Memorial Day is a time of remembrance, so I’ll share this story. A young mother arrived in our community in 1943 seeking a better, safer future.
Her husband, a soldier, had deserted her months before the birth of their only child. Our nation was at war; work – in the farms and fields of the Willamette Valley was available – but healthcare was costly, and access for low-wage workers was limited.
Dorothy worked hard. She cleaned floors, picked in the fields, and spent the first months of her time in our community with her daughter, living in a modified chicken coop. She was grateful for the work, considered those early months a blessing. Over time, she found employment as a live-in maid for a local businessman. Her daughter, Chloe, started working full-time about the age of thirteen, completed college, and got a job.
Despite the blessings of living in the wealthiest nation on the planet, both Dorothy and Chloe died early. Even though they received quality care at the end of their lives, the lack of access to affordable healthcare earlier in their lives likely played a significant role in the brevity of their time here. This impact upon the lives of my grandmother Dorothy and my mother, Chloe, is why healthcare is such a priority for me – I do not want others to miss out on what we did, because of the inequalities of the healthcare economy.
2018 is not as different from 1943 as we might want to believe. Currently, there are families doing their best, fighting hard just to keep their heads above water. The economy favors low-wage production and technology; it is out of alignment with the wealth generators of the post-World War II era. Tragically, this results in an accelerating divergence between the “haves,” the “used-to-haves,” and the “have nots.” While the wealthy have always had access to good care and always will, working families remain nervous about the escalating costs of care and medicine.
Our economy depends upon an educated, healthy, ready-for-the-job workforce. New technology depends upon creativity, innovation, and talent. However, we cannot provide these necessary inputs unless and until we sustain the foundation blocks for success: affordable health care, robust education and training opportunities, retirement security, and safe housing for all.
We have made strides toward improving healthcare access. 95% of Oregonians have healthcare coverage of some kind, and 100% of children have healthcare coverage. Despite the recent ballot measure (101) that would have rolled back expansion of Medicaid, the people of our community stood together and made healthcare a priority. I believe we must finish the job – ensuring 100% of Oregonians – have access to affordable, available, and quality healthcare.
Now that the Primary Election is over, we know the candidates for the general election. We must all demand action on the priority issues that require our attention. Together we can improve our schools, facilitate greater fairness for workers, and together we can ensure that working families – all working families – can receive healthcare.
State Representative Paul Evans represents District 20 in the Oregon legislature