Action needed on systemic racism, health care

Published in the Courier-Journal 12/28/2020

In November, the Vermont Medical Society passed a resolution expressing its support for universal access to high quality health care through a single-payer national health program. On Dec. 10, the Congressional Budget Office reported that a single-payer health care system could cover everyone yet cost $650 billion less per year.

The Courier Journal reported on the impact of systemic racism on the health of African Americans. The 12 years of life lost to residents in the West End points to the dire need for quick and effective action. The solutions explored omit the most decisive one — the need for every person to have physicians of their choice and all necessary health care, free at the point of service.

Until age 65, Black people are 50% more likely to be uninsured than white people. Life expectancy at birth is 3.5 years shorter for Black people. And 86% of the difference in life expectancy is due to conditions that respond to medical treatment and prevention. Mortality rates quickly match across races after age 65 when everyone is covered by Medicare.

Getting everyone covered is vital — not a complete solution but a necessary foundation to tackle the problem.

The passage of Medicare in 1965 eliminated segregation in hospitals and helped end racial disparities for seniors. A universal, not-for-profit, single-payer system — an improved Medicare for all — will save millions of lives.

Kay Tillow, Louisville, 40208