My friend Conan died at the corner of poverty and for-profit healthcare. Now is the time to support single-payer.

Californians: back Healthy California.
US Citizens: back Medicare for All.
UK Citizens: support the NHS.

My friend Conan Soranno died on 24 August. He was 39 years old, a gifted photographer, technologist, motorcycle aficionado, and self-described ‘mad scientist’. He was brave and strong and smart. He died two days after being forced to choose between paying his rent or going to the emergency room.

Let me make it plain: he died because the health care he required cost too much money. He died because people pile cost on top of cost to maximise profits in the US healthcare industry. He died young, and broke, and had plenty left to contribute, and all so companies can charge $27 for an aspirin when we don’t have a choice how much we pay.

Conan had to turn to crowdfunding to cover whatever expenses he could. He had no choice — there was nowhere else for the money to come from. And he’s not alone, on US-based charity-focused crowdfunding sites about half the solicitations are for medical costs. And more than a quarter of US adults told pollsters that they have trouble paying outstanding medical bills. Conan’s family have now had to turn to crowdfunding to pay funeral expenses.

We’d known each other for a long time — easily 25 years. We were geeks, coffee nerds, punks of more than one type. He was part of my life, and I was part of his, even if we didn’t sit together often. I moved to London full-time more than 12 years ago, and 7,000 miles puts off any casual get-togethers. But we kept in touch, through the magic of the Internet.

The last time I saw Conan I was home in Morro Bay — a little seaside town in California. My grandmother had just died, and he was about to move down to Los Angeles to get access to better healthcare. He was already on dialysis, but hadn’t had his heart operation yet. We ran across each other in the supermarket by the tortillas. I spent the rest of the trip filling a container with junk furniture and arranging housing for my Dad. I wish, like we all do in these times, that I had done something different – made some time for Conan. But I didn’t, because we’re all going to live forever.

Except we don’t. Especially if we get sick, then we get poor because we’re too sick to work, then we can’t afford to go to the doctor because we don’t have a job. Then, it turns out, we don’t live nearly long enough.

Those of you who are US citizens, I challenge you to come up with a reason to not support single-payer healthcare, or at the very least a public healthcare option.

In California, SB 562, Healthy California, is a state single-payer initiative backed by the California Nurses Association. It’s not a perfect bill, but it’s the job of legislators to refine it — which they’ve been forced into doing by grassroots supporters. Without those grassroots activists, the bill would be dead in the water — but it’s not. Learn more, and join the movement to bring healthcare to all Californians:

Across the US, Bernie Sanders will soon bring legislation forward for national single-payer health insurance that he calls ‘Medicare for All’. The national campaign will begin soon. Stay up to date:

Please, for the sake of Conan, and those many out there in similar circumstances, don’t accept no for an answer. We’re all in this together.

Read Conan’s last FB post from August 22 — — no one is far enough away from that position to be invulnerable.

PS — Liberals out there who say single payer healthcare isn’t possible — it’s not only possible, it’s wildly successful across the world. It is our moral imperative to care for those who cannot care for themselves. We must stand up to the insurance, drug, and ‘health’ industries and we must be bold — we will prevail.

PPS — Fiscal conservatives out there against single payer healthcare: you make no sense. It will lower healthcare costs for the self-employed and small businesses. It also ensures education and training is not wasted on a workforce that could be brought low by preventable or treatable illness. And that coming tax-crunch as Baby Boomers go full-time into Medicare as all the unions also build huge retirement costs, yeah, it deals with that, too.

PPPS — Lest we forget, those of us in the UK have to work to preserve the National Health Service. We are not the US (yet) but privatisation is the watchword of Jeremy Hunt. Write to your MP — especially if they are a Conservative — and tell them to fund the NHS.

Conan’s last three public FB posts:

If you’d like to contribute to Conan’s funeral expenses: