Nurses Union President: Obamacare Falls Short
Jean Ross: As Obama’s Affordable Care Act leaves tens of millions uninsured, now is the time to push for health care for all
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
Even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are still 30 million Americans without health insurance. Starting in 2014, the law will allow them to pick a, quote, quality, affordable, private health-care insurance plan of their choice.
But the National Nurses United has launched a national campaign in which they say there is a third way to pay for health care, where everyone is covered with tax dollars paying directly for the health care.
Now joining us to tell us about this plan is Jean Ross. She’s a registered nurse and copresident of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of direct-care registered nurses.
Thank you so much for joining us.
JEAN ROSS, COPRESIDENT, NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: I’m glad to be here.
NOOR: Can you tell us about this new campaign and exactly how you plan to pay for it?
ROSS: Well, we plan to pay for a new and improved Medicare for all which will cover everybody with our taxes. It’s how we pay for everything else that’s meaningful to us–our educational system. And there’s no reason why we can’t do the same for health care.
NOOR: And for those that, you know, might not be familiar with universal health care, talk about how this would work and what it would mean for Americans that don’t have health insurance.
ROSS: Well, right now people are counting, I think, on the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare to kind of solve all of health care’s woe, and it won’t, because it’s just firmly cementing us in a for-profit health-care system that puts patients at risk, and it doesn’t deal with the real issues of cost.
What we need is not health-insurance reform; we need health-care reform. And for registered nurses across this country, what we want to see is that people continue to come in and get the care they need, because they can’t afford it and because it’s available to them.
What we have right now is we see many, many people that are putting off procedures, in fact, putting off getting their drugs refilled. And they’re doing this because they don’t have the money to pay for it or they don’t have a job and insurance to cover it.
NOOR: Many say that Obamacare was meant to cover all 44 million uninsured Americans. Exactly how did those 30 million slip through the cracks?
ROSS: I think probably in the beginning, when they took a public option off the table and they took any kind of a single-payer system off the table, that was bound to happen. There is–it’s a piecemeal approach, and you can’t take care of everybody at once. And, unfortunately, the kinds of provisions that the Affordable Care Act has in place are not going to stop costs from rising. They are going to leave several millions uninsured. They’re even–despite the very good things that are in place through the Affordable Care Act.
NOOR: And Republicans have decried Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, as socialism. Others have called it a shell game. Are private health insurance companies still making a killing off the Affordable Care Act?
ROSS: It is, and we think that’s reprehensible as registered nurses. Obama himself said in his 2008 campaign that he agreed that health-care was a basic right, it’s not a privilege, and it’s certainly not a responsibility of individuals. When you’re ill, you’re ill. It’s a great equalizer among all of us, illness is. And so whatever we have in place should be, as I said, health-care reform, not insurance reform.
NOOR: And so you represent the largest union of nurses in the country. What kind of impact have nurses seen since Obamacare’s passage? And talk about what nurses are still calling for.
ROSS: Well, what we see is we’re seeing ailments that, for example, didn’t start until later in life happening earlier and earlier–stress ulcers, psychological problems, suicide ideations. Stress disorders that you would perhaps only see in adults earlier, now you’re seeing them in children. And it makes sense why you’re seeing them. You’ve got little kids that are afraid. Mommy and Daddy are talking about, gee, one of them has lost their job; I hope the other one doesn’t. And, oh, so and so down the street, one of their friends, has lost their home. Mom and Daddy, where will we live?
So we’re trying to get them to fill their prescriptions and to come in for care when they’ve been told they need it, if they’re fortunate enough to be able to see a doctor or a practitioner and they’re worrying about putting a roof over their head and food on the table.
NOOR: And so as part of your campaign, you’re targeting some Republicans that have been staunchly opposed to health-care reform, including John Boehner of Ohio and Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Why focus on these electoral districts in particular?
ROSS: Well, we know when we’ve done traveling throughout the country, we know that what we’re talking about, a new and improved Medicare for all, is what people really want. And they’re not averse to having our taxes pay for it, despite what you hear, the rhetoric from, for example, the Tea Partiers. But we try to put it in areas where there is sort of a swing district or very, very conservative area and see how it does play out, because as I said, when we talk to people, even though they may be staunchly conservative about some things, they do understand the need for everybody to get the medical care that they deserve.
NOOR: Jean Ross, thank you so much for joining us.
ROSS: Thank you for having me.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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