Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Ady Barkan, an activist who championed health care for all while struggling with the terminal neurodegenerative disease ALS, died Wednesday. He was 39.
An author and an activist, Barkan dedicated the rest of his life to pushing for Medicare for all after his own dire prognosis in 2016, when he learned he had the terminal neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which often is called Lou Gehrig's disease.
Jamila Headley, executive director of the Barkan-founded organization Be a Hero, said in a statement, "After his diagnosis, Ady chose to use the time he had left fighting to create a country where health care is treated as a human right. He knew he was building something that would outlast him, and his relentless campaigning made him one of the most prominent health care advocates in the nation."
She said that as he confronted his own ALS, Barkan spent his days working to "stop health insurance corporations from gouging Medicare and denying patients care, and fighting to make it possible for people with disabilities and older adults who need home and community-based services to get the care they need surrounded by the people they love."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., posted a statement on X Wednesday night that said, "Ady Barkan was a hero who made this world a better place. I'm grateful for his years of friendship and my heart is with Rachael, Willow, and Carl tonight."
Hers was one of several tributes from elected political leaders.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also posted on X, saying, "Ady Barkan was an inspiration to all of us. There are very few people in this country who have done more to make health care a human right. To honor his life, let us dedicate ourselves to completing his work."
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on X, "We are heartbroken by Ady Barkan's passing. No one worked smarter to advance the principle that health care is a right, not a privilege. It was an honor to be with Ady at the FDR 4 Freedoms Awards last month. He always urged us: Be A Hero. Ady, you are mine. RIP dear friend."
The House Democrat progressive caucus said their movement had lost a hero.
When he testified before Congress in 2019 supporting the bill commonly called Medicare For All, Barkan said, "On the day we are born and on the day we die, and on so many days in between, all of us need medical care. And yet, in this country, the wealthiest in the history of human civilization, we do not have an effective or fair or rational system for delivering that care."