If you want to understand why Rebecca Wood supports Medicare for All, you have to understand the story of her mouth. In 2015, Wood cracked a tooth. Around the same time, her daughter, Charlie, began to speak. Charlie was already 3 years old, but her premature birth had left her with delayed speech and in need of extensive therapies. When a payment for Charlie’s speech therapy came due, Wood, who had stopped working so she could take care of her daughter, had to make a choice. Should she pay for a root canal and crown for herself, or pay for Charlie’s therapy?
Wood could only afford one, she told me recently. Deciding not to risk losing momentum on Charlie’s language skills, she opted to postpone the root canal. But before she could get the procedure done, she developed an infection that spread throughout her entire mouth and jaw. A dentist had to drain her infection and scrape away part of her jaw under local anesthesia; Wood could not afford to be put completely under. The dentist also pulled every one of her teeth. “I told myself, This is the price of a miracle,” Wood said of her daughter.
The choice she was forced to make still stings—sometimes literally. Wood now has dentures, and they fit poorly. Her dental insurance only covers a new pair every five years. Throughout this saga, Wood was frustrated that her health insurance didn’t protect her from staggering bills and difficult choices. It felt like politicians didn’t care. She decided that “the only way we’re going to ever have health-care justice is if the guys writing the policies have to live by it.” That would mean everyone would have the same health-insurance plan. Which would mean Medicare for All.