Isn’t it bad enough to lose your job without losing your employer-based health insurance along with it?
Our country is suffering. Tens of thousands have confirmed cases of COVID-19— thousands have died, and many are in quarantine and missing work. More than 17 million Americans have applied for unemployment as of this writing. What is even worse—and unnecessary—is that when they lost their jobs, most also lost their employer-based health insurance. A recession brought on by a pandemic illuminates the fact that tying health insurance to employment is a disaster. The consequences are devastating.
Our current state of emergency gives our leaders an opportunity to lead. Now make us proud, lead!
We need our elected officials to immediately pass the current federal bill, “The Medicare For All Act”, so that all Americans have guaranteed health care. No more incremental steps. Yes, some of the measures our government has taken will help “temporarily” get us through this epidemic. Congress has voted to cover testing for some…but not the care associated with treatment. How will those without insurance, or those with inadequate insurance, be able to pay for all the accompanying expenses, i.e. doctor and hospital bills. Will some simply not seek care because they cannot afford it, thus endangering us all?
Here’s a question we should all ask. Why did Congress, in the aid package just passed, allow coronavirus profiteering by drug makers? This is outrageous.
What is happening right now shows more than ever that we need a cost-efficient, comprehensive, health care system that works for everyone. COVID-19 cases are doubling every two or three days and with unemployment growing exponentially, we cannot afford to wait another day.
Americans are past due for a health care system that prioritizes patient care and public health over lining the pockets of big pharma and health care CEOs. As our country responds to the global coronavirus pandemic and millions of Americans lose their jobs—and as a result, their healthcare—our elected officials must ensure all of us have access to quality health care. One person’s illness, if not treated, can affect hundreds more.
Fortunately, we have a well-tested solution, our beloved Medicare! It is time to improve and expand it to cover everyone for 100% of all medically necessary care. It’s much simpler and cost-effective than the current complex for-profit system, and it’s accountable to patients and providers, not to investors. It has 2% overhead, a huge savings over the 30% for-profit insurance companies incur.
Fortunately, leaders with vision, along with the support of grassroots movements and healthcare workers, have paved the way for expanded health care coverage with the “Medicare for All Act”.
Medicare for All means health care would no longer be tied to our jobs. Gone would be networks and “out-of-network” surprise billing. We would have the choice of any doctor and/or hospital, and we would be covered regardless of where we are in the U.S.
Medicare for All will not eradicate COVID-19 in a stroke, but it will give us better tools to contain it, and we will be better equipped when another health care crisis arises. The pandemic has made clear how interconnected we are. Each of us needs coverage for ourselves and for everyone with whom we come in contact. If people could seek medical care without financial fear, they would not try to work when they are sick and risk infecting others.
Contact your elected officials by going to Congress.gov, find your congress person, and tell them to be bold and choose peoples’ health over profits. NOW is the time to pass an effective health care system—single payer, Medicare for All.
Carol Mattoon and Linda Napier are co-chairs of the Healthcare Committee for the League of Women Voters, Northwest Maricopa County.