Carl Schmid, Deputy Executive Director of The AIDS Institute, was one of the leaders in the HIV community who had to endure hearing me ask (several times), at the U.S. Conference on AIDS, “If the ACA (Affordable Care Act) fails, does the HIV community have a Plan B?”
In the session he led on Saturday morning entitled “Sustaining ADAP Until 2014,” I expanded on it to suggest that there be outreach to other “disease groups,” in my opinion a necessity if we are ever to present a unified demand for single-payer health care. He assured me that some of that outreach was happening, but at the time, I admit I was skeptical.
However, today (December 2) when reading his opinion piece for Politico (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/69500.html ) “What’s an ‘Essential Benefit’ for AIDS?” I was gratified to see that he included people who suffer from all chronic diseases in his thoughts on what should constitute an “essential benefits” package under the Affordable Care Act.
As one of those people, I, too, am concerned that, once again, the needs of profit-driven insurance companies will end up prevailing over the needs of sick people. As Mr. Schmid said, “Other stakeholders, who do not represent patient interests, have recommended the opposite: a bare bones list of services with restrictions on care and drugs, and high patient co-pays and great variation from state to state.”
Just as the insurance companies got their way by writing it into the law that people would be forced to buy their crappy insurance, they will most certainly do everything in their power to wriggle out of the 10 categories of benefits the law requires. And the Norquist-controlled Congress will help them.
That’s why I applaud Mr. Schmid for using his words to plant the seed of inclusiveness and coalition-building. We are our own 99%, we “sickos” in this country. Just as the ones taking part in the Occupy protests do, we must come together from whatever experience we have, with whatever medical condition we live with, to refuse to accept less than what we need, less than what it is our right as human beings to have.
I am easily dismissed—I am, at this point, just "that Plan B lady," a single-payer broken record who isn’t even HIV-positive herself. But Mr. Schmid is a leader, someone who is known and respected in the HIV community, who can, and did, use his voice to plant that seed.
Though I doubt it was his intention to fan the flame of my fervor, I now consider him an ally and I hope he will be there, along with the rest of the HIV community when millions gather for DUH, the Demonstration for Universal Healthcare, in October of 2012.
The people who’ve been HIV/AIDS activists over the years know the feeling of righteous solidarity that comes from pulling together for the common good. The people in Ohio who voted to restore collective bargaining rights knew it. Occupiers are living with it. And if Scott Walker is recalled in March, it will be because Wisconsinites came together to right a wrong. The energy of unity is everywhere around us now and if we don’t tap into it to change, once and for all, the inequity and tragic consequences of our health care system, we truly will be better off dead.
So thank you, Carl, for fueling my hope and my trust that the HIV community will prove to be patient teachers with the rest of us who don’t have an ACT UP to refer to, so that we can all be as inexhaustible in our fierce tenacity as they have been.
And the rest of you who heard my Plan B question, start talking about it, reach out, create coalitions, form strategies. Let us hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
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