Friday, 12 June 2020

Open Forum: Pandemic highlights need for universal health care | Winchester Star |

Open Forum: Pandemic highlights need for universal health care | Winchester Star

A continuing crisis, COVID-19 has taken over 112,000 American lives in less than three months. This extremely contagious virus has exposed inadequacies in the nation’s system of health care. An unseen threat has made visible the gaps in our society’s safety net. Wide and deep holes previously hidden have been revealed as we face unparalleled dangers to our health and to our economic security.
The failure of the United States to establish universal health care has left the country with a patchwork of medical protection. Private insurance companies grab 15% off the top of our healthcare dollar for profit. Their competition for monetary gain results in an array of different policies, varied coverage, and unpredictable cost to consumers. Consumers are left totally confused while the medical insurance industry rations healthcare when deciding who is healthy enough and who can afford to have health insurance. Contrast the administrative cost of medicare of 3 to 5%.

Further by binding healthcare to employment the sudden economic collapse has thrown millions out on the street without access. Rounding out this crazy quilt system is the VA for veterans; Medicare for seniors and disabled; and medicaid for single mothers, children, and the very poor. The Affordable Care Act attempted to plug as many holes as possible with expanded coverage and alternatives for the working poor. Political opposition to “Obamacare” caused some states to refuse to expand medicaid. Since 2005 over a hundred 60 rural hospitals have closed, 83% of these rural hospital closures occurring in states that rejected medicaid expansion. Hospital’s whose patients have no way to pay cannot stay open.
Desperate people without sick leave are forced to work making their co-workers and the public sick. Meat packing plants are declared essential to national security creating a novel form of slavery. You starve if you do not work and you get sick and possibly die if you do work.
The lack of a national health system leaves the nation without centralized direction and coordination. States have to fend for themselves and compete and bid against other states for testing, ventilators, and personal protection equipment. So far, out of 2 million infections, 60,000 have been medical professionals also risking their lives when they go to work. They are luckier than the meat packers. Only 600 professionals have died, so far.
The American concept of “Exceptionalism” has left the United States without universal healthcare. Every other developing nation and some emerging (underdeveloped) nations have universal health care. This American “pennywise and pound-foolish” policy has made America during this pandemic exceptionally ill-prepared.
Warren Golightly is a resident of Frederick County.
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