For Eve Shapiro, MD, MPH, being a delegate at this year’s Democratic National Convention is just the latest expression of her dedication to progressive causes.
Shapiro, a Tucson, Arizona pediatrician, voted for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in her state’s Democratic primary because of his support for a single-payer health plan, as well as other liberal causes. She became a member of Arizona’s delegation as a result of her work with the state chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, an outgrowth of Vermont Governor Howard Dean’s unsuccessful campaign for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. In 2000, she campaigned vigorously on behalf of a successful initiative to expand Medicaid access in Arizona.
“I’ve been involved in politics since I was in high school, when I worked on the Eugene McCarthy campaign,” she said in a telephone interview with Medical Economics. “I kind of grew up with an emphasis on social justice. Now I try to get involved with progressive candidates on all different levels from governor to congressional races to local races.”
In addition to her local activity, Shapiro is a long-time member of Physicians for a National Health Plan. “As a physician, I could see the inequalities of our health system, and the only possible way to cover everyone at an affordable cost is a single-payer system,” she said. “The logic was so clear to me, and the evidence so overwhelming, that I felt I had to be part of this group.” Now she gives talks on the subject to students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
Working on behalf of progressive causes in a largely conservative state such as Arizona can be frustrating at times, she admits. But it is made easier by being in Tucson, which is home to the University of Arizona and generally more liberal than the rest of the state. “And even in other parts of the state there are progressive people,” she said.
A native of Long Island, New York, Shapiro first practiced in New York City, then moved to Rochester, where her husband was doing a residency in family practice. The couple came to Arizona because of his requirement to work off a National Health Service Corps student loan. “I said ‘I’m not buying another snowsuit for our kids so we’d better go somewhere south,’” she recalled with a laugh.
Regarding the two parties’ stands on healthcare issues, Shapiro called the GOP platform “a joke. They have the same old stuff they pull out, like selling insurance across state lines and offering premium support. None of those things are going to solve the problems we have in our healthcare system.”
She was only slightly more sympathetic to the Democrats: A push to include single-payer in the party’s platform failed, she noted, “so instead they included some half-hearted things about improving the Affordable Care Act. (ACA)But because the ACA includes private insurance companies it can never fix the problems, It’s never going to make healthcare universal and at an affordable cost.”
Shapiro lays some of the blame for the lack of support for single-payer at the feet of the national news media. She cites a national publication that claimed Sanders’ plan would cost up to a trillion dollars. “It was ridiculous, a complete misstatement of the facts,” she said. “I felt the media didn’t do any homework.”
Sanders himself addressed his supporters at the convention the afternoon before he endorsed Hillary Clinton as the party’s nominee. “He talked about continuing what he calls the political revolution, working on the issues he brought up in his campaign like single payer, income inequality and immigration reform,” Shapiro said. “He told us we have to continue it by getting people elected at all levels of government, from school boards on up.”