U.S. Rep. Susan Davis greets audience members at a town hall meeting at Southwestern College.
Rep. Susan Davis greets audience members at a Town Hall meeting in 2018. Photo by Chris Stone

The clock is running out on Rep. Susan Davis’s tenure in Congress. Her window of opportunity to leave behind a meaningful legacy on health care by standing with the majority of her Democratic colleagues who have signed onto the House Medicare for All bill is closing.

Despite the advances made by the Affordable Care Act, over 53,000 residents of the 53rd Congressional District still lack any form of insurance, including nearly 6,000 children. It’s unacceptable and must be addressed. But focusing on just the uninsured rate doesn’t fully represent the true scope of the crisis in our health care system.

Nearly a third of those with some form of health insurance in this country, a whopping 44 million people, have high deductibles and out-of-pocket medical expenses relative to their income. Over half a million families declare bankruptcy each year due to crushing medical debt. Here in San Diego County, nearly 14% of all residents have medical debt in collections. And as many as a million people in the United States cross the border into Mexico each year to seek medical care.

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What these statistics indicate is simple: despite spending nearly double per capita on health care compared to other industrial countries, people in the United States are continuing to forego the care they need due to cost. At the expense of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars, we continue to prop up a health care system fraught with waste and inefficiency.

Despite this ongoing national emergency, there are some indications we should be hopeful.

H.R. 1384—The Medicare for All Act of 2019—was introduced earlier this year and now enjoys the support of a majority of Democrats in the House. Across the country, volunteers have knocked on over 20,000 doors in 2019 alone to set about the slow but necessary work of building public support, one conversation at a time. And that work has paid off: in a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation released Wednesday, 77% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support moving to a Medicare for All system.

There is no doubt that attempts to reform our broken system will be opposed by mountains of money from the for-profit industry in the form of negative ads, mailers, campaign donations, and lobbying. Coupled with a political system that easily allows for the purchase of influence, the task in front of us is daunting. Overcoming these obstacles will require a monumental effort of thousands of people across the country coming together to demand that our country joins the rest of the industrialized world in guaranteeing health care as a human right.

Susan Davis tells advocates that she supports Medicare for all — and I genuinely believe her. But she has yet to sign on to H.R 1384. And with her time in Congress running out, her chance to be the leader that her constituents have asked her to be draws to a close. The necessary work of movement building for the realization of health care as a human right is happening now.

Susan Davis has a clear choice to make: stand with the thousands of people diligently working to build a system that once and for all guarantees health care as a human right or be remembered as someone who stood on the sidelines at a pivotal moment.

Max Cotterill is a community organizer with the California Nurses Association. He lives in Serra Mesa, a community in Davis’ district.