Dying healthcare activist will make the case to Congress 'Medicare for All' is the way to go
Healthcare activist Andy Barkan, who has terminal ALS, will testify before federal lawmakers at a hearing on Medicare for All next Tuesday. (Photo: Ady Barkan/Facebook)

After progressives raised concerns about the people invited to testify next week at Congress's first-ever hearing on Medicare for All, dying healthcare activist Ady Barkan announced Friday that he has joined the witness list.

"Progressives have a plan to fix the American healthcare system once and for all," Barkan said in a statement. "It will take immense effort and teamwork for me to attend this hearing, but that is what is required—from me and thousands of other healthcare heroes—to deliver us the change that the American people deserve."

Barkan, who is battling terminal ALS, will travel from his home in California to Washington, D.C. with two full-time caregivers. He plans to address the U.S. House Rules Committee next Tuesday morning "using a computer system that tracks his eye movements and subsequently converts text into speech," according to a statement from Be A Hero, the political group he founded.

While calling out GOP lawmakers and corporations that oppose legislation designed to guarantee healthcare as a human right for all Americans, Barkan thanked Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-Mass.) for the invitation to speak Tuesday as well as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and others "for their decades of leadership" in the fight for a more just system.

McGovern's announcement earlier this week that his committee will hold the historic hearing on Jayapal's Medicare for All Act of 2019—which has 108 co-sponsors in the House—was met with applause by progressives and healthcare reform advocates. However, excitement shifted to concern when the witness list came out.

HuffPost's Matt Fuller reported Thursday that only one of the four witnesses invited by Democrats, New York City-based Dr. Farzon Nahvi, is "actually an advocate for Medicare for All, the single-payer healthcare system." His testimony "is supposed to be limited to how patient experience would change," sources told Fuller.

Critics raised alarm that the Democratic Party's leadership planned to put forth witnesses who won't make a strong case for the kind of systemic overhaul that Jayapal's bill proposes. As Common Dreams reported Friday, the Democratic Socialists of America's campaign for a single-payer system tweeted, "Pelosi doesn't want a fair hearing on Medicare for All, because she knows we'd win."

Washington Post journalist Jeff Stein was among those who noted that Barkan's announcement followed the HuffPost report about advocates' worries that lawmakers wouldn't hear from enough Medicare for All supporters at the hearing.

Peter Sullivan, a reporter at The Hill who also pointed out the timing, tweeted that Pelosi's spokesperson said Barkan reached out to her asking to testify, and "she then called McGovern who invited him."