Got COVID-19? You’re on your own

Medical staff, wearing protective suits and face masks, work in the intensive care unit for coronavirus disease patients at Ambroise Pare clinic in Neuilly-sur-Seine, near Paris. – Photo: Benoit Tessier, Reuters

by Barry Hermanson

Covering medical care costs isn’t part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed by the U.S. government. Politicians tell us testing for the virus, when it becomes widely available, will be free. If you get sick from COVID-19, you are on your own. 

Treatment is expensive. “A recent report by healthcare cost database FAIR Health, which looked at the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the healthcare system, found that a six-day inpatient stay for treatment of coronavirus symptoms would cost 100% of the price for someone without insurance: a whopping average of $73,300,” according to Business Insider.

Before the spread of the virus, there were 30 million people in the United States without healthcare insurance. In the last few weeks, millions more have lost jobs – and their employer provided healthcare insurance. 

Everyone is at risk if anyone does not have access to healthcare. 

If you are hospitalized, how will you pay for it? Even if you have insurance, you may receive bills for tens of thousands of dollars. Costs will be higher for the 40 million people who are underinsured. 

Taxpayers will receive government checks. They will be small compared to the healthcare bills you may receive. The stimulus package includes large payments to hospitals. There is no guarantee to limit the financial impact to anyone.

Politicians haven’t told us: “We have your back!” Their silence means, “If you need treatment, you are on your own.” 

Our communities will face enormous social and economic costs because many cannot pay. Everyone is at risk if anyone does not have access to healthcare. 

Democrats say they will work to get treatment costs covered in a second stimulus bill later this spring. Former Vice President Joe Biden has stated, if elected president, he will veto Improved Medicare for All legislation if it reaches his desk.

Instead, he proposes to cover treatment costs through an emergency medical plan. What about the next emergency or the one after that? What if you are undocumented? Getting tested carries the risk of being jailed and deported without receiving any treatment.

Ever since Obamacare was established in 2010, the priority of elected Democrats has been to expand it incrementally. Debate about an Improved Medicare for All is off the table. 

The leadership of the Democratic Party agrees with Republicans: Healthcare should be available to those who can pay. The marketplace is firmly in control. Profiting off the misfortune of others is what we do in the United States. 

As a long-time advocate for an Improved Medicare for All, I was disappointed in the results of the primary elections during March. Joe Biden is in the lead. Many are calling for Bernie Sanders to concede. 

I’m glad to hear Bernie isn’t giving up. His advocacy as a candidate will keep the issue of an Improved Medicare for All on the table. Biden doesn’t want another debate. In this time of crisis, his proposed solution is not a winning argument. 

If Joe Biden is on the ballot in November, the leadership of the Democratic Party will have succeeded once again. Voters will be offered the lesser choice of two evils. 

Biden gives us a lot of Republican policies with the rough edges softened. He agrees with Republicans that the marketplace determines the quality and availability of the healthcare you receive.

I listened to a news program recently where the governor of Louisiana said his state was competing in a marketplace for ventilators. New York’s governor says he needs tens of thousands of them. 

States are competing against each other, and everyone else, for essential equipment and supplies. The highest bidder wins. Everyone else loses. 

By standing together, everyone will enjoy better healthcare at a lower cost. An Improved Medicare for All. If you agree, ask your elected representatives to introduce or co-sponsor Improved Medicare for All legislation. Ask your relatives, friends and neighbors to do the same. 

Last month I reported that Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) is in the middle of a six-month campaign to highlight key issues in the fight for an Improved Medicare for All. The resources they provide to advocates are excellent. Two quotes from March are below along with a list of the issues covered from January through June. 

  • Surprise billing (January): You think you are insured until a bill comes in the mail.
  • Racial health inequities (February): People of color are more likely to be uninsured or under-insured. 
  • Rural health (March): “Since 2005, 166 rural hospitals have closed, with 673 more, a third of rural hospitals, vulnerable to closure due to low patient volumes and uncompensated care.” Forty percent of rural residents struggle to pay routine medical bills.
  • Substance abuse and opioids (April)
  • Maternal and reproductive health (May)
  • High drug prices (June)

More resources are available here: https://pnhp.org/kitchen-table-campaign/

Many Democratic Party legislators say they support the idea of an Improved Medicare for All. Some even claim to be advocates. 

In 35 other countries, people enjoy better healthcare at a much lower cost, even in the COVID-19 world. Standing together to fight the virus is much more effective and less costly than relying on the free market. 

In New York, Louisiana or anyplace else, when they run out of ventilators, who gets to live and who will die?

Greens support an Improved Medicare for All. If you are not registered to vote with the Green Party, I hope you consider joining us. Need to vote in a Democratic or Republican Party primary in the future? You can always re-register.

Barry Hermanson is a member of the San Francisco Green Party and a former small business owner. Contact him at Barry@Hermansons.com or 415-255-9494.