Medical Students Nationwide Rally for Medicare for All

October 01, 2015

Hundreds of medical students in at least 16 states plan to demonstrate into the evening today in favor of extending Medicare coverage to all citizens, which would amount to a single-payer healthcare program for the United States.

The schedule of events include marches and teach-ins as well as candlelight vigils in honor of the estimated 35,000 American adults whose deaths last year, organizers said, could have been prevented had those individuals possessed health insurance coverage.

Today's activism springs from the Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP), an arm of Physicians for a National Health Program. SNaHP has roughly 800 members in chapters at 43 US medical schools, according to Scott Goldberg, a member of the Physicians for a National Health Program board of directors and a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine in Illinois. Most of the chapters are participating in what's called the Medicare-for-All National Day of Action, which also goes by the Twitter hashtag #TenOne.

Joining SNaHP in the Medicare-for-All National Day of Action are:

  • the American Medical Student Association;

  • the Latino Medical Student Association;

  • Universities Allied for Essential Medicine;

  • Pre-Health Dreamers, consisting of undocumented students preparing for healthcare careers; and

  • #WhiteCoats4Black Lives, a group of medical students who conducted a nationwide "die-in" last year to protest police brutality against blacks.

The Medicare-for-All National Day of Action is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Medicare, but not today's debut of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, diagnostic codes, which has healthcare in a dither. "It happens to be a coincidence," "Goldberg told Medscape Medical News.

Bryant Shuey, a second-year student at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, who is helping organize #TenOne activities there, said his nascent clinical experiences have strengthened his belief in a single-payer system. Working in a family medicine practice, Shuey encountered a 65-year-old man who had just become eligible for Medicare. Up until that point, the patient had put off seeing a physician for years on account of the expense.

"He had a mass in his abdomen, weight loss, and changes in his stools," Shuey told Medscape Medical News. "We ran tests and found out that he had colon cancer. It had pretty much progressed past the point of therapy."

Blue State Tilt?

Tonight in Chicago, students from five local medical schools will hold a "funeral march" to commemorate uninsured patients who died of preventable causes as well as the hoped-for death of the private health insurance industry, "which places profits above patients," Goldberg said. The march will end in front of an office for health insurer Humana, where participants will hear speeches and light candles.

"It's an appropriate place to have it," Goldberg said.

Press materials from SNaHP state that at least 36 chapters in 16 states intend to conduct marches and rallies today. Most of the 16 states are in the Northeast, North Central, and West Coast sections of the country, and all but two were blue states in the 2012 presidential election. By and large, #Ten10 is skipping over the South, the Great Plains, and the West, which are Republican bastions.

Goldberg said the national map for the National Day of Action reflects not so much political differences as it does the growth of SNaHP.

"We've only been around for 4 years," he said. "Definitely there are chapters in Blue states that are maybe easier to recruit [in], but over the last 6 months to a year, a lot of growth has come from red states." He pointed to a chapter that has just formed at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

"It's not a red state or blue state issue. Medical students are entering into this profession because they see it as a service profession and they want to do what's best for their patients.

"Clearly single-payer is the most evidence-based and comprehensive way to provide for all patients, regardless of their income or their race or ethnicity."


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