The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of “the fierce urgency of now” 57 years ago at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Now, the fierce urgency brought by the coronavirus pandemic has gripped the entire world. Will the current crisis convince the United States to take action and implement a more equitable model of health care delivery? The public financing of COVID-19 testing and in some cases, treatment, offers a glimmer of hope.
But, with so many other urgent needs, why should we continue to work toward equity in health care, and why at the state level, when the national need is so great? Here are three reasons.
- The primacy of public health. All around us, many urgent needs are being met with public assistance at an unprecedented level: publicly-funded payments to businesses and individuals in the hope of keeping them afloat; publicly-subsidized housing in now-empty hotel rooms for homeless populations whose past housing options have been sorely inadequate; and public funding for food banks previously supported by private donations. These emergency measures, some at a national level and others at a state level, are needed now in order to safeguard our public health.
- States have been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to policy reform. Recently, we have seen Washington state’s leadership in marriage equality and increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, measures which have been replicated in other states and/or Federally. This year, Washington passed a law that caps the total out-of-pocket cost for a 30-day supply of insulin at $100 for two years, and establishes the Total Cost of Insulin Work Group which is charged with designing a state-administered drug purchasing entity. We were very encouraged that the bill, prime-sponsored by GOP Rep. Jacqueline Maycumber , had overwhelming bipartisan support, passing 97-1 in the House, and 48-0 with 1 excused in the Senate.
- As the saying goes, when you have your health, you have everything. Here again, Dr. King said it so well: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death.”
In the time of coronavirus, the fierce urgency of now demands that we take care of each other, because the health of our entire society depends on the health of each one of us. Health is at the heart of all we do. Simply put, it’s the principle of Everybody In, Nobody Out!
On behalf of all of us at HCFA-WA, we wish you and your loved ones good health and good cheer in the days and weeks to come, as we look forward to your continued support of our mission: ensuring that health care is available and accessible for all of us here in Washington.