by Mara Lebovitz
We are in a pandemic. These times are absolutely unprecedented. Most things are up in the air: we don’t know when we can go back to school, or work. It is seriously likely that there will be an economic depression after this pandemic is over. We don’t know the answers. We don’t know what is going to happen. That is very unsettling. But, if anything, this pandemic we are in makes one thing very, very clear: we need a national healthcare system. Now.
Currently, in the United States, there are roughly 85 million people who are underinsured, which includes the 27 million people who do not have any health insurance at all. To give you an idea, that is approximately 40% of people in this country who do not have adequate access to any sort of health insurance.
This pandemic is ravaging cities all across the country. Thousands of people lose their lives every single day from this disease. Cities like New York lose hundreds per day. This takes a toll on all of us. But for the ones without health insurance, this pandemic is the most dangerous.
There are currently over 400,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with that number only growing each day. With more cases comes more people needing medical help. Hospitals in hot-spots like New York and New Jersey are being overrun, with medical professionals having to decide who gets put on a ventilator and who doesn’t. But even being able to go to a hospital is a privilege. Without health insurance, there comes a decision between going to the hospital and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, or staying home and risking serious harm or even death. This isn’t just the case for COVID-19; this is the reality of people without health insurance. No one deserves to die—of this coronavirus, or of anything—because they can’t afford medical bills. Period. But say you do have health insurance, and you end up having to go to the doctor or to the hospital. Even people with health insurance still risk getting thousands of dollars in medical debt after one trip to a healthcare provider. With the combination of premiums and deductibles, plus the addition of the cost of all the other services, one visit to the doctor or hospital can put people into debt for years. Medical debt causes people to foreclose on their homes, go bankrupt, and for a lot of people, even causes homelessness. No one should ever be bankrupt, face debt, or be financially burdened in any way for seeking medical help. Especially in a global pandemic. Especially at a time when the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the Great Depression. To say otherwise is inhumane and cruel.
But this pandemic goes even further than exposing the individual struggles of not having adequate health insurance. It reveals the true evil of a for-profit healthcare system. As a country that claims to be the most developed in the world, we are failing enormously to provide a developed healthcare system. Our current for-profit healthcare system is quite literally killing people. With privatized healthcare, the goal of insurance and healthcare companies is to make money. That is their goal, that is their game. These companies literally profit off people’s sickness. And if they aren’t profitable, they begin to fail. Hospitals in rural areas continue to close due to lack of funds, leaving the communities they serve no access to health services. There are dozens of empty hospitals in this country that are not being used for anything in a pandemic because their corporate owners do not want to open them for use without being able to profit from them. Nurses and doctors do not have access to masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment, or even scrubs because of the greed of the for the profit healthcare system. People are dying because the private healthcare system puts profit, not people, first. This current healthcare system was created to make money. It was never meant to save lives. This has always been the truth, but in this pandemic, there is nothing more horrifying than our healthcare system. Healthcare is an oxymoron in the United States.
This pandemic really brings to light how corrupt healthcare in this country is. But even after this pandemic, things will still be the same. The lessons we are learning now will not lose their urgency after this is over. By implementing a national healthcare system that doesn’t rely on profit, and whose goal is solely to serve and bring communities adequate healthcare services, we would eliminate all corporate greed that has caused and is causing millions of people to go bankrupt, be in debt, and lose their lives. A national healthcare system would not profit on people’s sickness. Every single person would have access to healthcare, as is their basic human right. My hope is that this pandemic is radicalizing people. I hope people are angry. I hope people revolt and demand an end to the greed that is our current healthcare system. Because really, even though this country considers a national healthcare system “radical,” it is not radical at all. Providing people their basic necessities should never be labeled radical. So when this is over, take to the streets. Get involved so the next time this happens–and yes, it will happen again–we don’t lose people because of corruption and greed.