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“Please… Single Payer, before I Die.”

Summary: We desperately desire single payer in our lifetimes, with its moral clarity, equity, efficiency, and improved health. Yet some of us are older, and achieving that goal is uncertain. We should take solace that our advocacy today offers our lives meaning and a measure of immortality by enabling a single payer future.

Statement of Assemblymember Ash Kalra on AB 1400 non-vote
January 31, 2022

‚ÄúDespite heavy opposition and substantial misinformation from those that stand to profit from our current healthcare system, we were able to ignite a realistic and achievable path toward single-payer and bring AB 1400 to the floor of the Assembly. However, it became clear that we did not have the votes necessary for passage, and I decided the best course of action is to not put AB 1400 for a vote today.”

Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life
By John Martin Fischer, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, UC Riverside
2019
Oxford University Press

So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since as long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.  –  Epicurus’s Letter to Menoeceus

Being harmed is a property. So, if death harms someone subsequent to his going out of existence, the individual has the property, “being harmed,” at (or during) a time when he does not exist.

Is this a problem impossible to solve? I do not think so. We can start by noting that Aristotle has various properties now, even though he does not exist now. Aristotle has the property of being written about by John Fischer, of being a very influential philosopher, and so forth. Aristotle now has these properties, although he does not exist now.

Abraham Lincoln is now well regarded for leading the fight against slavery, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt for tackling the Great Depression. All of these thoughts involve predicating properties of nonexistent persons. Why should we think it is any different when we say that an individual is harmed after she ceases to exist by her own death?

I have suggested that we do not in general reject the notion that a previously existing individual can now have a property. This is not property time-travel: the property is had now, although the individual existed before.

Comment by: Don McCanne

By coincidence, I was reading John Martin Fischer’s book on death, immortality, and the meaning of life (for personal reasons) when we experienced another political failure at an attempt to establish a single payer health system that would have provided health care for everyone (in this instance for all Californians). How are these two events related? How many times have we said, “May we have a single payer system here before I die?” Yet so many of our colleagues in the effort have already passed on without seeing our dream of a system enacted that would bring us public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility (and I would add equity in financing and access).

To be honest, I am not nearly as concerned about receiving the self-satisfaction of seeing my dream of a single payer system being enacted as I would be about seeing a system that would correct the health injustices that our people face today and in the future, whether I’m here or not.

I will admit that I now have the satisfaction of having read this book by a professor at my alma mater, UCR, that explains to me that, as a previously existing individual, I can have a property into the future when I no longer exist, and that property is the support of health care justice for all. That is quite a consolation.

One reply on ““Please… Single Payer, before I Die.””

That is well-said. As an older (and retired) physician myself, I make the point when speaking with medical students about single- payer: I’ve been working for it for over 35 years, and I may not see it realized in my lifetime, but I am no less motivated, because if we all keep working at it, maybe you all will…

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