Experts are warning that within two to four weeks the United States will find itself facing a full-blown pandemic caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
We often hear mindless propaganda from conservative and liberal politicians alike declaring the the US has “the best health care system in the world.”
It may be true that the rich can get the best care in the world. But the truth is that ours is a terrible health “system” because it is virtually unavailable to the 30 million Americans without health insurance and to the 50 million more Americans who only have basically useless insurance that has outrageously high deductibles (the money you have to spend out of pocket for doctors, treatment and even hospitalization before your policy starts to cover you). These deductibles can range from $2000 per year on up past $6000 per year.
For families and even individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck who have at best a few hundred bucks in the bank, it’s simply not possible to come up with the $75 or more it can cost to see a doctor or, if no doctor is available in a crisis, the $200 it can cost to go to an urgent care center.
The result of this situation is that many Americans just don’t get seen if they get sick. Only when they are so ill that they have to go to a hospital emergency room do they get to see a doctor, and if they can get admitted at that point (some hospitals turn people away without insurance or ready cash) their care is hugely expensive because they’re receiving it so late.
That’s bad enough if a person has pneumonia, a heart problem or something like a serious ulcer, but when they’ve contracted a potentially fatal and highly contagious pandemic disease for which there is no easy cure, it is a social and national catastrophe, not “just” a personal one.
Confronted with a looming epidemic, what we should want is for everyone in a society to have ready access to free testing to see if their symptoms indicate that they have the disease, and that if they do, for them to have access to prompt treatment and medication to minimize the risk that they will spread that disease to others or get a serious complication themselves.
As things stand, at least 80 million Americans — about one in four of us — don’t have that.
But it gets worse. More than a hundred million of the poorest Americans these days, when they have employment, typically work in the service sector, where they perform jobs that put them in close contact, either directly or indirectly, with many people. Think of maids, janitors, hotel workers, theater ushers, hospital orderlies and nurse’s aides, warehouse and delivery drivers, supermarket cashiers and counter workers, restaurant staff, including waiters, busing staff and kitchen staff, etc. Most such people work at minimum wage or close to it (below minimum for many waiters and others who receive tips as part of their compensation). Their jobs are generally non-union, and a majority do not even get sick days. Even most of those who do get a few measly sick days a year don’t get paid for those days they stay home because of illness. Many who responsibly skip work because of a cold, risk getting the sack from the boss…
This article by DAVE LINDORFF is being published jointly by ThisCantBeHappening.net and Tarbell, the investigative news site founded by Wendell Potter and named after the pioneering investigative journalist Ida Tarbell. To read the story in its entirety, please go to Tarbell.org