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WATCH: Building the movement for health care justice

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Ep. 46: Can't Stop Us Now (w/ Dr. Victoria Dooley)

Feb. 25, 2020

Ep. 46: Can't Stop Us Now (w/ Dr. Victoria Dooley)

Fresh from his massive win in Nevada, which confirmed his status as front-runner for the Democratic nomination, Bernie has come under attack for being "divisive." Strange, then, that Bernie's support is the most diverse of any campaign in the race, and he routinely wins head-to-head match-ups against both Donald Trump and the other Democratic candidates. Briahna explains why efforts by the establishment to tear down this multiracial, working-class coalition will fail.

Then, in our final episode of Black History Month, Briahna chats with a panel of Black Bernie staffers about why they support "the old white guy" and with Dr. Victoria Dooley about the lives Medicare for All would save in her diverse medical practice.

The panel guests:

Dr. Victoria Dooley on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrDooleyMD

Transcript

Chris Matthews: I'm reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940, and the General Reynaud calls up Churchill and says, "It's over." And Churchill says, "How can it be? You got the greatest army in Europe. How could it be over?" He said, "It's over." So, I had that suppressed feeling.

James Carville: It's about 1:15 Moscow time. This thing is going very well for Vladimir Putin. I promise you. He- he- he- he probably staying up and watching us right now. How you doing, Vlad?

Joy Reid: ... that the rest of us that sort of look at politics have underestimated the sheer unadulterated rage, the anger of working class people, especially young people who are living in, with three roommates and have a Lyft job and an Uber job, and they can't make it and they're looking at my generation Gen-X, who we coulda had it all in the Clinton years and we were living well and our parents and grandparents. And they're like, "Throw the tables over." They're turning the tables a-

Reporter: These again are people who work on the strip within two and a half miles of the Bellagio, largely people of color. Of those the majority are Latino, and they are clearly, at least from eyeballing it, strongly in favor of Bernie Sanders.

Anand Giridharadas: I think this is a wake-up moment for the American power establishment. From Michael Bloomberg to those of us in the media, to the Democratic Party, to donors, to CEOs, many in this establishment are behaving, in my view, as they face the prospect of a Bernie Sanders nomination, like out of touch aristocrats in a dying aristocracy. Just sort of, "How do we stop this? How do we block this?" And there is no curiosity. Why is this happening? What is going on in the lives of my fellow citizens in this country that they may be voting for something that I find it so hard to understand? What is happening? What is happening? This is a moment for curiosity.

Nicolle Wallace: I have no idea what voters think about anything anymore.

Briahna Joy Gray: Last weekend's victory in Nevada was a political earthquake so large and consequential that even our friends in the media were not able to minimize it, ignore it, or spin it in favor of our opponents.

Bernie won just about every demographic slice. He won with young voters and those in their 50s. He won with White voters and Latinos, the latter by more than 50%. He won with men and with women. He came in second among Black voters, behind Joe Biden, as well as with self-described moderate voters, beating out candidates like Buttigieg and Klobuchar, whose entire campaigns are premised on an appeal to so-called moderates.

You may recall after New Hampshire, cable news types making the absurd argument that Bernie would have lost if you combined the votes of all his moderate rivals. Well, even if you did that in Nevada, Bernie still would've come out on top. In short, Bernie won, which means that you won, too. Savor it. Take heart. And then return to the fight, because the next few weeks could decide the entire race and make Bernie Sanders the next President of the United States.

After Nevada, no one can contest that Bernie is the front runner for the Democratic nomination. Nationally he is number one with Black voters, number one with Latino voters, and number one with White voters, which makes it kind of odd that so many Democrats have been on TV asking, "How do we stop Bernie?" The answer from the Democratic establishment is to support a Republican billionaire who backed stop and frisk and Social Security cuts to be the Democratic nominee.

As we record this, Bloomberg, who definitely is an oligarch, by the way, announced plans to spend another fraction of his enormous fortune blitzing U.S. airways with anti-Bernie ads packed with disingenuous attacks about how Bernie wants to take away your health care by making it universal and free, or about how Bernie, the candidate who has the largest most racially diverse, working-class coalition in the race, is somehow divisive. This about a candidate who consistently beats every other candidate and Donald Trump in head to head matchups.

Fun fact. Bernie beats Trump, but Trump beats Bloomberg in head to head polls.

Bloomberg isn't alone in his bizarre attempt to paint himself as a unity candidate. Mayor Pete's speech following the Nevada caucus results attacked Bernie as divisive. Ironic since he can't seem to get above four percent with non-White voters.

And you'd be forgiven for thinking that Joe Biden's spiel about his second-place finish, a full 26 points behind Bernie, was in fact a victory speech. The fact is we're the clear frontrunner now. And now they're grasping for straws.

Democratic socialism is about putting the people, the demos, in power to serve the people, society. It's right there in the name. But in the coming days you will hear that Bernie somehow has an affinity for authoritarians, all while Michael Bloomberg, who literally referred to the NYPD as his own personal army and changed state rule so that he could run for a third term, fails to come under similar scrutiny.

You will hear that Bernie never accomplished anything despite the fact that his advocacy for Disney workers and Amazon workers has already secured a $15 minimum wage for hundreds of thousands of Americans, disproportionately Black and Brown.

Check out Episode 34 for more on Bernie's record by the way.

When you hear these attacks, remember that they are signs we are winning. Our fellow candidates, at least those who aren't billionaires, are running low on cash and desperately need to distinguish themselves to stay in the race. They can't win on ideas so they're resorting to petty smears and misrepresentations.

But here's the thing. We're still going to win.

This is Hear the Bern, a podcast about the people, ideas, and politics that are driving the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign and the movement to secure a dignified life for everyone living in this country. My name is Briahna Joy Gray and I'm coming to you from campaign headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In this, our last episode of Black History Month, I want to highlight what this campaign, that some establishment Democrats are looking to tear down, actually looks like. So, I assembled a panel of Black Bernie staffers from teams across the campaign to ask why they support the old White guy. Then, I chatted with Dr. Victoria Dooley, a general practitioner based in Michigan and an invaluable campaign surrogate, about how Medicare for All would quite literally save the lives of her diverse patients.

My first question for our staffers was, "Why is representation so important within the campaign? What difference does it make in the kinds of stories we tell and the issues we focus on?" Media producer Sam Adaramola was the first to answer.

Samuel Adaramola: Representation really matters and specifically to my department is we do all the storytelling on video. So, it matters that when we are putting things out that you see faces that look like you. And even further, when you are going out to get stories from specific communities you want to have somebody who can speak to that community, to ask pointed questions that people from other communities may not know to ask so you can get deeper to the nuances of what is really plaguing that specific community.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: So, from this perspective of, you know, doing the videos and producing media, that's particularly important to have a Black face there.

Chris Moore: It's really important I think that Black people are telling Black stories. Stories can be told a plethora of ways, but when you have people that look like you telling your story, I think that really helps convey the message and helps portray what you're trying to say.

Briahna Joy Gray: What part of that message has resonated with all of you? What has drawn you to join this campaign? Erica?

Erica England: I think from my own personal story, specifically on how policy tends to affect the disenfranchised the most. So, policy that I hear that speaks to me personally is something that I gravitate towards. I'm a student. Recently, in one of my classes my professor was talking about like descriptive differences or similarities in a candidate and ideological similarities or differences in a candidate. And she was talking about like, "Okay, well you're a Black woman. This candidate or this candidate you may descriptively have something in common with them or maybe your backgrounds may be similar. But then the candidate that you support is like your ideological similarity."

These policies, these things that Senator Sanders fought for or believes in or is pushing for, those are the things that speak to me as a person. Those are the things that I know that I need so it makes no difference to me if you look like me if you're not pulling for the same things that I need.

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I see a lot of nods. Oh, and what kinda conversations are you guys having with friends or family when you go home, because there's been a lot of conversation…. Bernie, I would, I should say first and foremost where he's never won with Black voters now as of yesterday.

Erica England: Woo.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, big up to that.

Samuel Adaramola: Yeah. Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: [crosstalk 00:10:18] People have been doing a lot of work around this table. But also, there is a lot of conversation about how he's more popular with younger Black voters than older Black voters and a lot of voters who apparently are now getting into Michael Bloomberg, the force of these ads and the South has been particularly pop- powerful apparently.

So, have you been having conversations around the dinner table, tables like these with your family members and what, if so, what has been the most effective from your perspective?

Erica England: I feel like I've recently talked to my father about this, who is an immigrant and he was talking about, "Well, you know, what do you think about this candidate? Well Bloomberg's entered the race. What do you think about him?" And I said, "I don't see a large difference. Maybe on another side of the scale. But like I don't see a lot of huge differences between Bloomberg and his background and what his policies were that he fought for and things like that from Trump.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Bloomberg was a Republican up until like what? A few, just a few, few years ago. They have golfing-

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Samuel Adaramola: ... pictures together and, you know, when people golf together, they share stories and-

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Chris Moore: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Samuel Adaramola: ... it's not... [laughs]. You don't golf with people you're not really messing with.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Erica England: Golf is intimate too. Like-

Samuel Adaramola: It is.

Erica England: [crosstalk 00:11:32] It's more intimate than like basketball.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Samuel Adaramola: It's a s- ... from... It's a slow game. [crosstalk 00:11:37]

Chris Moore: Yeah. It's re-

Samuel Adaramola: [crosstalk 00:11:38] You actually have to ride a cart to get to the next... [crosstalk 00:11:41] You have conversation on those rides.

To Erica's point about being an immigrant, what attracted me to Bernie specifically is one, you know, the picture of him getting arrested for protesting during the Civil Rights, protesting housing segregations in Chicago. 2015 I saw that picture. I can't vote. I'm not a citizen of the U.S. I'm a permanent resident. I was, gone through deportation hearings and things of that sort.

Being a Black immigrant from Nigeria I have that duality in my Blackness being raised in America and having cultural roots back at home. Segue that to the update in the travel brand including Nigeria and the conversations I'm having now with my sister who is trying to work on having her children come here.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: You know, for a better life and better opportunity. Segue that to my father now who is trying to go back home to kind of, you know, be at peace. They know that it's deeper than just getting a racist out of the office. It's like what are those policies that are going to help our communities and our family be better, because I lost my mom through a preventable disease.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: And she didn't know she had that disease until she had it. And that was because low-income family. You're afraid to go to the hospital because of those bills. So, Medicare for All speaks to me. You know, obviously being a Black man in America, criminal justice and, you know, I've been stopped by the police. I've been questioned. I have that, I've had all those experiences from both of my I guess dualities of Blackness.

So, he's the only candidate that kind of checks everything off for a future I want for my one-day kids-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: ... and what I want for myself, and what I want for my family members.

Chris Moore: I went to a pretty conservative college. That's where I first heard Senator Sanders speak. And he didn't have to speak there, but he did speak and he really, he really made an impact. And even people that had really conservative views liked what he had to say. Getting to know him more and doing my research and then eventually working for him, he hasn't changed. I mean, everything he has proposed or like... He's been fighting for people's rights since the '80s. And I mean it's the same stance. I mean there's literally a video it feels like for everything or a clip for everything.

Samuel Adaramola: Yeah. Yeah.

Chris Moore: He's an open book. Most campaigns would fear someone digging up and finding old footage. You know, we embrace it. We look for it.

Samuel Adaramola: Yeah.

Chris Moore: We try to put it in videos.

Samuel Adaramola: [laughs].

Chris Moore: We try to put it in content.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Chris Moore: So, I think-

Erica England: It's not something that worries us.

Chris Moore: Right. Right. I think that along with a lot of the points that, that Sam made, I mean is why I stand with Senator Sanders. I stand with Bernie.

Briahna Joy Gray: Are there examples of things you think that have come out of this campaign, concrete examples you can point to that you don't think would exist or wouldn't at least look the same way if we all weren't here?

Samuel Adaramola: When we talk about going to specific places in this country that, you know, demographically are more Black, representation matters because it's also comfort. Right? So, when we're like setting up calls to go to places, right, one colleague may talk to someone who's, who- who... You know there's like cues that we know as Black folk to-

Chris Moore: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Samuel Adaramola: ... you know, codes-

Erica England: Black telepathy?

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Samuel Adaramola: Kinda codes which to-

Erica England: They're Black telepathy tools.

Samuel Adaramola: Basically.

Erica England: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Samuel Adaramola: And, and it's a little bit of code switching where you can kind of disarm somebody, especially when you're trying to get a story from someone.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Samuel Adaramola: You want like intimate details. You want people to be able to feel calm and relaxed. So, part of that is having pre-interviews.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Samuel Adaramola: Calling the person and saying, "Hey, we're coming to your city. We want to speak with you. And we want to, you know, make sure X, Y, and Z is okay." So, non-white colleagues, the conversation could be different.

And there was a specific example where a colleague spoke to a person and then I guess that person wasn't quite understanding. And then when it came to me talking, I was like, "Hey, we want to do this, that." You know, I can't really point to exactly what I said, but I just know that-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Samuel Adaramola: ... after I spoke to that person they understood like, "Okay." Uh-

Chris Moore: Their level of comfort.

Samuel Adaramola: It's a level of comfort. You could kind of tell.

Samaria Phillips: A project we did earlier on in the beginning when we were in South Carolina and we were traveling with some of the early staff. And we were doing a piece on gentrification and we were working with some of the local like folks who like are part of the community as far as in the church community and just, you know, local elected officials. And they took us around South Carolina and showed us some of the areas where it was really dysfunctional. There wasn't like a lot of livable life there. Like people had broken homes. There wasn't like, you know, playgrounds or-

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Samaria Phillips: ... a lot of schools. It was just really torn up. And then not too far, like across the river if I have to say, there were new condos being built in these areas where predominantly Black folks live.

Terrel Champion: It's important to say that we're all Black. But I think we serve this campaign to a greater degree beyond just working on, you know, Black issues.

Samuel Adaramola: Right.

Terrel Champion: I think we bring a sense of multi-culturalism that allows us to just affect the campaign more broadly.

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Terrel Champion: You know, that informs everything beyond just how it affects Black people.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. But about your Black policies though. [laughs].

Terrel Champion: [laughs].

Erica England: [laughs].

Terrel Champion: Yeah. so, you know, I work on the HBCU policy.

Erica England: Woo. Yes.

Samuel Adaramola: Good all to that.

Erica England: Yes.

Terrel Champion: [crosstalk 00:16:47]

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Erica England: Thank you.

Terrel Champion: [crosstalk 00:16:48] And you know-

Samuel Adaramola: We were the first.

Erica England: [crosstalk 00:16:51] That's right.

Samuel Adaramola: I'll just put that out there.

Erica England: The first. Yeah.

Samuel Adaramola: We were the first.

Terrel Champion: [crosstalk 00:16:53] Definitely the best plan.

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Erica England: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Terrel Champion: And, and beyond that and plenty of the other plans that we released. So, you know-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Terrel Champion: ... played the role in. So-

Briahna Joy Gray: That's a point of intersectionality.

Terrel Champion: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: To your first point, that's the point of intersectionality. It was where you have-

Terrel Champion: Exactly.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... a lot of different kinds of people working on all of these kinds of plans with a lot of different backgrounds.

Terrel Champion: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: You make sure that everything is tying into everything else and then-

Samuel Adaramola: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: ... nobody's left behind.

Terrel Champion: Right.

Briahna Joy Gray: Well, as my last question I want to ask you what you would say to people or what you will say to people when they, they say, "Well why are you supporting Bernie? You're Black. Why are you supporting Bernie?"

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Erica England: I feel like it's a bit like why wouldn't you? Going back to like track record.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Terrel Champion: Yeah.

Erica England: And people that are like Johnny Come Lately.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. I hear that a lot. Consistency, especially when I talk to Black people.

Terrel Champion: Yeah.

Briahna Joy Gray: I hear people talk about he's consistent.

Erica England: 'Cause that's the, that's the thing I think, one of the main things that like differentiates him from other candidates is with his age, with his experience, with his time in the game, whatever you want to call it, you can see like what he fought for.

Samuel Adaramola: Yeah.

Erica England: You can see his stance on women's rights, on the right to choose and abortion being included in health care. You can see what his, his stance would be on something like a stop and frisk. You can see what his stance would be on environmental issues. You can see all of this. However, with some candidates you can see that as well.

Samuel Adaramola: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Erica England: And it doesn't look so good.

Samuel Adaramola: You have to have a vision for a better world. Right? Like everything cannot be about, you know, pragmatism. You can't always be pragmatic with everything. You have to be able to have a vision of a better world. And that's truly why I support Senator Sanders, in addition to his track record. Fighting for the same things over and over again. And two, it's like you have to remember that in order to achieve these things you need a collective of people. And he's not a politician that's selling you dreams that only I can do this.

You know, we have a President who says, "I will be the savior." Bernie Sanders has consistently said, "It's going to take all of us together doing this," because it won't... Just because he's in the White House doesn't mean that all these things are going to be passed. He says he's going to be the organizer in chief. And he tells us that, and he makes us believe that we are energized. And that's why we have like as many donations as we do, as much support as we do because he lets us know that it's going to be up to us to make this happen.

And I think when you are able to give the power to the people, you know, and say, "This is our opportunity. This is our government. We have to take control." So, I think that's what I will ultimately tell people. He's not selling you dreams. He's letting you know that we can do this.

Chris Moore: I think when I talk to a lot of Black people, you know, in whether it be church or just, you know, people that know, they- they say, "Oh, we like Bernie. You know, he's cool, but ah, it's eleectability. Can he beat Trump?" And I mean, there's only one way to find out and that's, that's when you vote.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Samuel Adaramola: Right?

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs]. [crosstalk 00:19:40]

Chris Moore: Right. [crosstalk 00:19:41] Yeah, like-

Samuel Adaramola: Vote.

Chris Moore: Right. [crosstalk 00:19:42] Like if you don't vote, you know, he's going to stay in office.

Samuel Adaramola: [laughs].

Chris Moore: So, so vote. I mean and that, and that, that's what I always end up telling 'em and they always usually say, "Hmm, well."

Samuel Adaramola: Can he beat Trump?

Chris Moore: Right. Right.

Samuel Adaramola: [crosstalk 00:19:53] going to vote.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Chris Moore: Right. And I'm like, I'm like... They say, "Well I'll think about it." Well, thinking about it is what happened-

Briahna Joy Gray: [crosstalk 00:19:57] harder. [laughs].

Chris Moore: Right. Don't just think, do.

Terrel Champion: My favorite part about working for this campaign is working with wonderful people like you all.

Briahna Joy Gray: Oh.

Terrel Champion: And... No, seriously. And, you know, right now the-

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Terrel Champion: On the internet it's always talking about like, you know, the vitriol and Bernie Bros.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Terrel Champion: I've been working with Bernie for like three years now and I still haven't met a Bernie Bro. So, it's great that we had this opportunity, you know, to talk and show ourselves so people can see that this campaign isn't Bernie Bros.

Briahna Joy Gray: That was lovely, Terrel. Thank you for that.

Speaker: Everyone here wants the same thing essentially when you go to work. You want to be treated fairly. You want to be respected. And you want to be paid accordingly. And I'm a tell you this, I want to be overpaid. I'm a put it like that. Right? But unfortunately, that's not what's happening. And we're here because of one thing. Corporate greed. Plain and simple. Right? So, let me say this in closing, right? You do not have to be me in order to fight alongside one another. And everybody at Giant does not have to be you to realize that our fight is the same. And I'm a say it like Fannie Lou Hamer. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, I am so grateful to be joined today by Dr. Victoria Dooley, who is one of our most compelling surrogates, who has been on the campaign trail working like we're paying her [laughs], even though we're not. [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: [laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: and who I brought on today to talk about Medicare for All. And in particular, as a practicing physician, what, what your perspective is on why it's so important and why there's so many gains to be had there for cost saving. So, first of all can you tell us a little bit about your background and your practice?

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Yes. I'm a family medicine physician. I completed my med school training in Detroit. And then I completed my residency training in Flint. And now I practice in the suburbs of Detroit. I have a diverse practice, but because evidence has shown that people of color usually have better outcomes when they have a doctor of color-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... people from all over the area seek out me as a Black physician.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: but I do have a very diverse practice of all ages from youth through seniors.

Briahna Joy Gray: So, we hear a lot about health gaps, the maternal mortality gap and other kinds of health gaps between Black Americans and White Americans. What are some of the reasons? What are those, some of the primary factors that go into that?

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Being uninsured is a major issue.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Briahna, when you look at every effort we've made in this country to insure more people, whether it be Medicaid expansion or Medicare or the Affordable Care Act, every single time there is still a disproportionate amount of poor people of all colors, Black and Brown people, who are still left uninsured. Even after the Affordable Care Act African Americans are still twice as likely to be uninsured as White Americans.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so no, if you don't have the means to get you a doctor, to get prevention... if you don't have the means to get you a doctor to get prescriptions, you're going to get sicker and you're going to die earlier.

Briahna Joy Gray: Is this something that you've observed in your practice 'cause I, I read stories and, yeah, please tell us a little.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Absolutely. All the time, Briahna. That's why I'm so passionate about ending health disparity because, again, my practice is very diverse, but I have a lot of Black females in my practice. And all patients of all backgrounds and all incomes are complaining about these rising health care costs.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, we have more insurance in this country with the Affordable Care Act, but we have done nothing to address the underinsurance issue.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Or these rising deductibles and copays and et cetera. So, patients of all backgrounds complain about rising health care costs. But my Black women are my most likely to tell me that they are going out of medication and that they are delaying and refusing services due to cost.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so, part of that is because it's a bigger issue for people of color. And another part of it might be they're more comfortable telling me that-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... because I am a Black woman myself. It's embarrassing to tell your doctor that you can't afford your prescription.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: But if you have a doctor who's not willing to work with you and help you find solutions, if you did tell them that then maybe it's time to look for another doctor. I mean I've had situations where I've had Black women come to my office and they tell me that they're taking their medicines and it's just not adding up. With the electronic medical records nowadays, I can see that they haven't filled it and they're swearing up and down, "Dr. Dooley, Dr. Dooley, I'm taking it."

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, then I get on the phone and I call the pharmacy just to verify and they say, "No. She has not picked up this medicine in, you know, six, 12 months." And then I go back in the room. I say, "I'm not being accusatory."

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: "But I, in order for me to help you I need you to be honest with me. Why are you not taking your medication?" And then the vast majority of the time it's because of cost.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so, as a medical student and in training we talk about something called patient non-compliance.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And, and it's really a ridiculous subject to talk about because we don't talk about the reasons why patients are quote/unquote non-compliant with taking their medications.

I had a young Black male come to me, and he had diabetes for some time. He had been off his insulin for three years, Briahna. Three years.

Briahna Joy Gray: Oh, wow.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And I said, you know, "How come it's been so long that you've been off your insulin?" And he said, "Dr. Dooley, I was making $9 an hour, and I had health insurance, but it had a $3,000 deductible, and my insulin was costing about $250 a month. I was not taking my insulin because I could not afford it." So, what good is health insurance if you are making minimum wages. $250 a month, that's a car loan. How could anybody afford that?

So, it is a huge issue for African Americans, meaning health disparities. And so yeah, some people say to me, "Oh, well Medicare for All is not going to eliminate racism," right?

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Well that would be true. But before a doctor can discriminate against you, you have to be able to go to the doctor to be discriminated against. [laughs].

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Be at the table before they can even dismiss you. And then also with Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, he is going to make it illegal for health care providers to discriminate against people because of race or gender or sexuality, et cetera. So, we are addressing the issue of underinsurance and the Senator is going even farther and addressing the issue of racial bias in care.

When health care providers don't believe Black women, which they don't believe Black women's pain stories. We have a wonderful surrogate, Cori Bush, who has a, oh my God, a heartbreaking story about her pregnancy and when her doctor didn't believe her as a Black woman. When health care providers do not believe Black patients, they die. Providers have to be trained in racial biases and they have to be held accountable for when they dismiss Black patients' concerns.

Briahna Joy Gray: That's so compelling. I really appreciate that. I'm curious what your, would you say to folks then who argue, "Well, we just can't afford it. Where are we going to find the money?" Do you... I know that one of our arguments is that there's so much administrative waste that goes on. Is that something that you have insight into as a practicing physician?

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Oh, absolutely. I opened my own practice from scratch, and the reason why I did so is because when I graduated, I was getting offers of $.65 on the dollar compared to my White male colleagues.

Briahna Joy Gray: Wow.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, I said, "This is ridiculous. If anybody's going to underpay me it's going to be me underpaying myself."

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, I said, "I'm not working for $.65 on the dollar. I'll work for zero. I fortunately, I was able to be a stay-at-home daughter while I built up my practice. And so just the time and the energy spent in billing alone at my small practice, it became impossible for us to handle. And then you have all this administrative waste. There's something called prior authorization. Have you heard of that?

Briahna Joy Gray: I haven't.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, prior authorization is a way for basically for insurance companies to kill people. So, I might write you a prescription for a lifesaving medication. But because the prescription is so costly because in the U.S., we pay more for prescriptions than any other nation in the world, your insurance company might not want to cover it off the bat. So, they say, "Oh, we need prior authorization from your doctor." And I'm like, “I wrote the-

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... dang prescription. I gave my authorization."

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: "What is this prior authorization stuff?" So, then you have to get on the phone and beg somebody to cover a patient's lifesaving medication.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And most of the time as a doctor, it's not me talking to another doctor. It's me talking to somebody who has zero training, medical training.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: They don't know how to pronounce the names of the drugs. So, sometimes I'm explaining things to them and, and sometimes they're saying things to me and I don't understand what they're saying 'cause they're not pronouncing them right.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And they go through this little checkbox. And then at the end of the day they'll say no, or they say, "We need more information. You gotta send us some records. So, wait." And so, in the interim, if you need chemotherapy-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... for cancer savings, or you need a medication to, to cure your Hepatitis C-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... while you're waiting for this prior authorization, people die. I spent one hour on the phone trying to get a patient who had asthma, her medication that she needed. She had health insurance, and her employer covered her Medicare asthma inhaler for like years, years and years. All of a sudden, her employer just decided they're not going to cover that specific inhaler anymore. The inhaler that she needed to breathe. She had tried all the other inhalers. And so, she knew, and I knew which inhaler helped her breathe.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: But her employer just opted out of covering it. They just flat out refused to cover the one inhaler that helped her to breathe, just breathe normally.

Briahna Joy Gray: Wow.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so, these are things that I spend a lot of time on as a doctor. Oh, and not only that, but sometimes I can't even get patients back to see me because they're tied up at the front desk trying to figure out insurance. Last week before I came here I coulda saw at least four more patients if they didn't get tied up at the front desk for us trying to verify and figure out their insurance.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, Medicare for All is going to save time. It's going to save money. It's going to increase overall job satisfaction for me. We talk about physician burnout and one of the biggest reasons that I feel burnout as a physician-

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... is because people are rationing insulin.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: I went in this field to help people and some days, Briahna, I just go home, and I just think, "Did I do anything other than write a whole bunch of prescriptions-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... and tests that I know people can't afford?" And that is not why I went into this field. I just want to be able to go to work one day and leave knowing that everybody who saw me is going to be able to get the care and the treatment I need. And that's going to be exactly what happens with Medicare for All.

Briahna Joy Gray: I really appreciate your humanistic and empathetic perspective. I mean so often we hear these candidates on the debate stage talking about choice and reframing this as an issue where people are going to be kicked off their health care and not be able to access their doctors. And what you've really laid out with those anecdotes, with that testimony, is how little choice people have when they're relying on their employer to provide them with coverage and how the employer can decide at a drop of a dime what you can and cannot access. So, that's incredibly compelling.

I don't know if you had a chance to see Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed today in Essence about maternal health. Did you have a chance to take a look at that?

Dr. Victoria Dooley: I did. I did. It was wonderful. It was just perfect. We know that when Black women have health insurance it decreases the Black maternal mortality rate. We know that because in states where we expanded Medicaid-

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: ... we decreased Black maternal mortality. Medicaid is not good enough. It might take care of you when you're pregnant and maybe a month or two after you have the baby, but we need to take care of Black women before they get pregnant.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: We need to take care of Black women for their entire lives. We need to treat their high blood pressure before they're even thinking about getting pregnant. So, expanding Medicaid is a good thing but it's kinda laughable because it's like, "No, that's not the best solution. The best solution is to guarantee health care for everybody as a human right so you, as a Black woman, can get care from birth to death. Not only the year you decide to get pregnant."

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah, it's remarkable to me that we understand we live in a country with racial bias. We understand we live in a country where unfortunately too many people think that Black lives don't matter. And that when people get left behind in America, it's always disproportionately people from historically marginalized groups. And yet knowing that there are some who claim to be advocates for various minority groups who don't want universality in programs. Right? Who want programs that are means tested. Programs where somebody isn't going to access them knowing full well what that somebody is going to look like.

So, I'm enormously appreciative of your advocacy. One last question I wanted to ask you is, do you have these conversations not just with your patients but friends and family about the Sanders campaign, about Medicare of All? I'm curious what tactics, what arguments are most useful to you in getting through to folks about why they should be a part of this revolution?

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Okay. I have those conversations all the time. That's my favorite thing to do.

Briahna Joy Gray: [laughs].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: My father, he is an older Black male.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And he at first, he was leaning more towards Biden.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so, then we started talking the conversation about health care. He's a retired educator. Fortunately, in addition to Medicare he has a good retirement benefit.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: But he still has the deductible. And so, I started having conversations with him. He fell and hit his head.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: he just had a slip and fall and ended up in the hospital. He had this huge hospital bill. But fortunately, because he had two insurance, Medicare and his insurance from being self-employed, his deductible was affordable for him.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: But it's not for a lot of people.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, I got my dad's attention with Medicare for All. He agrees that all people should have health care as a human right. So, there's no person that I've encountered who loves their health insurance.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: That's a myth. I kinda like mine, but the only reason I kinda like it is 'cause it's better than so many other people, and how messed up is that? That the only reason it's likable is because it's better than the majority of people who have this horrible insurance.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And another big issue that I bring up, and I usually get, I'm able to get people on board with Senator Sanders is cancel student debt.

Briahna Joy Gray: Mm.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: As a physician as a Black physician I incur more student debt than most of my White male colleagues in order to be a doctor.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: And so, in my household we have probably about a half a million dollars in student debt.

Briahna Joy Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: So, when I bring to people's attention that Senator Sanders is the only candidate who's going to cancel all student debt, that's another big issue other than Medicare for All that I'm usually able to get some people.

Briahna Joy Gray: Right. One of the things that really resonates with me about your approach there is when Bernie says that line about, "Will you fight for someone that you don't know?" And we hear Pete Buttigieg and people like that saying, "Student loan debt is for the kids of millionaires," as though people who are, have millionaires take out 8% interest loans for fun.

You know, we hear people say, "I like my insurance," kind of purposefully indifferent to how many people are suffering under the current system. We don't see at debates, you know, we just had a debate last night, none of the centrist candidates are asked how they justify all the people who are going to die by maintaining the status quo. They're not asked to justify how we're going to pay for an enormously expensive system that also doesn't deliver anything to the people that need it.

And when you hear a humanistic approach like that, and when you hear Bernie Sanders asking, "Will you fight for someone else," it really does I think speak to a lot of people who at some point in their life, at some juncture, in some context understand what it is to be on the wrong side of the equation. And to understand I think in a very pure way what solidarity means. So, I really appreciate you joining me today, Dr. Dooley. And-

Dr. Victoria Dooley: Thank you. No problem.

Briahna Joy Gray: I hope to see you on the trail very soon.

Dr. Victoria Dooley: I'm going to have to come do it with you in D.C. next time live.

Briahna Joy Gray: I would love that.

That's it for this week. Hear the Bern is produced by Ben Dalton and Christopher Moore. Let us know what you think at [email protected] or else take to Twitter with the hashtag #hearthebern.

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