where we work, what health coverage we can get, and the fears that a medical emergency like COVID can bankrupt us. So the introduction of the Medicare For All Act of 2021—which was introduced a full year after COVID ravaged my frontline, uninsured or underinsured, working-class district—like all other iterations of the bill, are very personal and important to me.

Personal Stories of Medicare For All

And if you will let me, I would like to add why it is so personal to me specifically, since I feel like these stories are missing from the national conversation. The numerous studies of how it would save money over time, positively increase health outcomes, and save hospitals money are all statistics that saturate the news landscape, but here are my personal Medicare For All stories.

Healthcare, a Job and Housing

My single working-class mother was diagnosed with end-stage metastatic breast cancer in 2008 after working for the US Postal Service for years. She worked her way up to provide for her three children and for her family back home in the Philippines, and she did the best she could. However, her cancer diagnosis put us all on the Section 8 Housing waitlist and put her onto an early disability retirement off of an insultingly small pension.

The Psychological Impacts of Our Broken Healthcare System

After graduating from college and my mother’s condition worsening by 2014, I decided to become her primary caregiver and placed all future plans on hold. Despite my physical disability, I wanted to be by her side and to help care for her. 

I wanted to help her to make decisions about how we would be able to pay the rent and utility bills, to wait for insurance to kick in so that she could receive the doctor prescribed treatment, or if the copayments would be better suited to paying for groceries. I wanted to help her while she cried and worried about meeting our basic needs, oftentimes spending sleepless nights doing so. I wanted to be by her side while she fought with her insurance company to be able to receive the care prescribed to her.

The once breadwinner of our family that came to this country to pursue the American Dream began to experience the living nightmare of our healthcare system, and I had a powerless front-row seat. 

Learning What I Could Do

In 2017, my mom passed away due to this broken system, unable to afford Medicare For All, while we continued endless wars and a trillion-dollar tax cut. I became passionate about politics over this time, through Bernie Sanders, and decided to run for state senate on a platform of the same policy that would have made my family’s life easier. 

I toured the Santa Ana Riverbed, saw the homeless community, and talked to many people in the district. Unfortunately, I heard too many stories far too similar to mine about healthcare, housing, and the very systems that made all of our lives a living nightmare instead of the American Dream. 

It pained me to see people homeless because of a medical bankruptcy through no fault of their own, while some of them got ready for their job at Disneyland. It pained me to hear about the 90 million Americans uninsured or underinsured, because of how it reminded me of my mom and family. 

Failures in Congress

It infuriated me to hear that my representative is the only democrat in the entire county to not cosponsor the 2021 version of the bill that could fundamentally change the lives of my district, neighbors, and family. 

And as a Medicare For All activist for the past five years, in a frontline district that desperately needs it during a pandemic, needed it before the pandemic, and needs it after the pandemic, Rep Lou Correa can bet that we will be watching him. His inaction is personal to me, and to all of us.

Bio About Jestin:  Jestin is a working-class disabled Medicare For All and housing justice activist from Orange County, CA., and 2016 Democratic National Convention Delegate for Bernie Sanders. His mother’s story and eventual passing informs and drives him to act on these issues every single day, because of what he saw as her caretaker and companion. When he is not advocating for Medicare for All or for our unhoused, he hosts the progressive podcast, Radical Revolutionaries. Jestin is currently exploring the possibilities of running for Congress in California’s 46 Congressional District.

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