By Judith L. Albert, M.D.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 9, 2020
The coronavirus has arrived in the U.S. and it’s only a matter of time before it reaches Western Pennsylvania. The American public copes with fear of infection by stockpiling hand sanitizer, rather than considering how this epidemic demonstrates the unavoidable connection we have with one another and with all living things on the planet.
Viruses are everywhere; they do not distinguish human populations by income, race, sexual orientation, class, immigration status or health insurance coverage. If the 70 million uninsured/underinsured residents in this country cannot afford to pay for a doctor visit, emergency room visit or coronavirus test, then we all suffer the consequences, because we are all in this together.
Uninsured and underinsured folks are everywhere: They prepare and grow our food, they are health care workers, technology contract workers, caregivers and custodians. This epidemic is for all of us.
We can blame the Chinese for failing to contain the spread, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for fumbling the first batch of tests for COVID-19, or various other national and international strategies to control transmission, but none of these failures really matter when we do not agree that health care is a human right.
Because the coronavirus is not the only threat to human health we face, we need a publicly financed, nonprofit, single-payer national health program that would fully cover medical care for all Americans.
Dr. Judith L. Albert is a co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program of Western Pennsylvania.