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By Justin Clark | Photo by Bryce Gustafson
The cause of universal health care received sorely-needed attention on November 8, 2021, when organizers with the Indianapolis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and Central Indiana Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), along with representatives from the Poor People’s Campaign, NORML Indiana, and scores of supporters, held a rally on Monument Circle calling for the Indianapolis City-County Council to pass a resolution endorsing Medicare for All.
Riley Bove, an organizer with Indianapolis PSL, served as one of the rally’s key speakers and shared their experience with the US Medicaid system as a person living with disabilities. “When millions of uninsured people are made to endure the ravages of untreated diabetes, hypertension, asthma and other serious conditions simply because they are poor and lack insurance, that is the definition of cruelty,” Bove said.
Everland Wells, another organizer with Indianapolis PSL and speaker at the event, noted that Medicare for All served as the floor of working class demands, not the ceiling. “Medicare for all would give insurmountable amounts of benefits but it can never have that guarantee of a permanent policy under this broken capitalist system,” Wells declared, “It can only function as a stepping stone towards a health care system run by and for the workers.”
Other speakers included Jesse Brown, an organizer with Central Indiana DSA, and Ariel, a practicing medical professional. As Brown said after the event, “This socialist-planned, socialist-led event got the attention of the people of Indianapolis as well as their elected representatives. When we fight together with our comrades, we can move the political spectrum left and open the way for even greater things.” Ariel spoke of her experience as a front line medical worker during a pandemic, noting the immense difficulties for individuals who are either uninsured or underinsured.
Organizers and supporters then marched to the Indianapolis City-County building to attend the City-County Council meeting, banners and signs in hand, leading chants of “M4A! Make the Rich Pay!” and “Give the people what they need, Medicare guaranteed!”
After weeks of grassroots organizing, petitioning, and public comment, the Indianapolis City-County Council formally endorsed Medicare for All on November 8, 2021 in an overwhelming vote. The resolution endorses the United States National Health Insurance Act of 2019, or Medicare for All, the Health Care Emergency Relief Act of 2020, as well as state-level legislation to provide health care to all Indiana residents.
The passage of the Medicare for All Resolution could not have come at a more appropriate time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died, with nearly 17,000 in Indiana and over 2,200 deaths in Marion County alone.
The resolution rightly acknowledges that “more than 860,000 Hoosiers and 46 million Americans live with no health insurance” and “the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the nation is due to prolonged illness and medical bills, and Indiana has one of the highest rates of medical bankruptcy in the country.”
During the public comment section, Lucas Waterfill, an organizer with Central Indiana DSA and disabled worker, remarked on why this vote mattered to him and everyone who encountered issues with receiving health care. “I only get free Medicare and Medicaid if I remain under the poverty line,” he said, “so I often have to choose between poverty and free health care.”
He also discussed how his living care worker could not afford medical insurance and the exorbitant health care costs his brother faces as a teacher in Wayne township. Waterfill ended his remarks by saying, “This resolution will give a clear signal to the rest of the state and to Washington that Indianapolis unequivocally stands for Medicare for All. We stand against profit over people!”
While the passage of this resolution is certainly a welcome development, the Indianapolis City-County Council still continues to misdirect much-needed funds towards carceral solutions to the city’s problems. The city-council provided $261 million for the Indianapolis-Marion County Police Department (IMPD) budget in 2021, with an additional $30 million for the police pension fund. The Indianapolis Star noted that this budget provides more money per officer than IMPD needs. For 2022, this budget is projected to be nearly $265 million, with $28.5 million coming from the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s tepid COVID-relief bill passed earlier this year. With nearly a fifth of all of the budget going towards policing, there’s little or nothing left for community health.
The people of Indianapolis should continue to apply pressure to its elected officials to not only pass Medicare for All, but to take meaningful steps towards expanding local public health initiatives, especially for unhoused residents and others experiencing poverty.
Providing free, high-quality health care is not some pie-in-the-sky dream; it’s something realizable in the now. It just takes a working class movement to fight for it.