COVID-19 has stolen the lives of over 130,000 Americans so far with many more to come.
We think that universal health insurance coverage -- such as expanded, improved Medicare for All -- would have lessened the pandemic's impact on our nation.
COVID-19 has impacted the U.S. particularly hard, with a higher number of confirmed cases than anywhere else in the world (over 3 million) and a higher mortality rate than many less-developed nations. In large part this is due to our lack of a comprehensive system of national health insurance, like Medicare for All.
Our U.S. health care financing is a clumsy mixture of public, private and employer-based insurance. As the COVID-19 calamity has shown, our current hodgepodge denies high quality care to people who are economically and socially underprivileged.
We also allow increasing numbers of Americans to fall into these deprived categories as massive job losses lead to terminations of health insurance. Prior to the pandemic, unemployment was at 3.6 percent and it is now at 13.3 percent. When statisticians include those underemployed or discouraged from seeking work, the current unemployment estimate rises to 20.7 percent.
Our number of uninsured was much too high before COVID-19, but now it has reached heights not seen since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010. Between May 21 and May 25, 20.5 million U.S. adults were uninsured. Rates of un-insurance in Florida and Georgia are higher than national rates.
The U.S. spends more per capita on its health care than any other developed nation, $10,586 here as opposed to other nations like France ($4,965) and Canada ($4,974) with better mortality and morbidity statistics.
No system is perfect, but more inclusive models around the world finance health care more cost-effectively. Plus, other countries have done better during the coronavirus pandemic, such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Japan.
Protesters of all races and ages in the streets of America's cities have shown that our country wants major systemic changes. Now is the time to design and implement a simplified U.S. health care financing system, leaving no one uninsured or underinsured.
Universal coverage will not eliminate systemic racism or erase a pandemic, but it will provide a solid platform of good health for Americans. Expanded and improved Medicare for All will prevent so many of our fellow citizens from falling through the cracks.
Douglas Skelton is the former Commissioner of DHR (physical and mental health) in Georgia and is currently the chancellor of Trinity Medical School. Jack Bernard is the former Director of Health Planning for Georgia and a retired executive with a national health care firm.
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