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Ady Barkan, Champion for Single Payer Health Care, Dies at 39

Ady Barkan, a well-known activist who campaigned for Medicare for all while struggling with the terminal neurodegenerative disease A.L.S., has died. He was 39.

His death was announced on Wednesday by Be a Hero, a political organization he co-founded in 2018. Mr. Barkan died of complications of A.L.S. at about 6 p.m. local time at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, Calif., the group said.

Mr. Barkan was diagnosed with A.L.S., or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2016, four months after the birth of his son, Carl. The disease, which causes paralysis, strikes many patients in the prime of life and often leads to death within two to five years.

As Mr. Barkan confronted his mortality, he dedicated the rest of his life to changing the American health care system.

Ohad Barkan was born on Dec. 18, 1983, in Boston. His mother, Diana Kormos Buchwald, is a professor of the history of science at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. His father, Elazar Barkan, is a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. Both emigrated to the United States from Israel.

Mr. Barkan was raised in Cambridge, Mass., where his parents were graduate students, and later in California, where he attended high school in Pasadena, a spokeswoman for his political group said. One of his first forays into politics was volunteering on an election campaign for Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California.

In a 2020 discussion with Mr. Barkan over Zoom, Mr. Biden would not commit to doubling the budget for the National Institutes of Health, saying that he would “significantly increase the budget” and ensure that “we spend another $50 billion on biomedical research” over the next several years.

“I think that is not enough,” said Mr. Barkan, who by that point could speak only through a computerized voice using eye gaze technology.

“Well, maybe when I get elected, you can come and help me figure out what’s enough,” Mr. Biden told him.

“Thank you, Mr. Vice President,” Mr. Barkan replied. “I’ll take you up on that.”

Mr. Barkan is survived by his parents; his wife; their two children, Carl, 7, and Willow, 3; a brother, Muki Barkan; and an aunt, Deborah Schrag.

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