Karen Lin, Staff Photographer

In a meeting last Thursday, the Board of Alders Health and Human Services Committee discussed a resolution that would endorse Medicare for All.

The committee meeting, held via Zoom, consisted of a series of public testimonies from members of endorsing organizations — including Central Connecticut DSA, Connecticut Drivers United, Medicare for All Connecticut, Students for a National Health Plan and Western Connecticut DSA. Following the testimony, due to time constraints, the resolution was slated for another workshop with the committee to be announced at a later date. At Thursday’s meeting, nobody spoke against the resolution. Health and Human Services Committee Chair and Ward 26 Alder Darryl Brackeen Jr. ended the meeting by calling for more public testimony.

“In his speech delivered to the joint session of Congress last night, President Biden called health care a human right,” said Sivan Amar, a founding and board member of Medicare for All Connecticut. “It is now time for our local officials in New Haven to recognize that health care is a human right. We therefore endorse and advocate for a New Haven Medicare for All resolution to be adopted by our Board of Alders and subsequently passed through the Connecticut legislative process to become law for all Connecticut residents.”

James Bhandary-Alexander, the legal director of the Medical Legal Partnership at the Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy, and Alison Galvani, Yale professor of epidemiology and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis, noted the positive impact Medicare would have on financing for municipalities, citing the $80 million that New Haven currently pays for its employees’ health care.

Yesenia Rodriguez, one of many residents who testified in favor of the resolution, is a leader in Connecticut Drivers United, a nonprofit organization founded by Uber and Lyft drivers. She spoke about the experience of employees in these companies as independent contractors, rather than employees of the company.

“One of the biggest problems we face as a driver is getting health insurance. Neither Uber or Lyft give us any health insurance benefits whatsoever,” said Rodriguez. “Even though many of us are working 40, 50 or 60 hours a week, some of us qualify for HUSKY … but many more struggled to afford private insurance. … Some drivers just never go to the doctor, which means they will get sicker and sicker.”

HUSKY Healthcare is a Connecticut state program that provides health care packages to eligible residents. Eligibility is determined by income level, according to the HUSKY website.

Tanvee Varma, co-leader of Yale School of Medicine’s Students for a National Health Plan chapter, described the perspective of medical students. She told a story of meeting a young man in the hospital with a heart murmur. The patient had a congenital heart defect as a child that was never resolved due to a lack of insurance, and he would die soon because of that same defect around the age of 30.

“I and so many of my classmates went to medical school to help people lead healthy and fulfilling lives,” Varma said. “But that’s not possible for patients that don’t have access to health care. So I’m here to say that as future health professionals, we support Medicare for all. … We take it as our duty to not only learn all the medications and all the medicine that we need to learn, but also to advocate for our patients and advocate for just an equitable health care system.”

Mary Sytek, a staff affiliate at the Yale New Haven Hospital, noted that for-profit insurance can also shape patients’ medical decisions. She also noted her own experiences as a doctor requesting that insurance companies fund certain procedures and even in extreme cases being denied the funds to perform the necessary procedures.

Brackeen concluded the meeting by calling it the “first workshop on this item” and adjourning for further discussion in the future.

In Mayor Justin Elicker’s Forward Together Budget for the fiscal year 2021-22, health care benefits for city employees amount to $86,898,210.

ÁNGELA PéREZ
Ángela Pérez writes as a staff reporter for the City, WKND and Sports desks, where she primarily covers City Hall and the Board of Alders. Originally from Puerto Rico, she plans to double major in Architecture and History.