By Patty Harvey
Times Standard (Eureka, Calif.), April 9, 2020
“April is the cruelest month.” T. S. Eliot’s saturnine declaration foreshadows what is developing into the greatest challenge to this country and to the world in modern history.
The very first days of April, indeed, bring us shattering statistics and projected horrors to come. We look to our national leaders for guidance — and what has a ‘Trump April’ produced so far? A frightening lack of support for a unified public health approach to address the crisis, repeated obfuscation and denial of events, and, even worse, a failure to accept responsibility to address the health needs of Americans: Jared Kushner exposed this jaw-dropping philosophy with his recent declaration that the federal stockpiles of personal protective equipment and ventilators were not meant for use by the states who must compete against each other and the government for live-saving supplies.
And what about the ever-growing 10 million job losses across the nation, so many of which mean loss of health insurance along with income — two clearly incompatible events? Will one-time bailouts cover weeks, possibly months of ongoing family costs? What of any personal medical emergency, even non-COVID-19 related? In response, we are told there will be no further open enrollment in Obamacare this year. No rationale is offered for this appalling denial to those most in need of health care—the only explanation left is political motivation from the point of view of animus to all things “Obama,” and the administration’s anticipated wholesale overturning of that program by a conservative Supreme Court.
The disaster ensuing from the pandemic paints a stark reality of the danger and inutility of tying health insurance to employment. Remember the outrage of a Buttigieg, a Klobuchar, a Biden railing against the idea of Medicare for All “kicking millions off their employer-linked health plans.” Remember, also, that with Improved Medicare for All, every resident would be guaranteed health care from any doctor, hospital or clinic, from birth to grave without regard to employment, wealth, race, gender, marital or any other social status, with no premiums, co-pays, or deductibles. Many studies have confirmed that not only can we afford to do this but we must do it to avoid economic disaster due to the $4 trillion per year-and-rising cost of our current non-system. Such is the proposed single-payer Medicare for All replacement for those employer-based health plans. By contrast, how are those beloved plans working out now? What is the safety net for those being “kicked off” right now?
Vague murmurings from the Trump administration suggest that perhaps Medicare and Medicaid could be commandeered to meet that need (one wonders, do they see how that sounds like Medicare for All) — with no actual plan proposed. The government also has avoided mentioning options remaining for the uninsured. Needless to say, they are poor: there is COBRA (more expensive than any current plan), there is “’proving’ you lost your job due to Coronavirus” (paperwork that could take weeks/months if doable at all), or one may apply for Medicaid (if your state has expanded its use and if you can negotiate the bureaucratic hoops with built-in barriers). In Florida, for example, some 400,000 low-income uninsured adults don’t earn enough for subsidies to buy private insurance but who make too much to qualify for Medicaid.
If nothing else, this pandemic has painted a clear and compelling picture of how desperately we need Improved Medicare for All, a single-payer healthcare system that puts public health above private profit and eliminates, especially today, the loopholes and cracks through which our citizens are increasingly falling. Perhaps then we will celebrate April as a harbinger of re-birth and the kindness of coming springtime.