Take this once-in-a-generation opportunity

Paul Gibson

Recently, I had persistent chest pain. My wife, Roxanne, and I debated going to the emergency room or waiting until Monday. I had no other symptoms, no radiating pain, no shortness of breath — just chest pain. We opted to be safe. It saved my life. I was diagnosed with large blood clots in my lungs and legs and given intravenous blood thinners. I am now symptom-free and apparently out of the woods.

My wife and I have the means to pay a $2,000 emergency room charge.

Many low-income or uninsured people might have tried to tough it out and waited until Monday. That decision could have cost them their lives. When health care is a theory and a policy, it’s possible to be dispassionate; when it’s life and death, you realize the difference a Medicare for All system could make.

New Mexico has an opportunity to pass the Health Security Act in 2019.

If passed, a study would be conducted to verify that it would pencil out fiscally. Two independent studies have already confirmed this, and that was before Medicare expansion. It would then take two years to create the independent commission that oversees the Health Security Act. But New Mexico would be on the path to a Medicare for All system. And no one would have to debate whether to go to the emergency room; the cost of care would disappear as an obstacle.

In 1963, health care for all was virtually unknown, except in Saskatchewan, Canada. They implemented a universal healthcare system that demonstrated cost savings, patient satisfaction, and positive health outcomes. Three years later all of Canada adopted the Saskatchewan system. If New Mexico can do this, we will be a national leader, first in something that is good for a change, instead of fiftieth.

The next legislative session will open Jan. 16. With a Democratic governor, good bills passed by the Legislature will not be vetoed. A significant raise in minimum wage, same day voter registration, National Popular Vote, meaningful tax reform, increased funding for K-12 and early childhood, a substantial transition to renewables, and a repeal of the heinous 1969 abortion ban are all possible.

But passing these bills is not assured. In 2016, many good bills died in committee when we had Democratic majorities in both chambers. There are still fiscally and socially conservative Democrats in the House and Senate, and the pervasive influence of corporate lobbyists. We need to be watching and speak up to ensure these bills pass.

Retake Our Democracy’s Roundhouse Advocacy Team has met twice monthly for two years to be ready for this moment. We have communicated with 20-plus progressive nonprofit allies like Common Cause, Planned Parenthood, and Sierra Club and created a must pass list of good bills, like the Health Security Act, that have stalled in the Roundhouse. We have developed a Rapid Response Network with members throughout the state who will receive action alerts and writing points to help them write and call their representatives at key moments, in addition to volunteers who will be going to the Roundhouse every day of the session. There are ways you can help from your couch, or you can be trained to come to the Roundhouse and advocate with us.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that can’t slip through our fingers. Please visit RetakeOurDemocracy.org, click the “subscribe” button to be kept informed, check out the 2019 Roundhouse Strategy under the action and events menu, or come to the next meeting from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 1420 Cerrillos Road. Imagine it’s March 16 and all those great bills are signed into law. Let’s make it happen.

Paul Gibson is co-founder of Retake Our Democracy. He lives in Santa Fe.