New York is a city of strong passions. At least, this is what I always thought as an Italian, fed by the pieces of American culture that reaches every Italian from the day he or she is born. I have felt surprised, though, when I have experienced that passion in unexpected ways since being in New York.
Fatima is a facilitated enroller for Public Health Solutions. Every day for seven years, basically since the very beginning of the program, she has helped people to navigate and find their way in the complex application process which hopefully leads to enrollment in the different public health insurance options: Medicaid, Family Health Plus, and Child Health Plus. She speaks about those days- “when we started everything!” – as adventurous moments, moments when she had everything to learn and to learn quickly, “because people needed help.” Fatima today, as it is so precious to witness it while being trained by her, is not only a clerk entering cold data on immigration status, family size and income in the system of the computer; she is the reference for everybody who need tips about how to find health care. She works daily with uninsured and uninsurable people who want to know which hospital they can still go to in the neighborhood, for people who do not know how they can advocate for themselves and obtain a discount from an unaffordable medical bill, and for thousands of others in need of small tips that make such a big difference in their lives. Her passion is tangible. And when I had the opportunity to fill in for her during one of her more than deserved days off, people approached the facilitated public heath insurance desk with a worried face and asked: “Fatima did not leave her job, did she?!?”"
I discovered something new, something that fulfills me. After facing the feeling of cultural shock for a month while getting acquainted to the weird features of the US healthcare (non?) system, I came across another proposal, and across passionate people fighting for it. The single payer movement sounds so simple and so fascinating: it would be basically only one entity – a public one – paying for every medical cost. It is said to be cost effective. It is claimed to be universal. It is tangible, already in place in some states and supported by politicians even in New York State. Basically, it is an extension of Medicare to all. There is no compromise with money makers from private insurance companies. It guarantees the universal right to an equal amount of healthcare. Listening to activists pronouncing these words here, in the US, where health care is the emblem of contradiction and injustice, fulfills me with the passion of New York.
I wish this passion all the best. In the meanwhile, we would be lucky to have many more Fatimas.