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My letter to Mayor Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine demanding that all have access to free testing and treatment during the Coronavirus outbreak

Monday March 2, 2020

Dear Mayor Durkan and Executive Constantine,

I am writing to urge you to take a serious and proactive approach to the emerging coronavirus outbreak in our
city and county, and to do everything possible to make healthcare available to anyone who might
suffer from the illness.

Unlike every other
wealthy country, the United States
does not have the benefit of a universal, Medicare
for All, single-payer healthcare
system. Without
Medicare for
All, there is the serious danger that
thousands of people in our community may
contract coronavirus, but never
have it diagnosed
or receive care, because
they cannot afford the doctor’s visit.

Uninsured and
underinsured people are regularly forced to avoid or delay getting the medical care they
need, because they cannot afford the high medical bills
and copays that are
involved. The outcomes
of a system that prioritizes
the profits of a few in the
insurance, pharmaceutical, and health management
industries are often tragic in normal situations. But in the context of a global pandemic, the anarchy of this
for-profit system could be lethal to
many in our society.

People who
are priced out of doctors visits will be in danger
themselves, and will spread coronavirus to their friends, family, and coworkers.

I
urge you to open up the City of
Seattle and King County’s emergency funds to guarantee that anyone in our region
with a respiratory illness has access to
a doctor’s visit without fear of medical bills.

Insurance companies or employers should cover all copays and other out-of-pocket costs, with the city or county providing support as needed. This should be advertised widely so that anyone with a respiratory illness knows they can get care at no cost to themselves. We also must demand that in addition to fully complying with City and State labor laws, all employers provide guaranteed paid sick leave as necessary, and maximum flexibility for employees to work from home.

The Trump administration’s total failure
to respond to this
crisis is further exacerbating the problems created by a for-profit
healthcare system.
This comes on top of the insurance giants and pharmaceutical
companies having bought the elite of
both political parties for decades to prevent
Medicare for All. Unless
urgent steps are taken, the combined result will
be the real prospect
of tens of
millions of uninsured and underinsured people
contracting the virus, and a crisis turning into a disaster.

One city or one county
alone cannot create Medicare for All, but we can take emergency measures here to ensure
that cost is not a barrier for our community to get the care they need in this immediate
crisis and to avoid further spreading of the virus.

I
urge you to
take all necessary steps to make cost-free doctor visits available
to everyone exhibiting signs of
coronavirus.

Thank you,

Kshama Sawant