There’s no debate: Floridians need affordable, quality healthcare coverage | OpinionJune 26, 2019
By MARGALIE WILLIAMS
SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL
When the broad field of Democratic presidential candidates debate this week in South Florida, they’ll undoubtedly cover a wide range of topics important to everyday Floridians. Among the most critical issues for working people that must be addressed: access to quality, affordable healthcare.
I won’t be on stage with the presidential contenders, but I speak with special perspective in this area as a healthcare worker, cancer survivor and recovering stroke patient.
I’ve seen so many South Floridians needlessly suffer when a child or other family member falls ill because of lack of health care. Often, they must painfully choose between paying rent or feeding their children, versus purchasing coverage and medicine.
Or, if they do seek care, especially for a serious condition, family finances are devastated forever.
Because of my union, I’ve been fortunate to have health coverage. Unions provide communities and working people everywhere with better pay, safer workplaces and important benefits such as health insurance. But most people in Florida don’t have a fair opportunity to join a union (another key issue debate participants must raise), so they often lack proper health insurance, and/or are dangerously vulnerable with no protections at all.
Relentless GOP attacks on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and other critical programs have made these household situations even worse. A great percentage of my fellow healthcare workers, especially those in nursing homes, have no health coverage of their own, even while handling important medical needs of seniors. This is an especially sad, ironic and unfair scenario.
The Democratic candidates debating here must counter these GOP actions and highlight the need for health coverage for working Floridians and their families. This means not only protecting the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare from cold partisan cuts, but strengthening these and other critical programs.
Expanding Medicaid in Florida, for example, would provide life-saving healthcare coverage to more than 800,000 additional working people in our state. And this doesn’t even require the support of the national leaders visiting our region. Billions of dollars to expand Medicaid have been available to Florida through the ACA. However, the Florida GOP majority in Tallahassee has refused this funding for pure political reasons, while constituents suffer.
In addition to a dramatic change in Tallahassee, we need strong national representatives to deliver meaningful solutions for working people.
We’re fortunate to have some of the nation’s smartest and forward-thinking leaders visiting this week to highlight the steep challenges faced by working families. The roster of presidential candidates clearly will present their ideas on many issues in this regard, including healthcare coverage and related components such as access to good, union jobs.
More important than merely a debate category, however, it’s critical that we choose the leaders who will turn these messaging priorities into real policy. This will best serve our working families all across our South Florida, our state and nation.
Margalie Williams is a Certified Nursing Assistant and a member of Miramar-based 1199SEIU Florida (www.1199seiu.org/florida), the union representing more than 25,000 healthcare workers throughout the state.