Lack of affordable healthcare puts millions of Americans at risk

The US is the world’s only developed country without some form of universal healthcare.

For countless millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans needing hospitalization or other expensive treatments, their well-being and lives at risk.

At times like now when lockdowns, shelter in place, and/or social distancing are recommended or mandated for health and safety, single-payer/universal healthcare for all is vital to save lives.

According to Physicians for a National Health Program president Dr. Adam Gaffney, it’s “a powerful tool in a health crisis.”

Along with prioritizing public health, its’ crucial to protect the entire population, and to address what’s going on now by preventative measures, containment, and treatment for everyone needing it.

At a time of spreading COVID-19 in the US, “we’ve shot ourselves in the foot with a 12-gauge shotgun,” Gaffney stressed, adding that annual “underfunding of our federal, state and local public health agencies has left us ill-prepared for the Covid-19 challenge (as evidenced by the testing fiasco).”

“How we finance medical care, however, is also critical. On the most basic level, containing the coronavirus will require those infected to seek medical care, so that they can be diagnosed and isolated.”

“Fear of devastating ER or hospital bills, however, could keep some home—or at work”—risking continued spread of the highly contagious virus that’s essential to contain.

US legislation that covers testing but not treatment is now the law of the land when it’s essential for government to assure both for all Americans as needed.

Without insurance, hospitalization is unaffordable. For intensive care, the cost “could be devastating,” Gaffney stressed.

If prolonged recession or depression occurs ahead, human misery took take its tolls on human health, he added.

Universal care is vital not just to deal with current conditions, it’s needed because illnesses don’t pause during good economic times, and America’s dysfunctional system needs restructuring.

Gaffney: The world’s richest country, USA, “has fewer hospital beds per capita than many other wealthy nations.”

In recent years, there’s been “an epidemic of hospital closures in poorly served rural areas.”

In 2019, Philadelphia’s “major safety-net hospital” closed. What’s happening isn’t because of excess medical facility capacity.

It’s because “they are unprofitable” at a time much greater capacity is needed to treat patients requiring hospitalization.

Healthcare in America, an essential human right, is based on ability to pay, bottom line considerations prioritized over human health for drug companies, large hospital chains, and insurers.

The latter charging a fortune and providing no healthcare wouldn’t be needed under a universal system—the only one that works equitably for everyone, the US system a ripoff for maximum profits.

Harvard’s School of Public Health Professor Mary Basset warned that COVID-19 could reach catastrophic epidemic and pandemic levels if the US and other nations don’t treat their poor and disadvantaged when ill.

America’s underclass is at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others because of densely populated prisons, lack of universal healthcare, and an eroding social safety net—tens of millions increasingly on their own and struggling daily to survive.

Because of the above factors, she believes the US may “have the worst coronavirus epidemic of all.”

These are resolvable issues but require considerable resources allocated for public health and welfare.

Since taking office, Trump regime policies have been polar opposite.

In 2018, the CDC spent 80% less than earlier to prevent global disease outbreaks because its budget was slashed when increasing it was needed.

The Trump regime eliminated the National Security Council’s global health security unit.

It shut down the Complex Crises Fund. It reduced national health-related spending by $15 billion.

While Trump earlier downplayed the potential severity of spreading COVID-19 infections, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases director Nancy Messonnier said the following: “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country any more but a question of when this will happen.”

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad, (including) disruption to everyday life”—precisely what happened.

Public health should be prioritized by all countries. Yet Trump went all-out to wreck the US system. It’s broken when most needed.

On Wednesday, Dr. James G. Kahn, University of California San Francisco’s Global Health Sciences professor emeritus of health policy studies said the following: On Tuesday, “Trump floated the idea of ending the stay-at-home guidance currently widely in effect to suppress COVID-19 transmission.”

“This strategy is central to the critical goal to ‘flatten the curve’—aiming to sharply reduce cases in the short-term to minimize total pandemic cases and also to prevent overwhelming of hospital capacity to handle serious cases.”

“Trump’s proposal could worsen this crisis to a catastrophe. It prioritizes the economy over saving lives.”

“This action seems aimed to increase economic activity to aid his re-election.”

“[I]t’s wrong on several levels. First, and most important, it is mean-spirited—amplifying pandemic spread and associated deaths for a political purpose.”

“Second, it is misguided. Weakening pandemic control measures now will lead to an even more serious public health and economic crisis later.”

“Third, it supports the false narrative that the pandemic is a hoax. It’s not, it’s very real.”

Whatever labels are used, the facts are clear. On Wednesday, there were 440,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, over 60,000 in the US, more than 800 deaths.

China has the most confirmed infections at around 82,000, then Italy with nearly 70,000, the US heading toward topping both countries as numbers of cases increase by the thousands daily.

New York state is the US virus epicenter (NYC hardest hit) with over 25,000 cases, the number doubling about every three days at its present rate of contagion.

The state projects a need for 140,000 beds, only 53,000 available. Perhaps the need in New York and elsewhere will greatly increase further in the weeks ahead—why all-out steps to contain the virus are essential nationwide.

The emergency stimulus package agreed on by Congress and the White House includes funding for hospitals and the Centers for Disease Control, nothing for infected COVID-19 patients—what should have been prioritized.

When government in Washington is most needed to come to the aid of the nation’s needy and/or ill, it’s focused mostly on handouts to big business and jacking up stock prices.

Along with getting reelected, that’s Trump’s top priority at the expense of human health and welfare.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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