By Margaret Flowers, Health Over Profit for Everyone.

Washington, DC – On Monday, April 9, as part of World Health Day, National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) advocates marched through the streets of Washington, DC dragging a 12-foot tall ball and chain to symbolize the burden that the US healthcare system puts on everyone. From patients, to the family members who care for them to health professionals, we are all suffering under a failed system.

High costs of care and skimpy health insurance mean that patients can’t afford necessary treatments. A long term care system that requires going into poverty to qualify for coverage or paying out of pocket leaves families either struggling to care for loved ones without adequate support. Health professionals, especially those in primary care, are being forced into corporate-owned practices and are burning out quickly.

Healthcare advocates were gathered in DC for the first single payer action camp. After two days of workshops, action planning and art builds led by the Backbone Campaign, camp members were ready to march. We started by singing “I went down to the rich man’s house to take back what he stole from me…” as we marched to the American Health Insurance Plan’s (AHIP) office, the lobbying arm of the for-profit health insurance industry. After blocking the front doors and speaking out, we left signs so that others would know AHIP is there.

The march then proceeded down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Canadian Embassy where we stopped and told the story that the United States created Medicare in 1965 to cover people 65 years of age and over while Canada created a national universal Medicare system in 1968. Since then, Canada lowered its healthcare costs to half of what the US spends and improved the life expectancy and health of its citizens. Life expectancy is declining in the US and our health outcomes are poor.

We filled the street once again as we proceeded to the Department of Health and Human Services, stopping along the way for a photo in front of the Capitol.

The HHS must have been alerted that we were coming because their security guards stood outside the front doors, which were blocked by portable bicycle racks. We found that an odd way to ‘welcome’ healthcare advocates.

At the HHS, our final stop, we told our stories about the burdens of the failed market-based healthcare system and called for National Improved Medicare for All. We also protested the Medicaid waivers that are allowing states to place more barriers, such as work requirements, designed to make it harder for people to qualify for coverage.

View the video of the march and the full album of photos on the Health Over Profit for Everyone Facebook page. The end of the video includes powerful statements from patients, caregivers and health professionals.

The single payer action camp continues today. Watch for our next action report and plan to join us for future camps and actions. It will take a social movement to win National Improved Medicare for All. The healthcare crisis demands that we do all we can to build that movement now.

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