'Fundamentally broken': Man with ALS delivers powerful speech at DNC about health care

Ady Barkan used a computerized voice to deliver a speech about America's "dehumanizing" health care system.
/ Source: TODAY

An activist who is unable to speak because of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis made his voice heard with a powerful speech about America's "fundamentally broken" health care system at Tuesday night's Democratic National Convention.

Ady Barkan, 36, used a computerized voice to advocate for universal health care to fix a current system he called "dehumanizing."

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"We live in the richest country in history and yet we do not guarantee this most basic human right,” Barkan said. "Everyone living in America should get the health care they need regardless of their employment status or ability to pay."

Barkan was diagnosed in 2016 with ALS, a a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The average life expectancy for people with ALS is two to five years, according to the ALS Association.

Barkan made headlines in 2017 when he confronted then-Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, urging him not to vote for the Republicans' tax plan because it posed a threat to his life by making cuts to the federal disability plan he relied on for medical coverage.

"Like so many of you, I have experienced the ways our health care system is fundamentally broken," he said in his speech. "Enormous costs, denied claims, dehumanizing treatment when we are most in need."

He also urged people to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, stressing that President Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to attack the Affordable Care Act and noting that millions of people are out of work and without health insurance during the pandemic.

Barkan is a proponent for the single-payer "Medicare for All" system championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, which has not been supported by Biden, who has said he wants to expand the Affordable Care Act. However, Barkan called another four years of Trump "an existential threat."

"Even during this terrible crisis, Donald Trump and Republican politicians are trying to take away millions of people’s health insurance,” Barkan said. "We must elect Joe Biden. Each of us must be a hero for our communities, for our country, and then, with a compassionate and intelligent president, we must act together and put on his desk a bill that guarantees us all the health care we deserve."