As the national push for Medicare for All continues to gain steam, one prominent voice delivered powerful testimony in favor of the proposal to the House Rules Committee on Tuesday.
Ady Barkan, an activist with late-stage ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), spoke before the Committee using text to voice software in the first ever congressional hearing on single-payer health care.
“For twenty years, since I was a freshman on my high school debate team, I have been giving speeches and presentations on topics like health care reform and the federal budget,” Barkan began. “But never before have I given a speech without my natural voice. Never before have I had to rely on a synthetic voice to lay out my arguments, convey my most passionately held beliefs, tell the details of my personal story.”
Barkan’s story began three years ago when he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease in which neurons controlling voluntary muscle movement die. Since then, Barkan has lost his ability to walk and speak.
The challenges Barkan and his family have faced as a result of America’s inept healthcare system “are far from unique,” he said. “Every family is eventually confronted with serious illness or accidents… all of us need medical care. And yet in this country, the wealthiest in the history of human civilization, we do not have an effective or fair or rational system for delivering that care.”
Watch Barkan’s moving speech below:
WATCH: @AdyBarkan's statement at #MedicareForAll hearing: "Never before have I given a speech without my natural voice. Never before have I had to rely on a synthetic voice to lay out my arguments, convey my most passionately held beliefs, tell the details of my personal story." pic.twitter.com/mGp4AKbItR
— CSPAN (@cspan) April 30, 2019
Barkan explained that even though he and his family enjoy quality insurance, his illness requires out-of-pocket expenses for “24-hour home care” that runs “$9,000 every month” because much of what he requires is not covered.
And his options are limited.
“The alternative is for me to go on Medicare and move into a nursing home, away from my wife and my son,” Barkan said. “So we are cobbling together the money, from friends and family and supporters all over the country. But this is an absurd way to run a health care system. GoFundMe is a terrible substitute for smart congressional action.”
Barkan touched on how “like so many others,” he and his wife Rachel “have had to fight with” their insurer, which has issued “outrageous denials instead of covering the benefits we’ve paid for. Barkan added:
“We have so little time left together, and yet our system forces us to waste it dealing with bills and bureaucracy. That is why I am here today, urging you to build a more rational, fair, efficient, and effective system. I am here today to urge you to enact Medicare for All.”
Barkan listed three reasons why he believes Medicare for All is the solution to Americans’ health care woes.
First, Medicare would give all Americans “the high quality care we deserve, including primary and hospital care, dental, vision, reproductive, and mental health care.”
Second, Barkan stressed, Medicare for All would drastically reduce costs, especially for people in need of care.
“We will no longer need to choose between paying the rent and filling a prescription,” he said. “It means we will no longer delay necessary care until it is tragically late and tragically expensive. It means that we won’t have to worry every year when our employer announces the new rates.”
Third, Barkan explained, Medicare for All would make our health care system vastly more efficient.
“Over the past three years, I have seen firsthand how the current system creates absurdly wasteful cost-shifting, delays, billing disputes, rationing and worry,” he said. “Administrative waste is costing us hundreds of billions of dollars every year.”
Many agreed with him.
“The ugly truth is this: Health care is not treated as a human right in the United States. Say it loud for the people in the back: Health care is a human right.” @AdyBarkan got it right!!https://t.co/Z2ochawHWS
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) April 30, 2019
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) April 30, 2019
#MedicareforAll now, not next year. I welcome the first ever hearing on this critical issue that gets us closer to universal health care in our country. It will take people like you and Ady Barkan who speak truth to power. This is how we win this movement that will save lives. https://t.co/efNQUaGMrr
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) April 30, 2019
Barkan concluded his testimony with a plea:
“Our time on this Earth is the most precious resource we have. A Medicare for All system would save us all tremendous time. For doctors and nurses and providers, it would mean more time giving high-quality care. For patients and our families, it will mean less time dealing with a broken health care system and more time doing the things we love together.”
After his speech, Barkan thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for the opportunity to share his story.
I cried watching this, thinking of my beautiful son Henry and his final weeks at home. Thank you, brave, beautiful @AdyBarkan. I will honor your incredible work & continue the fight for #MedicareForAll. PLEASE watch this in full & RT. pic.twitter.com/jNNb8PnqIz
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) April 30, 2019
Barkan’s gripping testimony spread like wildfire on social media.
Thank you, @AdyBarkan, for all you continue to do to improve the lives of Americans across the country, and especially for courageously making the trip to testify at today’s #MedicareForAll hearing. pic.twitter.com/qM6Zenhafc
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) April 30, 2019
In case, unlike me, you don’t follow US health care news the way normals follow Game of Thrones, Ady Barkan is a brilliant activist dying of ALS & he just now testified before the House Rules Committee on America’s need for #MedicareForAll.
— rob delaney (@robdelaney) April 30, 2019
Chairman McGovern recognizes @AdyBarkan, who "quite literally put his life on line to join the hearing" today.
— Kumar Rao (@KumarRaoNYC) April 30, 2019
People everywhere were moved.
Today our hero @AdyBarkan risked his life to fly to DC to advocate for Medicare For All.
This was his 1st time giving a speech w/o his own audible voice, but these are his words.
Like @robdelaney I cried watching Ady & pledge I’ll fight just like him.
— Shaun King (@shaunking) April 30, 2019
Ten years from now, as I sit in my doctor's waiting room… I'll remember that when the insurance lobby threw everything at us, @AdyBarkan led the charge for Medicare-for-All.
Ady is nothing less than American hero. My brother, thank you so much for your testimony today. pic.twitter.com/dJp5AeE9aD
— Abdul El-Sayed (@AbdulElSayed) April 30, 2019
This man is an American hero. I am tears watching @AdyBarkan testify in front of Congress today.
PLEASE watch his entire speech and share with anyone you know.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) April 30, 2019
To be honest, this is the best thing from the hearing thus far — and it’s hard to imagine what this hearing would sound like without Ady Barkan.
He’s changed the tone for Democrats, Republicans, and the other witnesses. https://t.co/067UkQF8bB
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) April 30, 2019
Let me say this now.
We will win Medicare for All.
The road to victory was paved today by Ady Barkan.
The road will be hard and long. We will be vilified. We will be told that we don’t understand healthcare policy. We will be lied to. We will be threatened. But we will win.
— jenniferflynn (@jenniferflynn) April 30, 2019
Thank you, Ady.