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Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Jennifer Nix: Listen here. Nix is a journalist and the publisher of Guernica Magazine. She published an essay in Salon this week about her personal and political history with single-payer health care titled “I Love My Socialist Kidney.”
To most Americans, single-payer health care seems like political
science fiction; a bold idea that could never happen here. Most people
don’t realize that the U.S. already has single-payer options for
certain groups of people. The familiar examples are Medicare (for the
aged) and Medicaid (for the poor). My guest Jennifer Nix knows first
hand about another group of Americans who get single payer health care:
Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who need dialysis or
In 2008, Nix learned that she had inherited the same cystic kidney
disease that nearly killed her father in the early seventies. In 1972,
Wayne Nix was a young schoolteacher with two small children, a new
mortgage, and renal failure. Dialysis was astronomically expensive and
private insurers refused to cover patients with ESRD. Luckily for the
Nix family, activists successfully lobbied to create Medicare ESRD, a
program that has since helped over 1 million Americans survive with
ESRD since 1973, regardless of their ability to pay.
Amazingly, the program enjoyed strong bipartisan support in the
seventies. It was assumed that covering ESRD patients was just a
stop-gap to tide them over until universal health care covered
everyone. Even Republican president Richard Nixon was on board with the
idea. As we all know, we’re still waiting for universal health care.
Luckily, when Jennifer Nix found out she needed a kidney transplant,
the Medicare ESRD was still there for her. If single-payer works for
one disease, Nix argues, why shouldn’t all Americans enjoy the same
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