JTA — Ady Barkan can’t speak without electronic assistance anymore. But he’s still being heard in the 2020 campaign for president.
Barkan has emerged as one of the country’s most visible progressive activists for healthcare since 2017, when he was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. A new father given just years to live, Barkan literally threw his body into action, protesting Republican initiatives at the US Capitol, crisscrossing the country and raising millions of dollars for political campaigns. By his count, he has been arrested at the Capitol seven or eight times as of March.
Barkan’s name came up after the first round of the Democratic presidential debate, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who supports the universal, government-run healthcare proposal known as Medicare for All, cited Barkan’s personal story as an example of the shortfalls of private insurance.
Warren also said she keeps a picture of Barkan’s toddler, Carl, in her office.
“He’s dying of ALS and he has really good insurance,” Warren told MSNBC after the debate. “He has about $9,000 every month on average that the insurance company says, ‘No, we’re not doing that. We don’t care that your doctors think it’s right.’”
Barkan tweeted his thanks, but added in other tweets that candidates should have talked more about the human costs of deficiencies in the healthcare system.
“Thank you @EWarren for listening to me and millions of others in crisis because of our healthcare system,” he wrote. “But last night’s debate failed us.”
Thank you @EWarren for listening to me and millions of others in crisis because of our health care system. But last night’s debate failed us.
— Ady Barkan???????? (@AdyBarkan) July 31, 2019
Barkan, an Israeli-American lawyer, was a longtime progressive activist before his diagnosis, inspired as a child by the book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” according to Politico magazine. He got attention a few years ago for efforts to democratize the Federal Reserve. But since late 2017, he has focused on political advocacy for access to healthcare. His organization, called Be A Hero, is a project of the Center for Popular Democracy, where he is a senior organizer.
He has protested US President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cut — even confronting Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake about it on an airplane flight they shared — because he worried that it would cut funds for social services. He also gained attention for protesting the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. After Maine Sen. Susan Collins voted to confirm Kavanaugh, Barkan raised $4 million for her eventual challenger’s campaign. He’s also raising money to oppose Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
— Tax March ???? (@taxmarch) December 8, 2017
“We are all profoundly grateful for you, @AdyBarkan,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted after Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018. “Your passion for saving our healthcare and charting a new path for progressive change were an inspiration throughout the campaign.”
Now, he’s pushing Democrats as well as Republicans to focus more on the individual effects of healthcare policies. In a video posted last night to Twitter, he invited people to join his latest initiative, which will center people’s healthcare stories.
Tonight’s #DemDebate on health care was so frustrating. Moderators were cutting candidates off, asking bad questions, and making it impossible to center the human consequences.
But we can do something about this.
— Ady Barkan???????? (@AdyBarkan) July 31, 2019
“Healthcare is too important to too many people for 30-second sound bites shouted between ten different candidates on a stage, moderated by journalists who are not pissed off enough about the reality that so many Americans are facing in the richest nation in the history of human civilization,” he said. “We need a better healthcare debate and we need it now. We have to do something about this.”
The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.
We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.
Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.